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Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic condition in which the rods in the retina die. The rods are the cells in your eye that distinguish outlines and depth; the cones distinguish color. The term "retinitis" is a misnomer, because the disease does not primarily involve inflammation. The condition slowly leads to blindness, and it's a devastating diagnosis.

There are "alternative" treatments that work, and alternative treatments that are a waste of time and money. First of all, please understand that natural therapies for retinitis pigmentosa at best slow down the disease. They may at least help you keep the vision you have longer.

There is good evidence for vitamin A for retarding the process of destruction in the rod cells. The first research involved using a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate because it's:

  • Stable, that is, you don't have to worry about its losing its potency because you didn't put the lid of the vitamin jar back on tightly enough.
  • Well-known, that is, doctors know that the usually-recommended 15,000 IU per day won't cause itching, red skin, or flaking skin like higher doses.
  • Inexpensive, less than US $10 per month.

The drawback of using retinyl palmitate or any of several other forms of vitamin A is that they can cause liver damage. (There is also a theoretic risk to the embryo during the first trimester of pregnancy, although actual cases of birth defects tied to vitamin A consumption in humans, rather than laboratory animals, are essentially unknown). People who have kidney failure are very sensitive to vitamin A; the amount of vitamin A that helps retinitis pigmentosa aggravates kidney damage. That's why some doctors have been recommending beta-carotene.

Your body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A, but only as fast as it needs it. Beta-carotene won't cause liver damage. However, your body needs 2 to 16 molecules of carotenes to make 1 molecule of vitamin A. To optimize availability of vitamin A, it's best to have a combination of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, gamma-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. You can get that by eating five or six servings of colorful vegetables every day, or by taking Duniella.

The best Duniella supplements happen to be harvested from the Dead Sea, but there's nothing magical about Dead Sea algae. You could simply take more of other brands (and the manufacturers take this into account in choosing how much Duniella they put in each capsule; they want you to have a good result). You would actually get better results if you ate five or six servings of yellow, orange, and red vegetables plus kale or turnip greens each and every day, but since most people won't, there's Duniella.

There is an omega-3 essential fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid or DHA that also helps slow down the destruction of rods in the retina. More is not necessarily better. You only need about 1500 mg a day. It doesn't make any difference to your eye health whether you get your DHA from microalgae (which is much more expensive) or from fish oil (which may have additives but is relatively cheap). However, you should not take DHA capsules within four hours of drinking alcohol, and you should never, ever take more than 10 grams (10,000 mg) a day. Your body turns it into a kind of anti-anti-inflammatory when you consume too much.

There is an American podiatrist (foot doctor) named Morton Walker who periodically recommends one product or another as the absolute cure for every disease. Please understand that DMSO cures absolutely nothing. It's a remarkable solvent. Adding DMSO to other substances and then putting the mixture on your skin helps your body absorb whatever is in the DMSO very quickly, but DMSO itself does nothing, absolutely nothing, to cure retinitis pigmentosa. It just gives you garlic breath.

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