Approximately 33 million Americans experience dry eye symptoms, including dryness, irritation, burning and grittiness, according to VisionWorksUSA.com. Dry eye is directly related to the underlying health condition of the entire body, according to Dr. Marc Grossman, O.D. Proper hydration of the body and regular daily intake of key nutrients can help prevent or even alleviate over time many of the symptoms of dry eyes. In general, people who eat a healthful diet of primarily fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and moderate amounts of fish show a decreased risk of all eye problems.
Dry eye syndrome is often improved by simply drinking more water, according to AllAboutVision.com. Even though water is not typically considered a food, it is the most essential nutrient for the human body, and most people today suffer from chronic dehydration, according to Dr. Batmanghelidj in "Water: for Health, for Healing, for Life." The Institutes of Medicine recommends most women need about 90 ounces of water and most men need at least 125 ounces. Twenty percent of the water your body needs should come from the food you eat, and the rest should come from purified drinking water.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acid nutrients are responsible for producing both the watery and the oily aqueous layers of the tear film. The best food sources of essential fatty acids are fish oil and cold-water fish, such as salmon, halibut, sardines and tuna. Other good sources include flax seed oil and flax seed, which can be ground in a coffee grinder and sprinkled on cereals and grains or in fruit juice. According to Dr. Marc Grossman of VisionWorksUSA, people experiencing dry eye have seen an increase in tear production within 10 days after increasing essential fatty acids plus vitamins B-6 and C.
Dry eye can also be caused by free radical damage -- oxidative stress -- in the body caused by aging; poor diet; lack of exercise; and unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking, excess alcohol, medications and chronic stress. Healthful foods rich in antioxidants may help slow down the process of oxidation. Antioxidants are easily obtained from eating a diet abundant in fruits and multicolored vegetables, especially the dark, leafy green plants such as kale, spinach and chard. Some of the most antioxidant-rich fruits include acai berry, goji berry, acerola cherries and all other tart berries.
Potassium and Zinc
All minerals are important for eye health, but two are especially beneficial. Potassium is usually very low in patients with dry eye, according to Dr. Grossman. The best food sources of potassium include kelp, dulse, wheat germ, almonds, pecans, bananas, raisins, dates, figs and avocados. Zinc is a factor in the metabolic function of several enzymes in the vascular coating of the eye, according to “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” A few good food sources of zinc include brewer’s yeast, dulse, fish, kelp, legumes, liver, mushrooms, sunflower seeds and whole grains.