Strabismus (eye turn) and amblyopia (lazy eye) can be beasts to overcome, especially when you have both of them. You might try vision therapy and surgery, but even with the top doctors and surgeons in the world, the brain is not easy to change…trust me, I’ve been working on it for years. One thing that makes a huge difference is food. What you do eat, what you don’t eat, all of it.
So what can you eat to improve strabismus and amblyopia? Your brain and eyes function best when they are fueled with foods high in Vitamins A, C, and E, Lutein, zeaxanthin, Omega-3s, beta carotene, zinc, fiber and plenty of anti-oxidants. Those nutrients can be found in dark leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Limiting sugar, unhealthy fats, simple carbs, and processed foods can make an even bigger difference. All of these efforts combined can improve clarity, increase eye control, relax the visual system, and deepen stereo vision.
If you want the quick, pretty, and easy to digest version of what to eat for improved vision, simply download the “Eating for Stereopsis” guide over HERE.
For all of the charts, descriptions, lists and explanations that your heart could desire, grab a drink (preferably water), sit back, relax, and scroll on.
What Difference Can I Expect to See With My Strabismus or Amblyopia If I Focus On The Good Foods and Avoid the Rest?
It is so important to understand that the food you eat fuels your entire body.
Strabismus and amblyopia are signs that the brain and eyes are not communicating properly. What you eat will either exacerbate a problem you already have, or help you overcome it.
I have personally experimented with different diets, foods and supplements throughout my journey fixing strabismus and amblyopia and have been amazed to find, after the fact, that so many others have experienced the same benefits from the same types of food.
Specific to the side effects of strabismus and amblyopia, these are the top benefits achieved with improved diet:
- Reduced double vision. With strabismus, double vision can come and go. I notice a substantial increase in the frequency of double/blurred vision when my eating goes downhill.
- Improved clarity and crispness. When I go back to unhealthy eating, the world starts to look foggy. Healthy eating helps both of my eyes, but especially the amblyopic one to see more clearly.
- Increased visual stamina. Instead of my eyes becoming tired easily and wandering or zoning out, I am able to stay focused and in control all day.
- Improved depth perception. After spending 31 years with no stereo vision, my brain struggles to maintain stereo, even after years of vision therapy. When I am eating all the good foods, I notice that my depth perception is more palpable and deep. When I go to sugar and processed foods, my depth perception is the first thing to go.
- Decreased Symptoms with therapy. This is for friends in vision therapy. Doing new eye exercises puts a huge strain on the brain and can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches and more. These side effects are significantly decreased and even non-existent when I am eating healthy.
- Quicker Eyes. I don’t know the technical term here, but I feel like my eyes are able to move, coordinate, focus, and process 10 times more efficiently and quickly when I am fueling my body with nutritious foods.
Which Nutrients Are the Most Important for Eye Health for Strabismus and Amblyopia and What Do They Do?
Every food is full of hundreds of micronutrients, many of which have not even been discovered yet. Each one plays a specific roll within your body’s overall function. Constant research is being done on the hundreds of micronutrients available and how to maximize health benefits, and you guessed it, vision.
We are constantly taking in information from around us and 80% of that comes from our eyes so it is no surprise that maximizing eye health is a highly researched topic.
But what about strabismus and amblyopia? Is there any specific research about nutrition to aid in those diseases? Not that I know of. But by looking at the specific issues that most strabismics and amblyopes deal with and pouring through all the books and articles about eye health, I’ve narrowed it down for you.
The top visual struggles that most people with strabismus face are:
- Poor Focusing
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Poor peripheral vision
- Light Sensitivity
- Decreased eye-brain function
- Poor visual memory
Where cataracts and macular degeneration are mostly a problem with the actual eye, strabismus and amblyopia are mostly problems with the brain-eye connection. The foods that will make the biggest difference as you work to improve your vision are the ones that support brain function, of course healthy eyes are important too.
