Did you know that your food choices can worsen your dry eyes? This is especially true for ready-to-eat pizza, fried chips, and energy drinks.

These foods may be tasty, but they contain potentially harmful substances that attack your eye tissues, oil-producing glands, and even the structures around your eyes. No wonder why you have dry, gritty, and sore eyes all day.

In this post, we take a look at what foods cause dry eyes. We’ll also discover more suitable alternatives to each.

Read on and scrape these harmful foods off your diet charts to effectively combat dry eye syndrome.

Foods That Cause Dry Eyes

If you eat a “normal” Western diet, you may be eating most of these foods listed below. That includes refined carbs, processed and ready-to-eat foods, fried foods, and artificial sweeteners.

Take a look at the most common foods to avoid if you have dry eyes.

1. Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar and artificial sweeteners are pro-inflammatory. When consumed in high amounts, they can lead to inflammation of your lacrimal (tear-producing) glands. This reduces your tear production and makes your eyes dry and irritated.

High concentration of glucose also damages nerves throughout your eyes. In turn, this decreases the quality and quantity of your tears.

closeup of colourful candy loaded with sugar

What’s more, chronically high blood sugar can lead to more serious eye issues, like retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma.

It’s best to cut down on your sugar consumption. If you have a sweet tooth, reach out for a bowl of fresh fruits and berries. Natural sugars are rich in nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, and will not spike your blood glucose.

2. Refined Carbs

Refined carbohydrates are highly processed. In other words, most of their nutrients and fiber are removed during processing.

When you eat refined carbs like white bread or pasta, your body digests them quickly. This immediately spikes your blood sugar.

slice of white bread with a square of butter on it with loaf of white bread in the background

These fluctuations in blood sugar can lead to increased inflammation and oxidative stress. Both these conditions play a role in worsening your dry eye symptoms. You will have puffy and sore eyes that make even simple, day-to-day tasks a pain.

To prevent this, it’s best to do away with refined carbs. You can opt for wholegrain versions of white bread and pasta. Choose unprocessed foods as they have more nutrients and fiber.

3. Processed Foods

To put it simply, any food that comes in a box or can, has a long list of ingredients, and can sit unrefrigerated for days is bad for your eyes. Some common culprits include frozen meals, canned foods, and pre-made sauces.

Processed foods often contain high amounts of refined carbs, unhealthy fats, and additives like preservatives and artificial flavors and colors.

open box brimming with heart shaped chocolate cookies

These ingredients can keep your food fresh for longer. But they can lead to inflammation and dry eye issues.

Additionally, processed foods are generally low in essential nutrients, like vitamins A, C, and E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. A diet lacking in these nutrients may increase your risk of developing dry eye disease.

Tip: Make your own sauces and condiments for a healthier option. All you need are some onions, garlic, tomatoes, and flavorful herbs.

4. Dairy Products

There are several factors that make dairy a poor choice if you’re struggling with dry eyes. Milk, cheese, cream, and other dairy products contain hard-to-digest proteins. These can trigger an autoimmune attack.

When that happens, your white blood cells attack your healthy, oil and tear-producing glands. This has a serious impact on the quality of your tear film, leaving your eyes dry and sore.

different varieties of yellow cheese

Additionally, if you are intolerant to a specific substance in dairy, like lactose, you may experience inflammation, especially around your eyes.

That said, can dairy cause dry eyes in all individuals? No, some people can consume dairy products without any side effects. But if you’re not one of those people, no worries.

You can replace dairy products with alternatives like almond and soy milk, tofu, and coconut milk yogurt.

5. Fried Foods

A quick fry-up may be a tempting sight, but it’s one of the foods to avoid with dry eyes. Fried foods are generally high in unhealthy fats, like trans fats and saturated fats. These promote bloating and inflammation.

Along with other dry eye issues, this can cause meibomian gland dysfunction. When that happens, your oil glands don’t produce a healthy and stable tear film. Your tears evaporate too quickly, leaving your eyes feeling dried out.

fried chicken nuggets on a square plate with a round dip in the middle and salad on the edges

Consumption of fried food is also linked with age-related macular degeneration, a study from the University of Buffalo suggests. This condition affects your central vision, and can make everyday activities, like driving, reading, and even recognizing faces difficult.

Tip: Air frying your food is a healthier alternative to deep frying. It will make your food crispy and tasty, but without all that extra oil.

6. Ready-to-Eat Foods

Precooked and prepacked foods don’t require any preparation. You can just pop them into the oven for a couple of minutes, and voila!

