The evidence is now well and truly in – the keto diet is about the best way existence to get sustained long-term weight loss. But there is also no denying that, along with the weight loss, there are some side effects to keto. In fact, there is even a name for those keto side effects – keto flu. One side effect of the keto diet is blurred vision.
While not as common as some of the other side effects of going on the low carb keto diet, blurred vision is a serious concern, as should be anything that affects the eyes. In this article, we examine the issues surrounding keto, weight loss and blurred vision. What causes people to get keto blurred vision and what can be done about it?
The ketogenic diet is perhaps the most popular and successful body fat weight loss diet that exists. While the ketogenic diet may cause blurred vision in very few cases, it definitely is a great way to sustained weight loss in every case. The ketogenic diet involves eating a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. This forces the body to lose weight by using stored body fat as a way to get energy. Along with that weight loss from the body, comes more energy.
The Eyesight Glucose-Keto Connection
It has long been known that there is a link between eye health and diet when some people lose weight. Many people with diabetes get vision problems. Vision health problems are caused by high blood sugar levels. Yet, according to the American Optometric Association, almost 80 percent of people in the United States have no idea of the link between glucose and vision. Blurry vision is a sign that people have excess blood sugar levels.
Unless a person can get his blood glucose levels under control, the retinal blood vessels may become damaged. The damaged blood vessels cause leaking into the retina. If left unchecked this could lead to loss of eyesight. Unless the person can get his blood glucose levels under control, the retinal blood vessels may become damaged. The damaged blood vessels cause leaking into the retina. If left unchecked this could lead to loss of eyesight.
People who suffer from blurred vision due to high glucose levels will have difficulty with the following daily activities:
- Medication management (e.g. trouble seeing the labels or the differences in pills)
- Playing board or card games
- Watching TV
- Navigating the steps, stairs, and hall way
- Using appliances (e.g. trouble telling what buttons to press)
- Functioning safely in the kitchen (e.g. using knives)
So why do people have high blood glucose levels, which can lead to these eyesight problems? It is mainly due to the overall reliance on high sugary carbs in the diet. The low carb keto diet does a fantastic job of bringing those rampant blood glucose levels under control.
From this, it might seem strange that the keto diet could actually cause blurred vision. Haven’t we just found out that the ketogenic diet is an integral part of the solution?
Yes, we have. But there are some reasons that ketogenic diet followers may end up with blurred vision:
Hypoglycemia is also known as low blood sugar. On the keto diet, your carb restriction is designed to bring about low levels of blood glucose in the body. But when they drop below the level needed for the body to function, this condition results.
Because epinephrine, one of the hormones that is activated by hypoglycemia and epinephrine is secreted from the central nervous system, the majority of early symptoms of hypoglycemia are related to the nervous system.
This condition is common among people with diabetes.
One reason that people on the keto diet suffer from hypoglycemia is that they stuff themselves with too many carbs when hey have a keto diet ‘cheat day’. The result of this is that their blood glucose levels skyrocket. But, then, when they go back to a low carb keto diet, they plummet way down, causing what is known as reactive hypoglycemia.
Common symptoms of hypoglycemia on keto include the following:
- Blurred vision
- Clamminess in the palms of the hand
- Heart palpitations
Because the brain is deprived of glucose on keto, a second set of symptoms follows:
- Difficulty thinking
Of course, on the keto diet, you will be replacing the glucose with fat, which will then fuel your body’s energy needs. The hypoglycemic issues occur during that ketogenic transition interim time period.
Of course, people who are not on a low carb keto diet will simply reach for some candy or other high carb foods to bring their blood glucose levels up. That, though, is not an option on the keto diet.
Here is how a person on the ketogenic diet can deal with hypoglycemia issues related to blurred vision. . .
Eat ketogenic diet friendly fruit with a protein food, like cheese, cottage cheese, greek yogurt (lower carb than regular yogurt, fish, eggs, low- fat meats, chicken with each snack, including bedtime. The protein fat help to maintain stable blood sugar rather than just a piece of fruit or crackers.
Fiber is also an important factor on keto.
There are low carb keto diet friendly milk alternatives like Almond Milk and Coconut Milk. They are usually only 4 grams of carbs for one cup and only 40 to 50 calories. Just make sure you get the ones that do not have sugar added. You can always add splenda or xylitol to the above milks to add a little sweetness. You can even add vanilla extract.
Here are some more keto diet friendly suggestions . . .
- ½ sandwich with protein food.
- Lowfat milk, Coconut or Almond milk with 1-2 graham crackers.
- Peanut butter and jelly (low sugar) on 1 slice of whole wheat bread or 3 whole grain crackers.
- One small apple, orange, peach, pear, nectarine, or tangerine preferably with a small amount of protein, like cottage cheese, cheese, turkey, chicken.
- Eight animal crackers with low-fat milk or Almond or Coconut milk. Or even with hot non-caffeine tea.
