Can Changing My Diet Help My Dry Eye?

Eating healthy supports all your body’s systems. Your eyes are no exception -- they need vitamins and minerals to ease your chance of having problems and protect your vision.

If you’re looking to boost your eye health and help your dry eye symptoms, focus on these key nutrients.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Filling up on these can ease the scratchy, stinging irritation of dry eye. Specifically, omega-3s help soothe inflammation in your eyelids or on the surface of your eye. They may also help your tears do their job better.

An omega-3-rich diet helps glands in your eye called meibomian glands make the oily part of your tears. The oil helps keep your tears from drying up too quickly in your eye.

Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Go for one of these oily varieties at least twice a week:

  • Tuna (fresh, not canned)
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Anchovies

You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from:

  • Nuts and seeds (like flaxseed)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Soybeans
  • Green, leafy vegetables

You may also need to take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Talk to your doctor about it before you try one.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

These two antioxidants cut your odds of having many chronic eye diseases. Among other things, they help keep the cells in your eye healthy and working well. You can get them by eating eggs, corn, and leafy greens like:

  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Collards

A supplement may help here, too. Still, talk to your doctor before you take one.

Vitamin C

This antioxidant, also called ascorbic acid, is important for the blood vessels in your eyes. It’s especially helpful in preventing cataracts, but it helps your overall eye health, too.

Best sources of vitamin C include:

  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Oranges
  • Cooked spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Bananas
  • Apples

Women should aim for a minimum of 75 milligrams a day, which is about a cup of orange juice. Men need a little more -- around 90 milligrams a day.

Vitamin E

The antioxidant power of this nutrient protects the cells in your eyes from damage. It also boosts your body’s immune system. You can get it by eating:

  • Wheat cereal (wheat germ)
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Hazelnuts
  • Sweet potato

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Zinc

This is an important mineral that helps get vitamin A from your liver to your retina to make something called melanin. That's a pigment that protects your eyes. When you don’t get enough zinc, your eyes are at a higher risk of infection.

Your body doesn’t make zinc naturally, so getting it through food is important.

You can get a zinc boost from foods like:

  • Oysters
  • Beef
  • Lobster
  • Pork
  • Yogurt
  • Salmon
  • Milk
  • Fortified cereals
  • Eggs

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD on May 15, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Seven Tips for Battling Dry Eye,” “Can Fish Oil Help Dry Eye?”

American Optometric Association: “Dry Eye,” “Lutein & Zeaxanthin,” “Vitamin C,” “Vitamin E,” “Zinc,” “Essential Nutrients Your Eyes Need.”

National Eye Institute: “Facts About Dry Eye.”

NHS Choices: “Dry Eye Syndrome - Self Help.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Relation between dietary n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and clinically diagnosed dry eye syndrome in women.”

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