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The Health Science Podcast | Episode 079. | May 09, 2024
079: Eyes on Health: Nourishing Your Vision Through Nutrition with Dr. Rudrani Banik
079: Eyes on Health: Nourishing Your Vision Through Nutrition with Dr. Rudrani Banik

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Vision, one of our most cherished senses, often receives little attention until issues arise, potentially leading to partial or complete loss of sight. Yet, many overlook the profound impact of diet on eyesight, both positively and negatively.

In this episode of the NHA Health Science Podcast, Dr. Frank Sabatino talks with Dr. Rudrani (Rani) Banik, a distinguished medical physician specializing in ophthalmology with a unique focus on functional medicine. 

Dr. Banik’s journey from conventional ophthalmology to embracing the power of plant-based nutrition and lifestyle interventions is not only inspiring but groundbreaking in the realm of eye care.

Discovering the Power of Plant-Based Nutrition

Dr. Banik’s path towards understanding the significance of plant-based nutrition began with a personal health challenge. Struggling with chronic migraines, she embarked on a journey of self-discovery, realizing the profound impact of proper nutrition, particularly a plant-based diet, on her own health. Her experience with migraines led her to go deeper into the research, uncovering the link between diet, lifestyle, and overall well-being.

A Profound Shift in Eye Care

Transitioning from a traditional approach to eye care, Dr. Banik recognized the limitations of solely relying on procedural interventions for conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Embracing functional medicine, she integrates a holistic approach that emphasizes preventive care, nutrition, and lifestyle modifications. Dr. Banik’s practice goes beyond routine eye exams, offering comprehensive assessments that address the root causes of eye disorders.

Empowering Patients through Personalized Care

Dr. Banik’s practice is characterized by personalized, patient-centered care. Each consultation involves an in-depth exploration of the patient’s medical history, lifestyle factors, and dietary habits. Through a thorough neuro-ophthalmic examination and advanced diagnostic testing, she identifies potential risk factors and underlying conditions affecting eye health. Dr. Banik’s approach extends beyond symptom management, empowering patients with tailored diet plans, supplementation recommendations, and lifestyle modifications.

Nurturing Eye Health with Nutrition

Central to Dr. Banik’s approach is the recognition of the profound impact of nutrition on eye health. She advocates for a diverse, plant-exclusive diet rich in antioxidants, essential nutrients, and phytochemicals. By emphasizing foods high in lutein, zeaxanthin, and other eye-supportive nutrients, Dr. Banik aims to mitigate the progression of age-related vision disorders such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Her therapeutic dietary interventions are evidence-based and tailored to each patient’s unique needs and goals.

Redefining the Role of the Ophthalmologist

Dr. Banik’s pioneering work challenges the conventional protocol of eye care, advocating for a holistic, integrative approach that addresses the interconnectedness of body, mind, and environment. By bridging the gap between ophthalmology and functional medicine, she embodies a new generation of healthcare providers committed to proactive, preventive health strategies. Dr. Banik’s dedication to educating both patients and fellow practitioners underscores her mission to revolutionize eye care and promote holistic well-being.

Addressing Stressors and Holistic Eye Health

In their conversation, Dr. Banik and Dr. Frank Sabatino went deep into the interconnectedness of eye health with various aspects of overall well-being. Stress, in particular, emerged as a significant factor affecting eye health, alongside considerations such as gut health and nutrition. Dr. Banik emphasized the importance of addressing stressors and managing them effectively, highlighting their role in triggering or exacerbating eye issues.

Understanding the Gut-Eye Connection

Dr. Banik shed light on the emerging understanding of the gut-eye connection, a relationship that may not be immediately apparent to many. She discussed how gut dysbiosis and unhealthy gut microbiota can negatively impact eye health, potentially leading to conditions such as dry eye, uveitis, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. By optimizing gut health, individuals can take proactive steps to support their vision.

Exploring the Impact of Nutrition and Lifestyle

Dr. Banik’s insights into plant-focused nutrition and the avoidance of refined, processed foods align with evidence-based practices that promote overall well-being, including eye health. Dr. Sabatino further emphasized the value of plant-exclusive diets without added salt, oil, and sugar, highlighting their potential to mitigate conditions such as retinal bleeds through the protection of blood vessel walls.

Looking Ahead: Research and Education

Dr. Banik’s commitment to advancing knowledge and innovation in ophthalmology was evident through her involvement in clinical trials and her plans for future research endeavors. She shared insights into ongoing trials focused on conditions such as thyroid eye disease and hereditary optic neuropathy, as well as the promising potential of gene therapy in vision care. Additionally, her dedication to educating both patients and peers reflects a holistic approach to eye health that extends beyond clinical practice.

