Tips to Naturally Slow Down Diabetic Retinopathy Progression

When the sugar level in the blood is high, it blocks the tiny blood vessels connected to the retina. This leads to an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy, where new blood vessels in the eyes grow but doesn’t work properly as they leak or bleed easily. When not treated, this may cause vision loss or blindness.

Among the 29 million Americans who have diabetes, 45% have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, and around 5% of the cases of blindness worldwide is caused by this disease, according to the estimate of the World Health Organization (WHO).

If you have this eye disease, it is therefore important to know ways how to slow down the progression of your diabetic retinopathy.


Who’s at risk for diabetic retinopathy?

In a 2009 review article by Sabrosa, almost all of type I diabetes patients and over 60% of those with type II diabetes experienced signs of diabetic retinopathy after 20 years. However, the risk can be higher for those who smoke regularly and those who have diabetes for a long time and have high cholesterol and blood pressure.


Signs of diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy does not manifest alarming symptoms at the early stage which is why treating it can be challenging. However, they may be detected by taking up eye photographs during diabetic eye screening.

Difficulty when reading or seeing objects from afar may be experienced but this often comes and goes. Other signs include floaters, spots, fluctuating vision, debilitated color vision, and empty or blank spaces within the field of vision.


Tips for natural remission of diabetic retinopathy

By taking severe control of blood sugar levels and making healthy lifestyle changes, diabetic complications such as diabetic retinopathy may be slowed down, and this has long been known.


  • Follow your diabetes diet

The biggest key to controlling your blood sugar level is a healthy diet—a diet that comprises low-processed and anti-inflammatory foods. This does not mean totally avoiding sugar or carbohydrates. Balance them out with protein and fat intake.

Some of the best protein foods for diabetes patients include raw dairy products, free-range eggs, pasture-raised poultry, and wild fish like salmon. For healthy fats, virgin coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds (like chia, flax, and hemp) are good sources.

High-fiber foods like whole fruits, fresh vegetables, sprouted beans, and ancient grains are also recommended in a diabetes diet. This group of food, unlike other types of carbohydrates, does not cause a spike in the blood sugar because the body is unable to break down fiber and absorb it.

In an article in Diabetic Living Magazine, other foods, and drinks that make great additions to a blood sugar-management diet are cinnamon, green tea, fresh herbs and spices, and apple cider vinegar.

Most importantly, when taking sugar-containing foods, switch to healthier options. Here are some tips:

  • Choose natural sweeteners like raw honey, stevia, dates, and blackstrap molasses.
  • Skip added sugars like high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, fructose, and dextrose.
  • For grain-flour products, consume those in whole form or made with 100% whole grains. Coconut flour and almond flour are also better options.


  • Exercise regularly

According to the National Diabetes Association, regular exercise helps manage blood sugar in various ways. Short-term exercise helps muscle cells consume more glucose to use for energy requirements and tissue repair, where blood sugar levels go down during those processes. Long-term exercise, on the other hand, causes cells to become more responsive to insulin or to counter insulin resistance.

Many studies show that all forms of exercise—aerobic, resistance, and combined training—are equally good at lowering HbA1c values (or average blood sugar levels over the course of three months). It is also found that people with diabetes who walked a minimum of two hours per week had lower risks of dying from heart disease compared to those living a sedentary lifestyle.

One to three hours after eating, or when your blood sugar level is most likely higher,  is the best time to exercise. For those who use insulin, testing your blood sugar before exercising is recommended to avoid hypoglycemia. Exercising with blood sugar over 250 is also something the experts caution against because it may actually elevate your blood sugar even more.


  • Keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control

To avoid the progression of diabetic retinopathy, cholesterol level, and blood pressure should also be kept under control. A 130/180mmHg blood pressure reading and below 4mmol/L cholesterol level are advised for diabetes patients with diabetic retinopathy or other complications.

To achieve these, cut down the amount of salt and saturated fats in your diet. Aim to eat less than 6g or about a teaspoonful of salt per day. Instead, incorporate high-fiber foods such as wholegrain rice and bread and whole fruits and vegetables in your diet.


  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol

Smoking is one of the well-established risk factors for type 2 diabetes as well as its complications like diabetic retinopathy. Studies found that the risk for diabetes increases exponentially with the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

Chemical compounds found in cigarettes interfere with cells’ normal functioning. For example, high levels of nicotine are found to reduce the effectiveness of insulin in lowering the blood sugar level in the body.

Similarly, elevated alcohol consumption increases the risk of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. Too much alcohol intake can contribute to chronic inflammation of the pancreas. This impairs the organ’s ability to secrete insulin, thus increasing the likelihood of diabetes. Ideal alcohol consumption is around one drink per day for women of all ages and men above 65. Men aged 65 and below are allowed to drink up to two glasses.


  • Follow your routine eye exams

Routine eye exams are important for diabetes care, especially for those who have diabetic retinopathy as this eye disease does not show symptoms at an early stage. Catching it early favors more effective treatment and prevents further eye damage.

When not monitored, it can become quite advanced that it will already be difficult to treat. And when not treated, it will most likely cause sight loss.

If you’re looking for treatment for diabetic retinopathy, check Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment Options.

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