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Can a Keto Diet Cause Dry Eyes?

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The word keto spelled out in all caps by using ketogenic foods as letters.

Can a Eating a Keto Diet Cause Dry Eyes?

Diet and exercise trends seem to disappear just as fast as they arrive, but a few have stood the test of time and have brought numerous health benefits to millions around the world.

One of them is the ketogenic diet, more commonly known as the keto diet. This low-carb, high-fat diet has helped followers lose weight, manage blood sugar levels, and, most famously, reduce epileptic seizures in children. However, can following the keto diet cause dry eye symptoms?

Nutrition plays a significant role in managing eye health and eye comfort, but significant changes to your diet could lead to unforeseen consequences, especially if your eyes are already sensitive to what you eat.

Today, we’ll look at how diets like keto can affect your eyes over time and what you can do to prevent potential issues.

If you’re looking for a personalized nutritional strategy to help support your eye health, eyeDOCS Ottawa is here to help! All you have to do is book an appointment at any of our 6 convenient Ottawa locations, and our team will get started on developing a nutritional plan right for you and your needs.

A Quick Glance at Dry Eye

Before we get started, let’s refresh ourselves on dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye is an eye condition that affects a part of your eye called the tear film. The tear film is a thin layer of tears that cover the surface of your eye, and it’s made from a few unique ingredients that are vital for keeping your eyes comfortable. These ingredients include:

  • Mucus, the innermost layer of the tear film. It’s responsible for keeping the other ingredients adhered to your eye.
  • Water, the middle layer of the tear film. It’s responsible for keeping the eye hydrated and washing away dirt and small particles.
  • Oil, which makes up the outermost layer of the tear film that seals in the other ingredients and prevents them from evaporating.

Depending on how these ingredients are affected, you may experience either evaporative dry eye or aqueous tear deficiency:

Evaporative Dry Eye

Evaporative dry eye is the most common version of the issue, as it’s responsible for 85% of dry eye cases.

You may develop evaporative dry eye when there are issues affecting the production of oils to your tear film. Your meibomian glands, located on the ridges of your eyelid, are responsible for producing these oils. Still, issues like meibomian gland dysfunction and blepharitis can prevent your tear film from getting these oils, ultimately evaporating the rest of the tear film..

Aqueous Tear Deficiency

Aqueous tear deficiency occurs when your tear film doesn’t have enough water content to keep your eyes hydrated. Water is produced by your lacrimal gland, which is located just above your eye.

This issue is much less common than evaporative dry eye, but the risk of developing it can increase with age, certain medications, or if you have health conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome.

Your Diet & Dry Eye: What’s the Connection?

Nutrition can absolutely affect aspects of your eye comfort, but knowing what to eat can help address or lower your risk of developing dry eye symptoms. But what are these nutrients? And how do they actually affect your eye comfort?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

One of the most common nutrients doctors recommend for managing dry eye syndrome is omega-3 fatty acids.

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help support oil production in your meibomian glands, making them a fantastic way to manage evaporative dry eye symptoms. Some optometrists can even carry specific omega-3 supplements to help strengthen your tear film’s oil layer.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a common nutrient you may find in many different foods, but a lack of vitamin A in your diet could affect your tear film over time.

Some researchers have found that increasing vitamin A in your diet could help improve the quality and smoothness of your tear film. Vitamin A is also popular for supporting your eye health and vision.

What Is The Keto Diet?

Now let’s look at the famous keto diet and see if it could increase your risk of experiencing dry eye.

The keto diet was first introduced in the 1920s as a way to help prevent children from experiencing epileptic seizures. However, it soon became popular with health enthusiasts because of how it can help you lose weight and manage several diseases and conditions, like diabetes and heart disease.

There are a few different variations of the keto diet, but the basic idea is simple: remove high-carb foods in your diet and replace them with high-fat foods. Your body uses the glucose in carbs to provide you with energy, but if you reduce the carbs you consume, your body will have to burn fat instead.

This process is known as ketosis.

Depending on the foods you eat, though, you might be limiting the amount of vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids you need to keep your eyes comfortable.

The Keto Diet & Dry Eye

During the ketosis process, your body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. Because your body is now using a different source of energy, it may affect how these nutrients can support your eye comfort.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence supporting claims that a keto diet can lead to dry eye symptoms. There are plenty of anecdotal examples all over the internet, but there have been no studies on how this particular diet can lead to dry eye. 

Keeping Your Eyes Comfortable While on Keto

The good news is that, even if you’re following a keto diet, there are still plenty of foods you can eat to better support your eye comfort. Some examples of keto-friendly foods rich in vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Fish: Salmon, mackerel, and tuna
  • Meat: Lean beef and turkey
  • Dairy: Eggs and unprocessed cheese
  • Low-carb vegetables: Leafy greens, carrots, peppers, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, etc.

As a general rule, look for low-carb foods with high amounts of omega-3 and vitamin A.

Find a Diet With Your Eyes in Mind

Your eyes are as unique as they are delicate, so it’s important to know that even the foods you eat can affect your eyes and vision.

While there is no evidence to suggest that following a keto diet may lead to dry eye symptoms, it’s well known that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A can help support your tear film.

eyeDOCS Ottawa is proud to help patients like you make healthy decisions to support their eyes better. If you’re wondering how certain nutrients can help preserve your eye health, book an appointment with us today!

Written by Dr. Shawn Charland

Dr. Shawn Charland completed an honours Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Calgary in 1994 before graduating from the University of Waterloo, School of Optometry in 1999. He was a recipient of the Allergan Research award in 1996 and the Canadian Optometry Association Award of Merit in 1999.

Dr. Charland grew up in Calgary and practiced on the East and West Coasts before moving to Ottawa and joining eyeDOCS in 2006. Dr. Charland became a partner in 2007. Dr. Charland has a special interest in and is certified as a Therapeutic Pharmaceutical Agent certified by the College of Optometrists of Ontario.

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