- 1/2 of a banana rolled with 2-tablespoons Grape
- 1 Cup cubed cantaloupe with small amount of protein
- Twelve Bing cherries with small amount of protein
- Two chocolate mousse bars (low calorie, low carb)
- Two sugar-free fudgsicles
- Three gingersnaps with low-fat milk, almond milk, coconut milk or hot non- caffeine tea.
- Two graham crackers (2 1/2-inch square) with peanut butter (no sugar)
- 1/2 low-fat granola bar with low-fat milk,
- Almond milk, coconut milk or hot non- caffeine tea
- 5 grapes or cherries with a small amount of protein.
- Three peanut butter sandwich crackers
- 3 cups popcorn (popped by hot air, or low-fat microwave)
According to a study out of Australia, some keto diet followers suffer from optic neuropathy. This condition involves the loss of peripheral vision resulting from damage to the optic nerves. The study participants improved their eyesight with thiamine supplementation. Vitamin B supplements were also seen to be beneficial.
Other Causes . . .
- Staring at the TV and laptop screens for longer period of time with minimal blinking.
- Reading in low lights or reading low fonts for longer period of time.
- Working in low or extreme bright light for a longer period of time.
- Excessive use of smartphones. (Smartphones emits blue-violet light. Our vision or eyesight can succumb to Macular degeneration due to the harmful wave- lengths of lights emitted by our smartphones).
- Genetic Reasons.
- Excessive Smoking.
- Excessive Mental Stress.
- Lack of the essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins in diet.
- Excessive consumptions of various caffeinated drinks.
- Excessive strain of eyes like not catching adequate amount of sleep can damage our eyes.
- Inadequate blood supply to eyes could be another reason.
Read about other Side Effects of Keto
Other Vision Conditions
- Myopia: Myopia is often called short-sightedness as in this case the patients can’t see properly the far objects but they can easily see the nearby objects. They are given proper concave lenses by the opticians to remove the short sightedness.
- Hypermetropia: This problem is termed as long-sightedness as in this case patients can’t properly observe nearby objects. Opticians give proper convex lenses to remove this problem.
- Presbyopia: This problem occurs due to aging, as our eye-muscles tend to lose its efficiency due to aging and for this reason the accommodation power of our eyes drops. Presbyopia can be removed by the use of proper bifocal lenses.
- Astigmatism: This is a very rare disease. This condition occurs due to structural problems in the cornea. This condition is removed by using Toric lenses.
- Cataract: Cataract is clouding of the lens in the eye leading to a decrease in vision. Cataract can be a cause of blindness if untreated in proper time. (About 20 million people globally are blind due to cataracts). Opticians mainly suggest surgery for cataracts.
- Conjunctivitis: Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eyes by bacteria or allergen. It is termed as Pink Eye. Over the counter eye drops are available to heal the problem.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which result in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. This is a very complicated disease. In this case, medical help should be sough.
5 Natural Keto Eyesight Remedies
Indian Gooseberry or Amla is a very powerful home remedy for various diseases. It is very effective to improve eyesight or maintain our eyesight. It has a high amount of Vitamin C (nearly more than 20 times of an orange). This helps in maintaining retinal cells and adequate blood supply in eyes.
- Take 5 tablespoons of Amla juice in a cup of water and consume it regularly in the morning (empty stomach).
- You can chew a whole Amla in the morning.
- You can mix half a glass of Amla juice with half a glass of Carrot juice and have it in the morning.
Fennel seeds are very useful in promoting good health of eyes for keto high fat diet followers and slowing down the progression of cataracts. Fennel seeds have trans-anethole compound, antioxidants and helpful nutrients which are essential for good eyesight.
Prepare a mixture of Fennel seeds, Almonds and Sugar candy in the proportion of 2:7:1 and then grind them to make a fine powder. Next, you add two tablespoons (for adults) and one tablespoon (for children) of the fine powder in a glass of lukewarm cow-milk and consume this every day before going to bed.
** Do not drink or consume anything for at least 2 hours after consuming the milk.
Apply this method at a stretch for 50 days for better results.
Clarified butter or Ghee is very useful in maintaining proper health of eyes for keto weight loss advocates. It helps in the functioning of the eye-muscles (especially the extra-ocular muscles), eye-lids and tear (lacrimal secretions) production.
Licorice or Mulethi powder is another good remedy for weak eyesight related to keto. The efficiency of Clarified butter and Licorice powder enhance when they are mixed together.
- Add one tablespoon of Clarified butter, Licorice powder, and honey in a glass of lukewarm milk. Consume this mixture before going to bed. (Don’t drink or eat anything after this for at least 2 hours)
- Applying one drop of lukewarm Clarified butter directly into the eyes before going to bed can be helpful for the health of the eyes.
Triphala powder is known for its medicinal properties. It enhances eyesight in keto followers with blurred vision and at the same time, it also strengthens the eye-muscles. Triphala powder also helps in preventing glaucoma, conjunctivitis, and cataract also.