Here are the top nutrients that you should be seeking out to improve your eye health and brain function, especially if you have an eye turn or lazy eye.
|Nutrient||Benefits That Are Provided For Vision|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acid||The retina has high amounts of DHA (a type of omega-3) which are important for function. Omega-3s can help with brain and eye development, reduce dry eye, and improve cognitive function. Good fats also help with the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K|
|Carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin||Powerful Antioxidants that balance the free radicals in our bodies. They are linked directly to health of the macula, healthy blood vessels, clear central vision, and can even absorb unhealthy blue light.|
|Vitamin A/ Beta Carotene||Vitamin A is taken in by the Retina and used in the rod cells which are responsible for vision in low light and peripheral vision. Two areas where many with strabismus lack. It also increases memory and neural plasticity in the brain.|
|Vitamin C||Powerful antioxidant that helps to stabilize brain function and can prevent disease.|
|Zinc||Helps deliver vitamin A to your retina, aiding in improved function of the rod cells. This, like vitamin A, will improve low light vision.|
|Flavonoids||Flavonoids reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to the retina all while increasing memory and brain function.|
|Fiber||Stabilizes blood sugar, keeps you feeling full, slows digestion for better nutrient absorption and blunts the desire for sweets|
This is not an all inclusive list. Your body, brain and eyes need countless nutrients to function at maximum levels, but these are the ones that science has shown have the biggest overall impact on vision. Always check with your doctor to make sure that you are eating a diet that is right for you and your health situation.
Where is the Best Place to Get The Top Eye Health Nutrients?
The short answer is to eat plenty of leafy greens, especially Kale and spinach, and all the other healthy foods that you already know are important. I like to see the numbers so I have included a chart for each of the main nutrients that will have a positive impact on your eye health and the top sources of that nutrient.
Again, this is not all inclusive, but you can see that getting these important nutrients is definitely possible to do from the foods we eat. So many people spend a fortune on eye supplements, but the ironic thing is that your body absorbs the nutrients from real food much more effectively than from supplements.
Supplements have their place, but using real food will be much more effective.
You don’t need a ton of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet to make a huge difference on your brain and eye health. Getting 1-2 grams per day is recommended and can easily be achieved by eating seafood a few times each week, throwing flax or chia seeds into a smoothie or topping a salad with walnuts.
|Omega-3 Fatty Acid||Amount Per Serving|
|¼ cup Walnuts||2.3 grams|
|6 oz Salmon||2.2 grams|
|1 tablespoon Flaxseed||1.7 grams|
|1 cup Soybeans||1.3 grams|
|1 cup Tofu||1.3 grams|
As far as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are concerned, vegetables are the #1 source, especially leafy greens. These have a huge impact on eye health and brain function and are worth prioritizing!
|Carotenoid Source||Milligrams Per Cup|
|Red Bell Pepper||13.6|
The absolute best source of vitamin A is liver. But liver is gross and most people don’t eat it, so I’m including the most commonly used and easily accessible foods that are high in Vitamin A. Most of them are red or orange in color so think sweet potato, carrots, cantaloupe, and peppers…and liver.
|Vitamin A and Beta Carotene||% Daily Value|
|1 cup Sweet Potato||204%|
|1 cup Kale||98%|
|½ cup Cooked Spinach||64%|
|Red Bell Pepper||27%|
|6 oz Salmon||22%|
|1 Medium Mango||20%|
Vitamin C is something that most of us are more familiar with, our moms have been telling us to stay healthy with sufficient amounts of vitamin C forever. Each source rates the amount of vitamin C a little differently, but most fruits, especially citrus and cruciferous veggies (like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) are going to be your best sources of vitamin C.
|Vitamin C Source in ½ cup||% Daily Value|
|Red Bell Pepper||106%|
Zinc is necessary for over 300 enzymes to work all throughout the body. It helps with cell renewal and reduces inflammation and prevents vision loss. It is especially helpful in making vitamin A usable within the eyes. This helps us get all of the benefits from vitamin A like improved night vision and peripheral. What is the best source of zinc?
|Zinc Source||% Daily Value|
|5 oz Beef Steak||150%|
|½ cup Lentils/Beans||50%|
|1 cup Mushrooms||20%|
|1 cup Oatmeal||20%|
Flavonoids are compounds found in fruits and vegetables that have multiple health benefits. They are amazing antioxidants that reduce inflammation and increase blood flow. This helps the brain function more efficiently and has been shown to improve memory.
