17 Jan Look after your gut health to promote optimal eye function
by Ashleigh Feltham, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist
If you want to protect your eyesight you may think about wearing sunglasses outside, not overdoing screen time and getting enough sleep. What you may not consider is the importance of an optimal gut microbiome to help prevent eye disease and dysfunction.
When your gut is in a state of imbalance or dysbiosis this can lead to systemic inflammation or a state of inflammation that affects your entire body. This may lead to an increase in the severity of ocular diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, choroidal neovascularization, uveitis, ocular diseases, and primarily diabetic retinopathy.
There may also be a link between gut dysbiosis and dry eye syndrome. Those with dry eye syndrome and a more severe autoimmune disease that causes dry eyes called Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) had more of the microbe genus Veillonella. Those with dry eye syndrome also had higher levels of the genus Subdoligranulum compared to those with SS and no dry eyes.
In research, those with SS had less beneficial bacteria such as Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes and more of a less optimal genus strain called Faecalibacterium. Gut dysbiosis may also cause Non-Sjögren Dry Eye but more research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms. It is predicted that the degree of severity of the dry eyes experienced by a person could lie on a spectrum depending on the severity of imbalance of their gut microbiome.
The importance of adequate probiotics and prebiotics in your diet is a key factor in promoting a healthy gut balance and consequently eye health. Aim for two probiotic rich foods a day such as probiotic rich yoghurt, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and natto.
Prebiotics or undigestible fibre, come from plant-based foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, legumes, and fruit. Including enough and a variety of each of these foods, each day will not only give your microbes foods from the prebiotic fibre but also through polyphenols.
Take home message:
To keep your vision sharp and your eyes working at their best remember to eat in a way that supports a healthy gut microbiome.
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- Lerner A, Matthias T, Haimi M. [THE GUT FEELING OF THE EYES: GUT-EYE AXIS]. Harefuah. 2020 Jun;159(6):455-457. Hebrew. PMID: 32583651.
- Moon J, Yoon CH, Choi SH, Kim MK. Can Gut Microbiota Affect Dry Eye Syndrome? Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 10;21(22):8443. doi: 10.3390/ijms21228443. PMID: 33182758; PMCID: PMC7697210.