Restrictive Diet Leads to Loss of Vision

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Restrictive Diet Leads to Loss of Vision

October 11
18:07 2017

Do you or anyone in your family have a number of food allergies? Are they on a restrictive diet because of those food allergies?

A dear friend who is almost like a daughter to us has a gluten intolerance and cannot eat anything containing gluten. You would be surprised how many normal foods contain gluten — bread and pasta especially, but there are more.

Our daughter is very allergic to bananas and somewhat allergic to melons, but those are more easily avoided.

However, there are people who are allergic to a larger number of food items. The more allergies, the more restrictive the diet.

Then some people with food allergies also have other health conditions that require dietary restrictions. When you put all the restrictions together, the diet may be healthy for the allergies and other health conditions, but the diet can end up creating other health problems, including loss of vison.

An 11-year-old boy and family found out the hard way. The boy has multiple food allergies and eczema. He was on a diet of only eating apples, Cherrios, cucumbers, lamb, pork and potatoes. The diet helped with his allergies and apparently helped with the eczema, however he was going blind.

His parents took him to the hospital where they found that he could see hand movement only if the hands were within about a foot of face. Doctors discovered that his eyes were extremely dry, but the real key to the boy’s loss of vision came when they got his blood work back.

The boy’s vitamin A level was 14.3 microgram (ug) per deciliter (ug/dL). The normal range for vitamin A is 25.8 to 48.7 ug/dL. Vitamin A deficiency affects the cornea (the clear outer surface of the eye) and the retina (the layer in back of the eye that contains the rod and cone cells that collect light). It can cause Bitot spots on cornea. Bitot spots are build-up of keratin on the cornea. They can be oval, triangular or irregular in shape and are caused by a vitamin A deficiency.

Doctors immediately began giving the boy massive doses of vitamin A intravenously for two days and then again six weeks later. The boy regained some vision, but only to 20/800. Anything greater than 20/200 is considered legally blind according to a leading organization for the blind.

It turns out that the boy’s restrictive diet is vitamin A deficient. Vitamin A deficiency is one of the leading causes of blindness in many parts of the world where the people have limited diets. In the boy’s case, due to his diet, he needs to take a vitamin A supplement on a regular basis.

Good natural sources for vitamin A is bell peppers, tropical fruits, dark leafy greens, lettuce, carrots, sweet potatoes, liver, fish and fish oil, milk, eggs, tomato products, some vegetable oils and some fortified cereals.

However, there is a danger of taking too much vitamin A. Unlike vitamin C which is water soluble and any excess if passed out of the body in the urine, vitamin A is not water soluble and stored in the liver. Too much vitamin A can cause hypervitaminosis A. This condition can also affect a person’s vision, cause changes in the skin, bone pain, liver damage and pressure on the brain.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily dose of vitamin A depends on the age of the person:

0-6 months – 400 mcg (micrograms)

7-12 months – 500 mcg

1-3 years – 300 mcg

4-8 years – 400 mcg

9-13 years – 600 mcg

14-18 years – 700 mcg for females, 900 mcg for males

14-18 years – 750 mcg for pregnant females

14-18 years – 1,200 mcg for breastfeeding females

19+ years – 700 for females, 900 for males

19+ years – 770 mcg for pregnant females

19+ years – 1,300 for breastfeeding females

Note, that if you eat a diet of foods that do contain vitamin A, you need to add that to whatever supplement, if any you do take. This is important to avoid developing hypervitaminosis A.

Too little vitamin A can lead to blindness and too much can cause other major problems that could lead to an early death.

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