Gut Health and Vision: How our Microbiome Affects our Eyes
Over the past several years, there has been increasing interest in the relationship between the bacteria that colonize our bodies, and our general health. Most of us have heard the suggestion that the health of our gut can impact everything from depression and diabetes, to the overall health of our skin and eyes. Researchers believe that the human gut houses 70% of the immune system--it’s where we make nutrients, metabolize hormones and detoxifying enzymes, neutralize pathogens, and make neurotransmitters. The digestive tract contains up to 100 trillion organisms (many of those are necessary gut flora).
In regard to the health of our eyes, the microbiome of our gut can impact inflammation that can lead to Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and dry eye disease (DED). High-glycemic index foods are also thought to contribute to higher incidences of retinal changes. Other researchers have suggested that the bacteria in the mouth and gut can affect the development of glaucoma.
The microbiome of the gut can be affected by several factors. Prescription and non-prescription medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, oral contraceptives, and medications for gastroesophageal reflux, can impact the bacteria that live in our gut. The food we eat can also impact the flora in our gut, and it can also change based on stress and sleep patterns.
There are a few ways that you can change your gut microbiome and decrease your risk of inflammatory processes in your body.
- Concentrate on increasing your intake of multicolored vegetables, leafy greens, and colored fruit, foods that are filled with good bacteria. About 70% of your diet should be raw, organic vegetables.
- Fermented foods and drinks, such as kefir, kimchi, or kombucha, also promote probiotic bacteria to populate in your gastrointestinal tract.
- Filling up on fiber-rich foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats help promote microbial diversity and feed your microbiome.
- Certain foods have been found to cause inflammation in the body: refined sugars, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils found in processed foods, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, and processed meats.
- Probiotics help improve your microbiome by promoting the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are live bacteria that we consume, through foods and supplements, to support gut, immune health and overall wellbeing. Generally speaking, it is important to take a broad-spectrum probiotic instead of a probiotic with high counts of one single strain of bacteria.
While we cannot control our genetics, we can control many aspects of our gut health, including stress level, sleep habits, and dietary choices. Making healthy lifestyle choices that positively impact your gut microbiome can help you look and feel better. While you work to repair your gut, Dr. Alison R. Tendler, ophthalmologist and owner of ART Vision offers several options to improve both your vision, to help you See the World Better and See Yourself Better.
If you struggle with vision conditions such as dry eyes or blurry vision, the ART Vision team is here to help. To schedule an appointment, call us at 605-306-2020.