- Add two tablespoons of Triphala powder in a glass of water and leave it overnight. In the next morning strain the mixture and wash the eyes with this strained water.
- You can also boil a glass of water mixed with two tablespoons of Triphala powder and reduce the mixture to 1/4th. Then add one tablespoon of honey and consume the mixture.
- You can also soak 50-75 grams of Triphala in a glass of water overnight. On the next morning, make a paste of the soaked Tripahala along with the water. Then fry the paste in Clarified butter or Ghee along with a pinch of salt and Black Pepper powder. After that, you add this paste in your cooked vegetables to consume it in lunch. This is a very good and effective remedy for better eyesight.
This is a homemade and very effective eye-drop, which can improve eyesight and overall health of eyes.
Add one tablespoon of Ginger, Lemon, Onion, and honey in a small bottle and refrigerate the solution.
Apply one drop of solution in the eyes twice a day for three months for better results.
Haritaki or Harad is known for its medicinal properties and it has been used for many years to heal many health issues. Haritaki is used to maintain good health of the eyes in keto blurred vision cases.
- Consuming one tablespoon of Haritaki juice every morning can be helpful to improve eyesight.
- Having one tablespoon of Haritaki powder and Clarified butter mixed with one glass of lukewarm milk before going to bed at night can also be very helpful for healthy eyes.
- Blink your eyes more often. It will keep your eyes wet with lacrimal secretion or tear which is a natural antibiotic for the eyes.
- Wash your eyes with cold water every time you come back home after work or school or an outing.
- Don’t drink excessive caffeinated soft drinks.
- Avoid smoking.
- According to Ayurveda, washing the eyes with Goumutra (Cow’s urine) once a week can be very helpful for eyes as it has various enzymes, vitamins, and antibiotic properties.
What About Supplements?
When you were a kid, you probably remember being told by your parents to eat your carrots to improve your eyesight. So, if you are suffering from keto diet blurred vision can supps help make then better?
There are a lot of claims made about the benefits of supplements for eye health on the ketogenic diet. Of course, many of them are intended to make money, so getting to the truth isn’t easy. There are, in fact, not that many studies on the subject of supps and vision, let alone those related to the ketogenic weight loss diet. One exception is the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2). Both of these studies were conducted by the National Eye Institute. The studies focused on two of the most common eye conditions:
- age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
However, the supplement recommendations made apply to all eye conditions, including those relating to the keto diet.
The following supplements are recommended by the AREDS and AREDS2 studies are . . .
- Vitamin C – 500mg
- Vitamin E – 400 IU
- Lutein – 10mg
- Zeaxanthin – 2mg
- Zinc – 80mg
- Copper – 2mg (taken to prevent copper deficiency caused by zinc)
Let’s take a closer look at their eye health supplements . . .
- Lutein and zeaxanthin:
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are known as carotenoids. These are pigments found in plants and in your retina. When you supplement with carotenoids, their density in the retina is increased. In addition, carotenoids help to absorb blue and ultra-violet light which may damage your eyes.
Zinc is a powerful antioxidant with the ability to protect the eyes against cell damage. This is the main mineral used in the AREDS2 formulation. When taking zinc, copper absorption is lessened. It’s recommended that zinc be combined with copper supplements.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
We have already noted that thiamine is essential for eye health. It is commonly referred to as the anti-stress vitamin. In addition to reducing the risk of getting cataracts, there is some evidence that it may also be an effective treatment for uvitis, which is an inflammatory eye condition that can cause blindness.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Most people are woefully deficient in getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. The main source of omega-3 is fatty fish. Photoreceptors cells in your retina contain a large quantity of omega-3 fatty acid. It’s believed that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, helps in the development of retinal cells. It’s thought, too, to have a role in reducing inflammation and helping cells of the retina and the cornea heal and regenerate after damage due to light exposure and aging.Research has shown that people who include a healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acid in their diet have lower levels of macule degeneration. Yet, low levels of omega-3 are associated with the condition known as dry eye. Omega-3 will even help you lose weight.
- Vitamin C
There are a number of big studies that show that vitamin C can reduce the risk of getting some cataracts. Two studies revealed that the combination of vitamin C and vitamin E slowed the progression of cataracts.
We all need to be very careful about protecting our eyes. For a small percentage of the people who go on the keto diet, blurred vision may be part of the transition period when you watch from a glucose burning to a body fat burning keto energy system. The condition is directly related to the fluctuations in blood sugar levels, with very low levels causing hypoglycemia and blurred vision. Eyesight problems may also result if you have a cheat day on your high fat, weight reducing keto diet and overindulge in carbs. This will spike up your blood sugar levels, but, when you go back onto your low carb keto diet eating plan, your levels will crash, which may cause hypoglycemia.
If you are going to have a ketogenic diet cheat day, be sure to keep your keto carb load at a moderate level so that it does not spike your blood glucose levels. This will avoid the resultant crash that could lead to blurred vision, while ensuring maximum weight loss.