Can Gluten Cause Glaucoma and Blindness?

on Jan8
by Dr. Vikki Petersen | Print the article |

Drugs and Gluten can Affect Eye Health

I was visiting my eye doctor for my annual appointment and we began discussing the dangers of over the counter medications. I had just written a blog about the hazards of NSAID use and my optometrist commented that in his field the research is quite clear that most medications are causing some damage to the small vessels in the eye. He went on to say that he found it upsetting because it’s never talked about in the news and he’s seeing glaucoma more often than ever before in his career. He believes that drugs are a major contributing factor.

For a little primer on glaucoma – it is a slowly progressing disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve and can cause blindness. Open angle glaucoma is the name given to the most common form of the disease that affects about 3 million Americans. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for African Americans. Due to its slow progression and a lack of early warning symptoms, most who suffer don’t even know they have it. While early diagnosis and treatment is key to prevent blindness, there is no cure, nor known cause as to why the fluid builds up in the vessels in the eye causing damage to the nerve.
What struck me, however, beyond the discussion of drugs affecting the eyes, was when he used a term ‘hypoperfusion’, which simply means inadequate circulation. The reason it resonated with me is that gluten is known to cause hypoperfusion of the brain. This fact has been related to the cause of depression, autism and ADHD symptoms, to name a few, in affected individuals.

I asked my optometrist if there would be an association between a substance causing hypoperfusion in the brain also affecting the vessels in the eye. He stated absolutely, that anything affecting the brain in that way would concurrently affect the vessels of the eye. Plus considering how small and delicate the vessels in the eye are, it wouldn’t take much to create a negative effect upon them.

Who’s at Risk for Glaucoma?

I pondered if gluten intolerance could indeed be a causative factor in glaucoma. With just a little research I found some information from the University of Maryland regarding who was most at risk for developing glaucoma:

  • Over 60 years of age
  • Family history
  • African American descent
  • Diabetes
  • Myopia (near sightedness)
  • Taking certain drugs, such as antihistamines or blood pressure medications
  • Food sensitivities
  • Stress
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Hypothyroidism

Did you notice ‘food sensitivities’? Not only is it mentioned as a risk factor, but under ‘nutritional tips’ for glaucoma they mentioned eliminating foods that one is allergic/sensitive to, including dairy and gluten.

Our ‘Favorite’, Fruits and Veggies are Good for Your Eyes

The University also stressed increasing your fruits and vegetables, as a diet higher in antioxidants is known to reduce one’s risk of developing glaucoma.

Basically, everything I recommend as a clinical nutritionist for a healthy diet was echoed by the University of Maryland Complementary Medicine’s department. E.g. lots of water, moderate exercise, reduced caffeine, include good fats such as fish oil and olive oil, and a small amount of lean, clean protein.

They also mentioned the importance of supplementing one’s diet with a great anti-oxidant formula. I don’t like to typically discuss products that we sell at the clinic, but I’m going to make an exception this time. Why? Because I think it’s important to share the data I learned from the formulator of my favorite multiple and anti-oxidant -a brilliant biochemist.

Supplements are likely Necessary

First of all, she said that it’s impossible to fit ‘everything’ in one pill. Her multiple (called Optimum Daily Allowance) is a large tablet and to get the required dosage requires 6 per day. (Yes, I know, I too wish it was less to swallow.) Plus, the antioxidant formula is separate because she says that to truly absorb the nutrients, it must be. Now this second one is a capsule and you only need 4 per day, but it’s name is ‘Body and Vision’. The name is apt because contained in it are many of the nutrients that are known ‘food’ for the eyes – lutein, alpha-lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, etc.

Gluten Can Definitely Play a Role in Eye Health

Is avoiding gluten a good idea to prevent glaucoma? If you’re sensitive to it, absolutely. And, if glaucoma or any neurological condition runs in your family, it would be an excellent idea to get comprehensively tested for gluten intolerance – celiac and gluten sensitivity both.