But it’s not all butterflies and rainbows. These foods are packed with high amounts of salt and sodium.

So, what foods make dry eyes worse? Ready-to-eat lasagna, pasta, and pizza hurt your eye health. Loaded with salt and sodium, these foods can disrupt the balance of water in your body. They can contribute to dehydration, a cause of dry eyes.

closeup of pizza with melted cheese on top lying on wooden board

Since your tears are mostly composed of water, there’s a direct link between dehydration and dry eyes. If you depend on ready-to-eat foods, look for “low sodium” or “no salt” on nutrition labels. Add your own herbs and spices for a natural boost of flavor.

7. Sugary Drinks

Soda, energy drinks, and packaged juices are full of sugar. Sometimes as much as 8 to 10 teaspoons per drink. These increase your blood sugar levels, cause inflammation, and lead to dry eye disease. But that’s not all.

Sugary drinks are also associated with a variety of health problems like obesity, heart diseases, and diabetes.

cans of soft drinks lined up one next to the other

Diabetes, in particular, can damage the blood vessels and nerves that support your eyes. A 2016 study indicates that it’s one of the leading causes of dry eyes.

Moreover, sugary drinks have a low nutritional value. Consuming them frequently can lead to nutrient deficiencies. This, again, can lead to dry eye symptoms or make them worse.

You can try fresh juices, iced teas, and lemonades instead. These will give you a quick energy boost without making your eyes dry.

8. Refined Oils

Another on the list of dry eye foods to avoid are refined oils. These oils are generally extracted from plants and seeds. That may sound harmless. But the way they are processed makes them bad for your eye health.

Refined oils are extracted using a chemical solvent or oil mill. Then they are purified, refined, and chemically altered. Plus, they have a disproportionate ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

cooking oil poured from a bottle over mushrooms in a frying pan

This is an important dietary ratio. But high omega 6 and low omega 3 fatty acids can lead to inflammation and autoimmune problems. That’s the stuff dry eye disease is made of.

Our dry eye diet advice is to stay away from refined oils, like soybean and sunflower oils. Give a try to coconut, mustard, and olive oil instead.

9. Alcoholic Beverages

Alcohol consumption can cause dry eye syndrome in several ways. Alcohol is a diuretic. That means it increases urine production and causes dehydration. When your body is dehydrated, your tear film is affected, leading to dry eyes.

many alcohol bottles on wooden shelves

Alcohol also causes inflammation. This affects the structure and function of your tear glands. It may even cause your lens to swell, resulting in blurry vision.

And finally, too much alcohol makes it harder for your body to absorb vitamins. This can hamper how effectively your body regenerates the tissue in your eyes, and indirectly cause dry eye symptoms.

10. Caffeine

Caffeine has also made it to the list of foods not to eat with dry eye. And for all the right reasons, too. Caffeine has several positive effects, like improved alertness and concentration. But it has negative effects, too, like increased risks of dry eye syndrome.

Too much caffeine consumption can cause dehydration. In addition, caffeine also constricts blood vessels. This reduces blood flow to the eyes, making it difficult for oxygen and nutrients to reach your eye tissues.

closeup of woman's hand with painted nails holding a cup of coffee

Caffeine also increases stress levels. When that happens, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone causes inflammation throughout the body, including in the eyes. All these caffeine-induced factors contribute to dry eye syndrome.

Keep Your Eyes Healthy

When it comes to a diet for dry eyes, there are several foods that are a big no-no. These include sugary drinks, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates.

These foods generally result in inflammation of the eyes, oxidative stress, dehydration, and nutrient deficiencies. In other words, they lead to dry eyes.

The good news is that there are healthy alternatives to most of these foods. For instance, eat tofu instead of cottage cheese and drink fresh juice instead of packaged juice.

Another way to keep your eyes healthy is to take an eye health supplement like the Blueberry Gummies from Sightsage. Made from Canadian blueberries, these gummies have antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that nourish your eyes and support healthy tear production.

The gummies provide anthocyanins, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, copper, potassium, manganese, and vitamins C, K, E, and B6. These nutrients help protect your eyes from free radicals and support vision health in the digital age.

They are sugar-free and sweetened with monk fruit, a zero-calorie sweetener suitable for people living with type 2 diabetes.

In the end, diet and dry eyes are closely connected. When you make even a small step towards a healthier diet, you combat symptoms of grittiness and inflammation more effectively.

Keep your eyes healthy with the Blueberry Gummies.

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