There are actually 6 different types of flavonoids that all have slightly different functions (flavonoid, flavones, flavan-3-ols, flavanones, anthocyanidins, and isoflavones), but I am going to intermix them here.
|Flavonoid Source||Amount per Serving|
|1 cup Blueberries||226 mg|
|1 cup Kale||102 mg|
|1 Cup Raspberries||96 mg|
|1 Cup Oranges||88 mg|
|2 tablespoons Raw Parsley||76 mg|
|1 Cup Green Tea||66 mg|
|½ cup Raw Onion||14 mg|
That is a lot of information, I know. So let me sum it up for you.
Kale is really really good for you. It is the top, or near top producer of the main micro-nutrients that are going to help with brain function and vision. Healthy fats and proteins are super important too! Eating lots of fruits, veggies, and whole foods is going to make a huge difference.
One important thing to remember: you can eat a steady diet of kale and salmon and have all the antioxidants and micronutrients that your body could dream of, but if you sabotage your body by eating terrible foods, it will counteract those benefits.
Let’s take a look at the worst foods that will sabotage your brain and eye function.
Which Foods Should Be Avoided for Optimal Eye Health?
I know you already know what I’m going to say, but let’s dive into the why a little bit. Sometimes understand the science makes it easier to get rid of those delicious yet horrible for you foods.
Sugar will increase inflammation in your entire body. In your eyes, the inflammation with increase the swelling in your lenses which can lead to blurry vision. For somebody with amblyopia who already struggles to keep vision clear, excessive sugar will only make the problem worse.
If diabetes is developed because of over sugar consumption, diabetic retinopathy can result. This can damage the blood vessels in your eyes which leads to vision impairment.
The swelling that occurs with high sugar consumption has also been linked to increased incidence of cataracts.
The inflammation and swelling also affect your brain. When the system is flooded with sugar, cognitive skills are impaired and slowed. It is more difficult to remember and pay attention. Where strabismus is concerned, this means increased double vision. The brain is not functioning at its best and maintaining single vision and crisp depth perception is much more difficult. Sugar is the enemy of good vision.
Tips for Cutting Back Sugar
- Eat homemade as often as possible, processed foods generally have tons of sugar to help preserve them and make them taste good.
- Replace sugar with honey when baking from home. Too much honey isn’t good either, but it is better
- Read labels and choose options with less sugar.
- Add fruit to sweeten, bananas work great!
- When baking, cut the sugar in half, you probably won’t even notice.
- For times when you are going to eat treats (parties, holidays, etc) decide in advance what you are going to eat. Put it on a plate and enjoy every bite. Don’t just sit and pick away at desserts.
Excessive salt consumption leads to general swelling in your body. Eye Health Body Vision Care states that increased swelling from salt consumption increases pressure in the eyes. “The pressure in your eyes can push on the optic nerve, disrupting the visual messages going from your eyes to your brain.”
With strabismus and amblyopia, our optic nerve is already struggling to connect our eyes to the brain. Increasing swelling and decreasing that communication is going to exacerbate a problem that already exists.
I know salt is delicious, but cutting back is going to make a huge difference on the way your brain and eyes can work together.
Tips for Cutting Back Salt
- Use fresh herbs and get flavor there instead solely salt.
- Use reduced sodium products
- Gradually decrease the salt you add to foods. Over time you will get used to foods with less salt. Harvard.edu states that “the average person can’t detect moderate to substantial differences in sodium levels, including reactions of up to as much as 25 percent.” Cutting back makes a big difference.
- Avoid foods with the highest salt content; pizza, chips, hot dogs, ham, ketchup, white bread (check labels), and processed cheese.