On a personal note, my mother is now 90 years old. She’s very gluten sensitive but we only found out in her early 70s – this is when I first learned of gluten sensitivity. She was very ‘addicted’ to gluten and while she decreased her intake, it truly wasn’t until I moved her to live close to me that she became completely gluten-free, and that was about 6 years ago.

She has glaucoma, she also has macular degeneration. And sadly, she has really begun to show brain atrophy. I know you can say that living to 90 (with absolutely no diseases beyond those mentioned or medications, I might add) is pretty darn good. But watching her search for words and have her memory fail her is difficult. I know that it’s frustrating for her as well. Could implementing a gluten-free diet earlier in her life have prevented some of these brain and eye disorders? Hard to know and impossible to prove. But it does cause one to wonder.

We do know that gluten can very much affect circulation into the brain. That in itself is good enough reason for everyone wondering about gluten to get thoroughly evaluated.

Would you like to know if gluten intolerance is affecting your health? Consider calling us for a free health analysis – 408-733-0400. We’re here to help! And don’t worry if you don’t live locally. Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally.


To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you!”

The Author

6 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Scott Compton


    Hi! (also posted a bit as The1RobynHode on youtube after seeing your videos),

    I know that gluten can cause blindness first hand, since I cured my own the bursting capillaries in my vision. It’s not completely the gluten, but the glutamates that causes swings in blood pressure. Literally, the retinal capillaries were leaking into the gel-part of the eye and drying there, causing vision loss.

    Once I cleaned up all glutamates in the diet (gluten is one of many forms of glutamates as you know), only then did the blood-pressure spikes stop. I can actually see when glutamates are affecting my vision when I look at a white wall seeing the vessel swelling interpreted by my retina, and every time it occurs, I just think back about 30-60 minutes in the past as to what I’ve eaten. Too much sugar in the diet, too much caffeine and calcium cause additional problems to cause quick, blood vessel swelling. This is also true of the migraines I’ve had in the past that I haven’t gotten now in over 15 years since I started eating a low-glutamate diet (this is obviously a low-gluten diet, but with many more limits to specific foods that have high glutamate content).

    I’m 42 years old now, but I was a mess in my 20s when I learned and researched all of this (I have a biology degree and worked in the Stanford Biological sciences dept. for many years). Additionally, I knew that bagels and other grains were the major culprit to cause the blood pressure spikes, but only later did I narrow down other foods that had high glutamate content for causing the blood pressure swelling.

    All of this is in addition to the impact glutamate has on the neurological systems, that looks as if consuming too many free glutamates over time contributes to epilepsy, autism, Alzheimer’s, parkinsons, and so forth.

    I’m happy to say that after having gone gluten-free (and glutamate-free), I’ve cure my vision issues and I haven’t had seen visual issues for more than 6 years now. I’ve had no migraines either when I used to get them at least a few times a year. Also from about 2011 and on, I’m now in the best shape of my life because I started Intermittent Fasting to target the fat from the body, alongside reducing my sugars down to about 50 grams per day–literally, nearly all sugars I consume daily come from blueberries and bananas. Sugars are at the heart of inflammation as well when too many sugars are consumed, so you add those together with the gluten inflammation, you get more synergy of intense inflammation. The Intermittent Fasting has been the key to normalizing my cravings for sugar and targeting fat from the body. I used to be between 240 – 280 through my 20s and 30s when I should have been 175. Having read all of the latest research and applying these below has got me to 175 pounds for the last two years:

    1. Reduction of sugars (especially fructose) down under about 50-60 grams per day

    2. Intermittent Fasting (eating all food in a 5-8 hour window daily)–letting the organs to recover 16-19 hours daily and the rebalance of hormones and increase of HGH. It was also a tool to have the willpower to reduce daily sugar intake from about 200g – 300g per day down to 50g, and also cure all hunger pangs… it sounds counter-intuitive, but not eating for 19 hours at a time is extremely normal and I have no food cravings during that time.

