In recent years, probiotics have become one of the staples of healthy living. Whether in the form of supplements or food, they promise to support and even improve your health.

But what about probiotics and dry eye disease? What does science have to say about the effects of probiotics on the eyes?

In this post, we explore that question to find out whether you should take probiotics for eye health. But first, a quick overview of what probiotics are exactly.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are strands of living bacteria that increase the population of beneficial gut bacteria. They occur in certain fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, or tempeh. They are also available as supplements, usually in the form of capsules.

Probiotics is a broad word. Some probiotics may contain only one strand of beneficial gut bacteria. Probiotic supplements usually contain multiple strands.

Probiotic supplements are measured in colony forming units (CFUs). A probiotic with 10 billion CFUs per dose provides 10 billion bacteria per dose. This may seem like a large amount, but not all bacteria will survive digestion. Large doses are necessary for probiotics to reach the gut and have beneficial effects on the body.

woman in red sweater and jeans holding one arm over stomach

CFUs may decrease over time as a product reaches the end of its shelf life. Also, probiotics that are improperly stored may lose their potency. Storing probiotics in the fridge may help, but this varies from product to product.

Common probiotic strains come from the genera Lactobacillus (L.) and Bifidobacterium (B.). They are identified according to their species, for example B. lactis, B. longum, and L. acidophilus.

Good to know: Don’t confuse probiotics with prebiotics. Prebiotics are foods or supplements, usually in the form of plant fiber, that feed existing gut bacteria to stimulate their growth.

What’s the Link Between Probiotics and Eye Health?

Recent research suggests that the microbiota, or the system of microorganisms in the gut, influences eye health. So much so that an imbalance in the microbiota could increase the risk or worsen the symptoms of a variety of eye diseases.

A study from the Baylor College of Medicine found that participants who took an oral probiotic containing Limosilactobacillus reuteri saw an improvement in their dry eye symptoms.

An earlier study also found that probiotics and prebiotics improved ocular surface disease scores in patients with dry eye disease. In this study, participants received a probiotic mix including a dose of 21 billion CFUs Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus probiotics.

Other research noted that a probiotic containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus can improve symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. This appears to occur because a healthy gut microbiota helps balance the body’s immune response.

closeup of young girl's eyes with strand of black hair over one eye

Imbalances in the microbiota have also been linked to other eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration, autoimmune uveitis, and glaucoma.

In dry eye disease, researchers have discovered a significant increase in the Klebsiella oxytoca and Bacillus spp bacteria populations. Meanwhile, patients with Sjogren syndrome, an autoimmune condition known to cause dry eyes, have high Streptococcus and Candida counts and low counts of Bacteroides, Faecalibacterium, and other bacteria.

The microbiota has also been associated with type 2 diabetes, a condition that increases the risk of dry eye disease and eye infections and that can lead to diabetic retinopathy, a potential cause of vision loss.

Good to know: Microbiota and microbiome are often used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. Microbiota in this context refers to living microorganisms in the gut. Microbiome, on the other hand, refers to all the microorganisms in the environment as well as the environmental conditions and substances needed for metabolism.

More research on the microbiota is needed to understand what specific strains of bacteria are the most beneficial for eye health. But the body of research currently available suggests that gut microbiome and eye health are closely connected.

In summary, too many of certain bacteria in the gut can affect eye health. On the other hand, certain bacterial strains appear to be beneficial for the eyes. A balanced microbiome could ward off eye disease and help keep your eyes healthy.

Should You Take Probiotics for Eye Health?

Eating probiotic foods and taking probiotic supplements can contribute to your overall health. With the current research findings in mind, probiotic treatments are most effective when they are personalized for each patient.

Since the microbiota can vary from person to person based on genetics, diet, environment, and other factors, targeted probiotic treatments will likely yield better results than general ones.

In other words, while taking probiotic supplements and eating probiotic foods is good, it’s important to manage expectations. These forms of treatment may not provide the specific bacterial strains that your eyes need.

When used to treat an eye disease, probiotic treatments should be discussed with an eye doctor. Your doctor may first perform tests to assess the biodiversity of your microbiota and then recommend a probiotic treatment that aims to increase the population of specific bacterial strains.

That said, you may still want to eat probiotic foods and take a probiotic supplement for general health. Look for a supplement that provides a varied selection of bacterial strains and has a high CFU count.

glass with probiotic yogurt with cereals and kiwis and almonds and red apples on white tablecloth

Probiotic foods you can eat include:

  • Kombucha
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Pickles (without vinegar)
  • Cheddar, gouda, and cottage cheese

Good to know: Some probiotic foods have a high salt and/or high fat content. Enjoy them in moderation.

Keeping Your Eyes Healthy

Probiotics promise to open a new avenue for the treatment of dry eye disease and other eye conditions. Gut health and eyesight are linked, and scientists are discovering more of these links.

Until probiotic treatments for dry eye disease become more prevalent, don’t forget that eye health supplements can also help keep your eyes healthy.

SightC is a natural superfood blend that brings together turmeric, goji berries, Cherokee rose, Chinese yams, and other ingredients long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It provides antioxidants and other nutrients that support eye health in the digital age.

Taken regularly, SightC may help provide relief from dry eye disease and other eye conditions.

Learn more about SightC Natural Dry Eye Supplement.

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