Intestinal Malabsorption and Macular Degeneration

Intestinal Malabsorption and Macular Degeneration

It doesn’t seem like most people should be concerned about malabsorption but it may be a more serious possibility than previous thought. Research shows how a lack of significant nutrients unable to make it past the intestines and into the bloodstream may be contributing to the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Learn how malabsorption is being diagnosed in approximately 200,000 Americans per year and may be rising due to varying causes, particularly a subpar diet. Also learn how macular degeneration could develop due to malabsorption and ways you might be able to prevent this cycle.

A Collage of Causes

Some believe the western diet could cause an accumulative buildup of waste, mucous, and many other factors that compromise the intesinal walls where nutrients permeate into the bloodstream.

Other causes in combination with descriptions according to the Merck Manual include:

  • Imbalanced microflora
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Impaired GI [gastrointestinal] motility (decreased peristalsis and stasis)
  • Defect in the digestion/absorption process
  • Certain medications
  • Disorders that prevent adequate mixing of food with digestive enzymes and stomach acid 
  • Insufficient production of digestive enzymes 
  • Decreased production of bile
  • Too much stomach acid
  • The wrong kinds of bacteria growing in the small intestine

New research is showing how such malabsorption may compromise essential nutrients needed to reach the retina. This may be a factor in the development of macular degeneration, particularly AMD.

Malabsorption and Macular Degeneration

One reason it is believed that diet may be linked to malabsorption is the prominence of the increased diagnosis of celiac disease and the demand for more gluten-free foods. Celiac disease is caused by malabsorption of nutrients due to the inability to efficiently break down wheat gluten. The gluten covers the intestinal walls reducing permeability.

A study titled ‘Retinal and choroidal vascular changes in newly diagnosed celiac disease’ published in the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology stated that,

“CD [celiac disease] seems to affect macular and choroidal microcirculation. The reduced choriocapillaris plexus parameters and choroidal thickness may provide disease activity information.”

One nutrient group that is essential to a healthy retina and preventing macular degeneration is the carotenoid group. These are the compounds found in plants which gives them color. They are also potent antioxidants found within the retina (not created by the body, only plants, particularly zeaxanthin and lutein) which prove the profound connection between nature and humans.

A study that looked at ‘Macular and serum carotenoid concentrations in patients with malabsorption syndromes’ by researchers from the University of Utah School of Medicine published in Springer Link reported,

“The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are believed to protect the human macula by absorbing blue light and quenching free radicals. Intestinal malabsorption syndromes such as celiac and Crohn’s disease are known to cause deficiencies of lipid-soluble nutrients…We conclude that intestinal malabsorption results in lower macular carotenoid levels.”

The inability to fully absorb and utilize these carotenoids may lead to more drusen deposits. Drusen is a waste that forms a type of plaque which deposits in the eye and is believed to be a leading cause of macular degeneration.

The same group of researchers out of the University of Utah School of Medicine conducted another study of the effects of carotenoid compromise stating,

“Intestinal malabsorption results in lower macular carotenoid levels and may increase risk for early–onset drusen.”

These examples of how malabsorption may lead to AMD are sobering. It is important to determine if you are getting the full spectrum of the nutrients you consume. Consider malabsorption symptoms and some ways to try to reverse and/or replenish this system response.

Alleviate Malabsorption, Prevent AMD

Being aware of your body and how it works best is half the battle of maintaining optimal health. Too many take their body for granted dumping anything that tastes good into it while neglecting not only more nutritional choices but also overall physical and cognitive management. Although you may feel just fine you could be accumulating a potential malabsorption compromise that over time could lead to macular degeneration. These are some ways you can alleviate malabsorption and prevent AMD before it is too late.

  • Go Full On Colonic – A colonic is the cleaning out of the colon through sterile water irrigation. The benefits of a colonic are believed to include a sloughing off of embedded waste on the walls of the intestines which may be impeding proper nutritional permeation. Make sure you work with a licensed expert in colonic irrigation and check for good reviews. The environment should be sterile and medical in nature although colonics can use different additives such as coffee and aloe vera juice. 
  • Increase Hydrochloric Acid – By increasing hydrochloric acid in your diet you can aid your digestion in being more efficient. When digestion is efficient, malabsorption could be prevented. Lemon water is a good start, drinking a cup of water with half a lemon squeezed into it every morning. Some also recommend one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) diluted in one glass of warm or room-temperature water on an empty stomach each morning. This will significantly aid digestion, help break down health fats, and increase nutrition absorption. Better nutrition absorption means more nutrients like zeaxanthin and lutein making it tooth retina and avoiding macular degeneration.
  • Get Gut Healthy with Probiotics – Your gut is ground zero for immune system functioning. When this Eco-system is balanced, the immune system and the digestive tract can work more optimally. Increase probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt, and kombucha. You can also take a good probiotic supplement starting at least 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units). 
  • Boost Your Enzymes – Taking digestive enzymes before certain meals could help boost digestion and, most importantly, nutritional absorption. Look for formulas that contain enzymes for amylase, protease, lipase, lactase, and sucrase. Additives such as fennel and peppermint are also beneficial.

If you think you aren’t getting the proper nutrient absorption, especially if you are prone to macular degeneration, talk to your doctor as there may be blood tests that could reveal any possible compromises. Overall, remain vigilant of your health and all you can do to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by incorporating a potent plant-based diet, good macular supporting supplements, and maintaining good checkups.