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You Are What You Eat – Diet and Dry Eye

Dry eye syndrome, a prevalent condition affecting millions worldwide, can be managed and its symptoms reduced through diet and lifestyle changes. Among these, the Mediterranean diet, renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties and focus on essential micronutrients, stands out as a promising strategy for improving ocular health and alleviating dry eye discomfort.

Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes fail to produce good-quality tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly. The underlying causes are endless, and this chronic, progressive condition can affect ocular comfort, vision, and quality of life if left untreated. The saying “you are what you eat” rings especially true regarding ocular health. Research indicates that specific diet and lifestyle patterns can influence general health and inflammation levels in the body, including the inflammation present in dry eye syndrome.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole, nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish, and olive oil while minimizing processed foods, red meat, and refined sugars. Studies have found that people adopting this diet have reduced signs and symptoms of dry eyes and are less likely to develop primary Sjogren’s Syndrome.

1. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to maintain good health and healthy being. Deficiency in this has been known to lead to chronic ocular surface inflammation, particularly when paired with a high ratio of Omega 6s. Omega-3s are found in fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, free-range eggs, seeds, nuts, walnuts, flax, and chia seeds. Omega-3 – 3 supplements are commonly available; consult a healthcare professional before commencing this.

2. Antioxidants: Fruits and vegetables, central to the Mediterranean diet, are packed with vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. Numerous studies have been conducted, and higher levels of these vitamins are generally associated with improved dry eye symptoms and the ocular surface.

While hydration is important for overall health, its direct impact on dry eyes and the ocular surface is not yet fully understood. Current recommendations in Australia suggest a water intake of 2.6L for males and 2.1L for females. While increasing water intake may not directly improve dry eyes, it remains an important consideration for maintaining overall health.

The Bottom Line

While dry eye syndrome can be a persistent and uncomfortable condition, adopting a holistic approach to management that includes dietary and lifestyle modifications can offer significant relief. The Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods and essential nutrients, presents a promising strategy for alleviating dry eye symptoms and promoting long-term ocular health. By incorporating omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients into your daily diet, you can take proactive steps toward managing dry eye and enjoying clearer, more comfortable vision.

As part of your routine comprehensive eye examination with your Canberra optometrist, ask how your optometrist can help you tackle and manage your dry eye syndrome.