Increasingly, research demonstrates the important role nutrition can play in providing systemic support and relief for dry eyes.

EPA and DHA

Omega-3 is one of the essential fatty acids which are a major building block of cell membranes important for the brain and nervous system, visual development and retinal function. Clinical evidence demonstrates the importance of omega-3 essential fatty acids in treating dry eye syndrome. The two most important dietary omega-3 fatty acids are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These two essential fatty acids help to augment both the watery aqueous and oily lipid layers of tear film. They also play a significant role in stabilizing the tear film by improving tear quality and reducing evaporative loss. EPA and DHA also play a critical role in anti-inflammatory processes. The best source of these EFA’s is fish oil but often it is difficult to consistently consume the large amount of oily fish required to achieve a therapeutic effect.

 

GLA

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an essential fatty acid in the omega-6 family found primarily in plant-based oils that has also been found to play a key role in reducing dry eye symptoms. GLA cannot be easily obtained from the typical diet. Linoleic acid, which is found in cooking oils and processed foods, can be converted in the body to GLA, but unfortunately, dietary and lifestyle factors such as sugar consumption, alcohol, aging, and illness inhibit the body’s ability to make sufficient GLA on its own. Adequate GLA is required to maintain a healthy balance of anti-inflammatory signalling molecules in the body. GLA can be converted to the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin, PGE1, which supports normal tear secretion. Clinical studies report that GLA reduces symptoms and calms inflammation in people with dry eye and improves symptoms and increases tear production in people undergoing corrective laser procedures. It reduces symptoms and increases antiinflammatory prostaglandin levels in those with Sjögren’s Syndrome. Combining the essential fatty acids from omega-3 fish oil with the critical omega-6 GLA from borage oil in balanced amounts helps block the formation of inflammatory prostaglandins.

 

Vitamin D

Research has shown that Vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with dry eye symptoms both in patients with Sjogren’s Syndrome and in non-Sjogren’s patients also. This has led scientists to report that Vitamin D may play an important protective role in dry eye syndrome due to its antiinflammatory properties. Supplementation with Vitamin D may be useful for dry eye symptoms including ocular discomfort, soreness, redness, ocular fatigue, sensitivity to light and blurred vision. Researchers also suggest that vitamin D may help prevent dry eyes by inducing cathelicidin, an anti-microbial protein that can be produced by cells in the eyes and heal eye wounds.

 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E and particularly gamma-tocopherol have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. It is important to include Vitamin E in EPA/DHA supplements as it prevents oxidation of omega-3’s and optimizes their metabolism; indeed, studies using fish oil have had superior results when a vitamin E supplement was also consumed. Vitamin E is also an important complement to EPA and DHA as the extended use of fish oil may increase the requirement for vitamin E.