You might already be familiar with the importance of a healthy gut microbiome, but did you know that your eyes also have a unique microbiome? Our entire body is comprised of bugs—good ones that help protect us from disease, and as it turns out, our eyes also have their own specialized microbiome that is influenced by our gut microbiota.
An imbalance in our microbiome might lead to issues with your eyes, such as Dry Eye Disease and other eye illnesses, according to research.
Dry Eye Disease (DED) affects approximately 4 million Americans each year. It’s no surprise, really, when you take into account what our eyes are exposed to on a daily basis: air conditioning, contact lenses, computer screens, toxins, air pollution, antibiotics all have an effect on our microbiome. Nutrient deficiencies, such as low levels of vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids can also contribute to Dry Eye Disease since all of the above increase oxidative stress.
Aside from oxidative stress, aging contributes to the development and progression of ocular surface diseases, such as Dry Eye Disease. As we age, our eyes produce less tears, which are comprised of water, fatty oils and mucus and help protect the surface of our eyes and guard against infection. Tears also support the intricate balance of the ocular microbiome, as they contain compounds that nurture good bacteria as well as chemicals that ward off pathogenic invaders. In fact, enzymes in tears break down bacterial biofilms and prohibit the proliferation of harmful bacteria.
In women, menopause can increase the propensity for Dry Eye Disease due to decreasing hormone levels. Even fluctuations in men’s hormonal levels may contribute to DED. Symptoms include pain, obscured vision, discomfort and itchiness, fatigue and headaches.
Your eye microbiome is dependent on several factors: Where you live (is it a dry climate?), whether you wear contacts and your current overall health and age. People over 50 are more likely to experience Dry Eye Disease.
Generally, there are four strains of bacteria in your ocular microbiome: Staphylococci, Diphtheroids, Propionibacteria and Streptococci as well as a unique virome. These viruses, such as torque teno virus, assist with protecting your ocular health. Surprisingly, even viruses that you might associate with dangerous disease states and symptoms are located in most eyes and play a role in protecting against harmful pathogens. These include the Merkel Cell Polyomavirus (MCP) and human papillomavirus (HPV).
Western medicine does not usually consider the ramifications of altering the ocular microbiome when prescribing antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. Antibiotics may kill beneficial bacteria systemically and cause further issues.
In a ten-year American study on physician prescribing habits when treating conjunctivitis (pink eye) in over 340,000 patients, researchers noted that 60% of physicians relied on antibiotics, even though pink eye is viral and does not respond to antibiotic treatment.
It’s also important to note that bacterial eye infections usually resolve in less than ten days without any medical intervention. Herbal remedies such as Chamomile and Goldenseal are effective natural solutions that do not disrupt the systemic and ocular microbiome. Unfortunately, they are underutilized. Repeated disruption of the microbiome as a result of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals can lead to autoimmune disease, further infection and even cancer.
Since antioxidants help fight inflammation, a diet high in organic fruits and vegetables may support eye health. Avoid preservatives, additives, artificial colors and sweeteners and increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds and evening primrose oil. It’s also extremely important to support your microbiome with a high-quality probiotic.
Two Italian studies on the benefits of probiotic use in treating Dry Eye Syndrome have demonstrated that certain probiotic strains help support the ocular biome and eye health.
In a randomized, placebo-controlled study, Enterococcus faecium and Saccharomyces boulardii reduced symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome. The other study showed that strains of Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium bifido provided symptom improvement.
Our Saccharomyces 10B delivers a minimum 10 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) of Saccharomyces boulardii per daily serving to promote optimal gastrointestinal health, and the new studies support its benefit in managing Dry Eye Syndrome.
Research has confirmed the unique Saccharomyces boulardii strain DBVPG 6763 survives stomach acid to colonize in the intestinal tract while acting as a temporary flora to protect the beneficial organisms of the intestine.
Our Power Probiotic Daily contain 30 billion CFU of four beneficial, clinically studied strains, including HOWARU.
HOWARU (Bifidobacterium lactis HN019) plays a key role in the human microflora throughout a person’s life. Researchers have identified strain HN019 as having excellent probiotic potential based upon its ability to survive the transit through the human gastrointestinal tract, adhere to epithelial cells and proliferate. B. lactis HN019 has been extensively studied, and its safety and effectiveness is well accepted.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human dietary intervention study in elderly subjects (>60 yrs.), supplementary B. lactis HN019 resulted in statistically significant increases in the beneficial organisms bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.