Many patients visit their eye doctor because their eyes are irritated, scratchy, gritty or burning. Sometimes there is just a feeling of something in the eye. These symptoms can be signs of dry eye syndrome. Women tend to suffer with dry eye more often than men1
Diet for Dry Eye
Your eye doctor can offer treatment options, depending on the cause. The reason some eyes are dry is due to dietary deficiencies. For this reason, to get at the primary cause of the dry eyes, the diet needs to be updated. Our diets should contain adequate amounts of essential fatty acids and water. Dietary fats have gotten a bad rap, but we humans like the taste of fat and we need it.
How Much is Enough?
Studies have shown that increasing the omega-3 essential fatty acids in the diet, may reduce dry eye syndrome.2 These essential fatty acids are required for optimal health; that’s why they are called essential. Your body cannot make essential fatty acids, one must obtain them from food. And the food must be balanced between the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. For optimal overall health, a ratio of one omega-3 to four omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) is considered the best. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 – 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.3
Common food sources of well-balanced omega fatty acids are: fish, shellfish, flaxseed (linseed), hemp oil, soya oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables and walnuts. The American Heart Association’s recommendation is:
For adults with no history of heart disease: eating fish at least 2 times per week.
For adults with coronary heart disease: omega-3 fatty acid supplement (as fish oils). It may take 2 – 3 weeks for the benefits of fish oil supplements to be seen.
For adults with high cholesterol levels: omega-3 fatty acid supplement (as fish oils), 2 – 4 grams daily of specific a type of omega-3 (EPA and DHA). It may take 2 – 3 weeks for benefits of fish oil supplements to be seen.4
Capsules with the omega-3 oils are becoming more popular for the convenience and ease of taking everyday. Taking too much omega-3 can increase the risk of bleeding and should be done only under the supervision of a health care provider. Be sure to read the dosage instructions and take the recommended number of capsules.
Another consideration for dry eye is water intake. Most health supporters recommend 8-10 glasses of water every day. There have not been good studies on dry eye and water intake,5 but we do know that you may need to drink more than the recommended amount to get relief from dry eyes, especially if you regularly drink diuretics such as coffee or other caffeinated beverages or live in a dry or windy climate. Adequate water intake is vital for our body systems to function and for our eyes to produce tears. Tears keep the mucous membrane covering the eye, the conjunctiva, moist and contain a neutralizing enzyme that combats infection.
So the bottom line – soothing your dry eye symptoms can be as easy as adding essential fatty acids to your diet and drinking plenty of water.