Dry Eye Disease is one of the most common eye conditions that patients come to me, Dr. Tessa Sokol, seeking care for. Dry eyes can really affect the quality of your life — it is not a minor condition!
This condition occurs when your tears are not able to provide an adequate amount of lubrication for your eyes. There are two common causes for this; either you don’t produce enough volume, or you don’t produce high-quality tears.
Dry eyes is a very complex and multifactorial disease. Regardless of the cause, the result is the same — extreme discomfort. You may experience a stinging or burning sensation. In severe cases, it can also cause redness, watery eyes, sensitivity to light, and even blurred vision.
It is definitely no day at the beach, but the good news is there may be relief! Research has shown that taking Essential Fatty Acid Supplements can alleviate symptoms of Dry Eye Disease.
Omega Oils for Dry Eyes
Humans do not produce fatty acids, naturally. Therefore, all the fatty acids our bodies need to function well must be obtained from our diet.
Exactly what are these fatty acids that I am referring to and how do we get them? I’m talking about Omega-3, Omega-6, EPA, DHA, and GLA. There is so much information out there about omegas and fatty acids, knowing what to eat or which supplements to take can be very confusing!
First off, our bodies require all of the essential fatty acids for optimal health as they play a part in almost every function of our body. They govern growth, vitality, and our mental state. They also reduce inflammation in all of the mucous membranes in our body, including our eyes. Fatty acids essentially reduce inflammation in our tear film and the lacrimal gland which is ultimately the leading cause of Dry Eye discomfort.
Where Can I Get Omega Oils?
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in some of the foods we eat. Omega-3 is in flaxseed and fish. Omega-6 is found in poultry, eggs, nuts and most vegetable oils.
Sounds great, right? The problem, which many people don’t know, is that these Omega oils must be converted to other forms before being able to reduce inflammation. (Fig.1)
Omega-3 in its original form is called Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA). Our bodies can convert ALA into the active anti-inflammatory forms of Eicosatetraenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), but the problem is this conversion is very inefficient and only about 10-20% of it gets converted to EPA and less than 10% to DHA.
The good news is that EPA and DHA can be found naturally in fish as it exists in the algae they eat. Non-fish eaters, though, who mostly obtain their Omega-3 from Flax Seed Oil, only get the inactive ALA form.
Omega-6 in its original form is called Linoleic Acid (LA). Our bodies can successfully metabolize and convert LA into Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA). GLA is a precursor of a strong anti-inflammatory prostaglandin that is found in our tears, lacrimal gland, and eyes.
GLA is 10 times more effective at reducing inflammation and the symptoms of Dry Eye Disease than DHA! It is also known to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, dermatitis, and diabetic retinopathy.
The Bad Reputation of Omega Oils
Hold up — we know what you’re thinking right now. If Omega-6 fatty acids potentially offer strong anti-inflammatory characteristics, why have they been given such a bad rap?
It’s because the typical American diet is overloaded with omega-6 LA. It is found in almost everything that we eat that contains fat. It’s everywhere, from meat, dairy, and eggs to vegetable oils, such as sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed and soybean oils, which are added to nearly all processed foods! Excessive intake of LA in such form is unhealthy because it can actually promote inflammation when not properly metabolized.
While this promotion of inflammation is not all bad because we need it to fight off infectious diseases and other conditions, it is important that we have a healthy balance of pro and anti-inflammatory molecules for good health.
When Omega-3 is added to Omega-6, the molecules of DHA and EPA will block the conversion of Omega-6 to its pro-inflammatory state. The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 4 to 1.
Our standard American diet is closer to a ratio of 25:1!
Thus, the pro-inflammatory pathway is pushed into a more aggressive chronic inflammatory state. It is best to reduce the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in our diet while moderately increasing the Omega-3 fats for balance.
Choosing The Right Omega Oil Supplements for Dry Eyes
Black Currant Seed Oil is an excellent source of the anti-inflammatory Omega-6 GLA. This, with a healthy source of Omega-3 EPA/DHA from pharmaceutical grade cold-water fish oil, boosts the anti-inflammatory pathways that combat Dry Eye Disease!
How much should you take? Approximately 235mg of GLA significantly reduces inflammation. This, with the balance of 360mg of EPA and 240mg of DHA per day reduces the mucus-specific inflammation and makes patients feel better. It is important to note that high doses of the supplements can produce unfavorable results, such as increased bleeding and bruising, so make sure you consult with a professional!
With any eye-related conditions, not all cases are equal. Please contact us if you have any prolonged symptoms of red, irritated or painful eyes!
Post Contributed by Dr Tessa Sokol