Managing Dry Eyes - Ask a Nutritionist

March 23, 2023

Tears are a critical component to keeping the surface of our eyes properly lubricated, clean, and healthy. So what happens if you don't produce enough tears? Dry eyes! Dry eye syndrome is a very common eye condition caused by insufficient tear production, which itself can be caused by many different things. Tune in to this weeks episode of Ask a Nutritionist with Britni to find out what you can do to keep your eyes healthy with your own natural tears.

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Welcome to the “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are thrilled to have you join us today as we discuss the connection between what you eat and how you feel and share practical real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition. Now, let's get started.

BRITNI: Good morning and welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's new midweek segment called Ask a Nutritionist. My name is Britni Vincent and I am a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. And on today's show, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we will be answering a nutrition question we've received from our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners, and the question today is, “Do you have suggestions to help manage dry eye?”

What is dry eye syndrome & what are possible causes?

And I have a lot of suggestions for you, but I want to first talk a bit about dry eye. So dry eye syndrome is a very common eye condition caused by insufficient tear production. The tears are critical to keep the surface of our eyes properly lubricated, keep it moist and free from dust and other particulates in the air. And the risk of developing dry eye syndrome does increase with age and is more prevalent in women than men. So without that proper tear production, you are at higher risk of getting scratched cornea and eye infections because again, without that tear production, you're not washing away the germs and the particulates as much. Also, dry eyes can affect focus and cause just overall vision problems.

There are several different causes of dry eye syndrome. These are just a handful. It can be a side effect of an over-the-counter or prescription medication. So I would make sure to check all of the medications that you're on to see if that might be a side effect. Medical conditions like blepharitis, Sjogren's disease can cause dry eyes, vitamin A deficiency; diabetes: this is a big one. According to the American Diabetes Association, 54% of individuals with diabetes have dry eye syndrome. It's a lot. It's because high blood sugars can cause nerve damage, which can reduce tear production. Also, the inflammation that's caused by the high blood sugars makes it harder for the glands in your eyes to make the tears.

Certain thyroid conditions can cause dry eyes; allergies of course. And then here's a big one that not everybody thinks about: screen time can cause or exacerbate the symptoms of dry eyes; something to reflect upon. How much screen time are you getting a day and how could you possibly modify that?

I would suggest finding the root cause of your dry eye syndrome. You know, for instance, if you have diabetes and you experienced dry eyes, I would recommend focusing on getting your blood sugars more stable by switching to a more real food diet, reducing, eliminating those processed carbs and sugar. Combining that protein, fat and carb when you're eating is going to help dramatically. We have lots of radio shows and articles on this topic that, that you can check out for more information.

Omega-3: a key nutrient for dry eye

In addition to all of these causes of dry eyes, there are some key nutrients that can help to improve dry eyes. You know, the first thing that comes to mind for me are omega-3s. And you have probably heard about them. Maybe some of you are already taking omega-3s to help your dry eyes.

But let's, let's take a deeper dive into omega-3s. So the two therapeutic forms are called EPA and DHA, and omega-threes work to improve the function of the eyes meibomian glands, which produce the oily part of tears. So improved function of these glands can ease these dry eye symptoms. We know that DHA is very prevalent in the retina, and in fact of all tissues in the body, the retina contains the highest concentrations of omega-3 DHA. So pretty crazy to think about. The omega-threes are extremely important for our eye functions, specifically that therapeutic form: DHA. Studies have shown that up to 95% of Americans are deficient in omega-threes. And a large reason for this is omega-3 fatty acids are considered an essential fatty acid, meaning that our bodies don't produce it on its own. We need to get it from food or a supplement.

And the best sources of omega-threes are fatty fish like salmon, wild caught mackerel, sardines. You know, most people are not consuming these on a regular enough basis to be getting enough omega-threes from their foods. I would suggest, you know, I recommend for all of my clients, whether they have dry eyes or not to supplement with omega-threes because they do offer so many different benefits in our body.

Omega-3 supplement options

You know, we have different options. At Nutrikey, we have the Nutrikey Omega-3 1000 and the Nutrikey Extra Strength Omega-3. So the difference is the extra strength, hence the name, is more concentrated. So you get the same amount of omega-3 in two extra strengths as you do three of the omega-3 1000. So if you want to take less pills, I would suggest the extra strength version and I would take at least two of those a day. If you do the omega-3 1000, I would take at least three of those a day.

In those omega-3 supplements, you get both the EPA and the DHA. But some people benefit from taking extra DHA in addition to their omega-3 if they have severe dry eye syndrome. And you can take anywhere between two to four additional DHA capsules to help your dry eyes.

Other key nutrients for dry eye

There are other nutrients to think about. Zinc is a vital coenzyme for eye tissues. It also helps to get vitamin A from your liver to your retina. Food sources of zinc: oysters, beef, lobster, pork, salmon, eggs would all be good sources. Two other ones that you may have heard of in regard to eye health are lutein and zeaxanthin; a mouthful. They are two antioxidants that make a big impact on dry eyes. They're both considered carotenoid pigments and their role in eye health has been well-documented for a long time.

So most eye supplements are going to contain both lutein and zeaxanthin. And they help to enhance eye function, visual acuity, as well as protect the eye against oxidative damage. And our body can't synthesize these on our own like the omega-3 fatty acids. So we do need to get them from food or supplements. Good sources from food: eggs, leafy greens, broccoli, citrus fruits.

Vitamin A is another important nutrient to consider. Vitamin A is vital for vision health and also has antioxidant properties to fight off the free radical damage. And the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. So foods that are high in either beta-carotene or vitamin A are grass-fed liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, leafy greens, and the beta-carotene provides that orange color. So you may have noticed a lot of those foods are orange.

So to recap, if you like fatty fish, I would encourage you to increase your consumption to get more omega-threes or consider taking a supplement or both is even better. You know, eating a real food diet, really limiting, eliminating those processed foods. You're going to get a variety of vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and you're going to get a variety of different nutrients, which I, I talked about all of them that are important for eye health.

If your dry eyes are still bothersome, we have another supplement specifically designed for eye health. It's called 4Sight. So it does include the zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and some other nutrients that can be beneficial for your eye. And two per day is a recommended serving. I have had some clients still see benefit taking one and it does magical things for your eyes. Every client that I've had take it has definitely noticed improvements. It's also good for just overall eye health and macular degeneration.

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