When diets high in bad fats (fried food, butter, heavy green, fatty meat) occur long-term, the body can not use all of the calories you are eating. The unused food gets stored throughout the body and can accumulate in your arteries, restricting blood flow.
Restricted blood flow means that the cells in your eyes and brain are not going to get the optimal supply of oxygen and nutrients that it needs.
The Center for Sight added, ‘Especially affected are the choroidal blood vessels, which supply the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The RPE cells become damaged and die off. The photoreceptors, which are dependent on the RPE for their nourishment, then die off, resulting in vision loss.”
Tips for Cutting Back on Unhealthy Fats
- Bake or airfry your foods instead of frying in oil. They taste just as good with a fraction of the cost. This is the one I use and love!
- Instead of eating out, cook from home. Restaurants load foods with butter and oil.
- Stay away from margarine. It may be inexpensive and look like butter, but it is full of all the bad things that will ruin your arteries.
- Cut back on red meat and other fatty meats. Focus on chicken and fish, they are much lower in fat.
- Avoid processed foods. They are delicious because they are usually fried and filled with all the sugar and salt you could dream of. Make foods from scratch when possible.
Is it the increased blood flow, decreased inflammation, or micronutrient support that make the biggest difference? I believe it is different for every person. But the combination is magic!
Recipes For Amazing Eye Health
I find that decreasing sugar and eating a salad everyday are enough to get 85% of the benefits that I discussed here. That means that I still have a slice of cake on my birthday and eat a piece of grandma’s fudge at Christmas. I’m not perfect and still have chips and salsa, but getting a huge salad (or green smoothie) is a priority.
It doesn’t need to be black or white. Making small sustainable changes is going to create long-term success. Make sure to download the Eating for Stereopsis guide that will give you a daily list of the foods to strive for each day. It has all of the information in an easy to read, front/back guide.
For the most part, I just try to eat more fruits and veggies and less junk, but I have a few specific recipes that I love because they give me so many of the nutrients my body needs!
Sugar free Oatmeal
- Slice the banana into microwave safe bowl
- Sprinkle flax, oatmeal and cinnamon on top
- Pour in water
- Microwave 3 minutes
- Stir and add berries and nuts
The banana is a natural sweetener and makes this oatmeal so delicious and healthy! You will be surprised at how good it tastes with no sugar!
|1 ripe banana, sliced||Flavonoid, fiber|
|1 tablespoon Flaxseed||Omega 3’s|
|½ cup oats||Zinc, fiber|
|1 cup water|
|Blueberries||Vitamin C, Flavonoids|
|Walnuts||Omega 3’s and more!|
- Add everything to your blender except frozen berries.
- Blend on high
- Add frozen berries
- Blend on high and enjoy!
I rarely actually measure ingredients, I just stuff as much kale or spinach as I can into the blender.
You can add all sorts of fruits and veggies, but this is the combination that is palatable enough for me. It isn’t a Jamba though, my kids can hardly stomach it, but it’s not too bad. haha
|1 ripe banana||Flavonoid, fiber|
|1 tablespoon Flaxseed||Omega 3’s|
|½ cup Water|
|Juice of lemon/lime||Vitamin C|
|3 cups Kale/Spinach||Vit A, C, carotanoids, flavonoids|
|1 cup Frozen Blueberries||Vitamin C, Flavonoids|
These are foods I eat multiple times each week to help my brain and eyes be at peak performance. Each day I either have the Kale smoothie or a green salad with plenty of toppings like cabbage, broccoli, carrots, red peppers, nuts/seeds, beans and sweet potatoes.
For dinner, I just make something the family likes and always try to eat more of the veggies and less of whatever unhealthiness I added to get my family to approve.
I am NOT perfect at this, and you don’t need to be either. The key is to make small changes over a long period of time that you can sustain.
Can you replace one meal each day with something that contains some of the nutrient dense foods listed in this article? I find that breakfast is the easiest meal to change out that makes the biggest difference. Toss the cold cereal and yogurt for a quick bowl of oatmeal with fruit or a smoothie.
You can do this!