Final Thoughts: Empowering Proactive Eye Care

Dr. Banik  emphasized the importance of proactive eye care and the empowerment of individuals to take control of their vision health. Vision, they reminded us, is a precious gift that should not be taken for granted. Through evidence-based practices, including stress management, nutrition optimization, and lifestyle modifications, individuals can safeguard their vision and contribute to their overall well-being.

Episode Highlights 

[00:00] Introduction.

[02:00] What motivated Dr. Banik to switch to a plant-based lifestyle.

[04:00] Migraines led to research that led to the truth about diet. 

[05:30] The gift of vision leads to life’s work.

[08:00] There are ways to prevent common vision problems. 

[11:30] Healing vision through foods with colors of the rainbow.

[14:15] The truth about cataracts. 

[17:30] What patients can expect when seeing Dr. Banik. 

[21:00] The connection between gut health and eye health. 

[28:30] How the brain impacts vision. 

[31:45] An embarrassing revelation for Dr. Banik.

[36:00] What the future holds for Dr. Banik.

About Dr. Rani Banik

Dr. Rudrani Banik is a Board-certified Ophthalmologist, fellowship-trained Neuro-Ophthalmologist, and Functional Medicine expert. She is fully trained in ophthalmic surgery and Botox, and she has a special interest in treating Headache and Migraine. Dr. Banik manages a wide spectrum of conditions affecting vision, as well as the complex connections between the eye and brain. 

Dr. Banik has specialized training in Functional Medicine. She applies principles of complementary and alternative medicine in conjunction with traditional medical approaches to treat chronic diseases affecting the visual system. She offers a unique approach to managing conditions such as dry eye, macular degeneration, blepharitis, migraine, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, thyroid eye disease, uveitis, and other autoimmune conditions.

​Dr. Banik has thirteen years of training at some of the finest medical and eye institutes in the country. She graduated with a B.A with Honors and M.D. from Brown University. She trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, followed by Ophthalmology at the University of California, Irvine. She went on to pursue Neuro-Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins.

​She has served on full-time faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.

​Dr. Banik is founder of Envision Health NYC, a private practice based on the Upper East Side in New York City. She is Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine. Dr. Banik has won many teaching awards and also serves as principal investigator for 5 multi-centered clinical trials in neuro-ophthalmology. She has authored numerous articles and has presented at national and international meetings. Dr. Banik is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Exam Development Committee and helps to set the standards for board certification in her field.

Dr. Banik is sought out as an expert in the media and has been featured in The New York Times, Good Morning America, CBS Evening News, ABC 7 Eyewitness News, CBS NY with Dr Max Gomez, Fox 5 News with Ernie Anastos, NY Magazine’s Best Doctors 2017, 2018, and 2019, The Washington Post, New Tang Dynasty TV, and Real Simple magazine. She was voted Castle Connolly Top Doctor 2017, 2018, and 2019 by her peers. 

​Dr. Banik is proud to bring more than 20 years of experience and her extensive knowledge of the eye and brain, combined with a holistic approach, to her own practice. She is excited to have the opportunity to partner with patients with the goal of not only improved visual function, but also better health and quality of life.

More information on Dr. Banik 

About Dr. Frank Sabatino

As a recognized authority on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, Dr. Frank Sabatino has cared for and inspired thousands of people for over 40 years. Dr. Sabatino has a PhD in cell biology and neuroendocrinology and has done extensive landmark research on calorie restriction, stress, and aging. He currently is on staff at the TrueNorth Health Foundation in Santa Rosa, CA, and serves as the Director of Health Education at the NHA.

Dr. Sabatino’s passion and life’s work include raising awareness about the benefits of whole-food, plant-exclusive nutrition (without added salt, oil, or sugar), health rejuvenation and stress management.

About NHA

The National Health Association (NHA), founded in 1948, is a nonprofit organization that promotes the benefits of a plant-based diet. The Association provides educational materials, educational events, and services to thousands of people around the world.

The mission of the National Health Association is to educate and empower individuals to understand that health results from healthful living. The NHA recognizes the integration of all aspects of health: personal, environmental, and social.

The NHA also provides travel experiences around the globe through the NHA Plant-Based Travel and cruise division.

More information: 


A unique benefit of the NHA Conference is the selection of two medical students who receive a full scholarship to the conference.

Contact Wanda Huberman for more information on how to apply for the scholarship.  whube[email protected]

NHA membership

For a very nominal investment, you can enjoy incredible benefits of the NHA membership.

Members of the NHA enjoy a subscription to the award-winning quarterly health journal, Health Science, access to the “Members Only” section of the NHA Website (which contains all 43 years of back issues of the magazine),  the ability to download for free many classic out of print eBooks on the history of the Natural Hygiene Movement, including Fasting Can Save Your Life and The Greatest Health Discovery, discounts on books, and early notice of the NHA events.

Only $35 a year for basic membership within the United States.

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