    3. Reduction of glutamates from the diet, specifically elimination of these sources (gluten, most grains, all soy, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, peas, anything dried like meats and fruits, autolyzed proteins, etc.)

    4. Better food choices–eating organic eggs over easy, avocado, organic meats, peanut butter, plain whole milk yogurt, etc.

    This information is so powerful in application that I think it may be a strong treatment for Alcoholism addiction using Intermittent fasting alongside lower glutamates and sugar in the diet that promote addiction responses.

    08 Jan
  2. 2

    Thank you Scott,

    One point: It is my understanding that whey and dairy in general are quite high in glutamates. It was surprising to me that you consume it. I’m certainly not trying to restrict you further and you’re obviously doing and feel great, but have you looked into that?

    Let me know.

    Dr Vikki

    08 Jan
  3. 3

    Great article!
    I also nixed the gluten about 4 years ago, off dairy 2 years (& mushrooms are about the only high glutamate listed that I have with any frequency, some fruit – try to get lots of colours in those)
    I would also mention oils – I switched to using coconut oil, which is naturally heat stable, so doesn’t add to the oxidative stress as do the unsaturated (& usually GMO) soy, corn, canola etc oils. Dr Mary Newport of Florida reversed her husband’s Altzheimer’s by adding coconut oil & MCT oils to his daily diet. (they don’t appear to have gone off Gluten)
    Mary writes that most of over 200 people who have sent testimonials on what adding coconut oil to the diet has done for their loved ones “while some people have no response, the vast majority has reported improvements in cognitive functions and overall quality of life.” & goes on to say that research is being done using ketogenic diets that contain medium chain triglycerides and also ketone esters “for treatment of cancer, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), wound healing, oxygen toxicity, epilepsy, and status epilepticus,”

    Exciting to see the research & human experience coming together.

    Thanks again for your great overview of gluten, certain medications & eye health!

    08 Jan
  4. Michelle


    We have a 2 year old born with bilateral cataract and since 18 months old has glaucoma in 1 eye (it is genetic). He has a tube shunt in that eye to help drain the excess fluid. There is a thought that his glaucoma pressures spike throughout the day as he is still on 2 glaucoma drugs with a tube shunt. I am trying to find research on if his diet can cause the pressure spikes. Your article is interesting about the gluten and sugar effects. Can a 2 year old have the same effects from sugar and gluten? We do not restrict his diet at this point. Should we be?

    08 Jan
  5. 5

    Hello MIchelle,

    Gluten and sugar can affect blood sugar spikes in any age, but in the case of your son’s pressure spikes in his eye, I don’t know if the two are related. It’s not something that I’ve come across before. It’s never a bad idea to check for a gluten sensitivity. You can order a test from EnteroLab online (I have no affiliation with them). It’s an easy test for such a young child because it’s a simple stool test – no needles and we find it very accurate. Gluten can affect some many parts of the human body that it’s never a bad idea to rule it out as contributing to health issues.

    You are a great mom and very dedicated and if you continue searching I believe that you’ll find the answer – that’s what great mothers do for their children!

    Do keep me updated and I will get back to you if I do learn anything in this area.

    Dr Vikki

    08 Jan
  6. 6

    My husband has been seeing an ophthalmologist for 3-4 years every 6 months due to high pressure in his eyes and poor peripheral vision. In addition, his dad had macular degeneration. He has been 100% gluten free and mostly dairy free due to sensitivities for 1.5 years now, and for the first time both conditions improved for the first since he started referred to the ophthalmologist. The doctor was surprised and now has recommended he only see him once a year now. What an unexpected benefit and blessing!

    For Michelle above, we used Enterolab, and their information was very helpful. All three of us have two gluten genes! We are SOOO much healthier and better on a gluten free and mostly dairy free diet!! We don’t eat a lot of sugar either.


    08 Jan

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