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Dry eyes are a common problem that can cause your eyes to feel scratchy, irritated, and sensitive. You might also experience blurry vision.
The condition can occur when your eyes don’t make enough tears, or when the tears you make don’t provide enough moisture to your eyes. Sometimes dry eyes are temporary and caused by factors like being outdoors on a windy day or leaving your contacts in for too long. However, dry eyes can also be chronic.
Some people find relief for chronic dry eye with over-the-counter eye drops, but these drops aren’t a solution for everyone.
There are a variety of options that can help manage chronic dry eyes. One popular alternative option is flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is an oil made from pressed and ground flax seeds. It’s sometimes called linseed oil and is known for being a source of omega-3-fatty acids.
Some evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial for people with chronic dry eyes. This link is why some people report that flaxseed oil helps relieve their dry eyes.
Flaxseed oil contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. One important omega-3 fatty acid is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). As ALA breaks down during digestion, the body converts it to two different omega fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Your body uses DHA and EPA to protect cell membranes. Research into the full benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is still ongoing. However, the research that has been done indicates there are numerous positive health effects linked to omega-3 fatty acids.
The possible benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed oil for treating dry eyes are discussed below.
Increased healthy tear production
Omega-3 fatty acids can help glands in your eyes called meibomian glands work better. These glands produce the oily part of your tears. Improving the function of your meibomian glands increases the production of the oily part of tears. This can relieve dry eye symptoms.
Dry eyes can cause swelling of your eyelids and on the surface of your eyes. This can make your dry eyes feel worse and lead to even more swelling. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation. This can stop the cycle of inflammation and relieve your dry eye symptoms.
Regulated hormonal levels
Dry eyes can sometimes be caused by unbalanced hormones. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to more stable hormone production and hormone regulation. This may improve eye dryness and improve overall eye health.
There are some risks you should know about before you try flaxseed oil for your dry eyes. Additionally, many claims about flaxseed oil still need to be researched.
There simply isn’t enough data to say how well flaxseed oil works for chronic dry eyes. For instance, some studies have found that the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil can relieve dry eye, but other studies have shown it to be no more effective than a placebo.
Other risks include:
- Medication interactions. It’s dangerous to take flaxseed oil with several prescription medications, including blood thinners, blood sugar regulators, blood pressure medications, and prescription medications that impact estrogen levels. Aspirin and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also interact with flaxseed oil.
- Low blood sugar. Flaxseed oil can lower your blood sugar. People with conditions that impact their blood sugar or who take blood sugar regulation medication might not be able to use flaxseed oil.
- Increased bleeding. Flaxseed oil can cause you to bleed easier than you would otherwise.
- Low blood pressure. You can experience a drop in blood pressure from taking flaxseed oil. This can be dangerous if your blood pressure was already low, or if you take medications that lower your blood pressure.
- No quality guarantee. Flaxseed oil isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That means that there are no standards and regulations about the content of flaxseed oil supplements and products.
- Allergies. As with any food or supplement, it’s possible to be allergic to flaxseed oil. It’s important to watch for any signs of an allergic reaction when you first start using flaxseed oil. Stop using it immediately if you notice any allergy symptoms.
Flaxseed oil isn’t recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding because it can impact hormone levels. Speak with a doctor before you start any supplement, including flaxseed oil. They can advise you and let you know if using flaxseed oil for your chronic dry eye is right for you.
Do not put flaxseed oil directly on or near your eyes. This is not considered safe and can cause irritation as we as other symptoms.
Additionally, speak with a medical professional before consuming it.
You need to consume flaxseed oil to use it to treat dry eyes. There is no official recommended dosage of flaxseed oil. Speak with a medical professional before taking flaxseed oil to see if they have a recommended maximum dosage for your health and situation.
For many people, one of the best ways to get flaxseed oil is to eat it as part of their diet. You can’t cook with flaxseed oil, but you can use it as the oil base for salad dressings and sauces.
Flaxseed oil can also be added to smoothies, yogurts, oatmeal, and other foods. Flaxseed oil is also already an ingredient in some products. You can find cereals, nutrition bars, and other prepackaged foods that contain flaxseed oil.
You can also use flaxseed oil as a supplement. It’s available in capsule and liquid form. Flaxseed oil supplements will have dosage recommendations included.
But the dosage recommendations will often vary because different supplements are formulated to contain different amounts of flaxseed oil. Keep in mind that supplements are not monitored closely by the FDA, so they may contain an incorrect amount of active ingredients, or ingredients that are not listed on the label.
You can find flaxseed oil in grocery stores, natural food stores, and drugstores.
Fish oil and flaxseed oil both contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. You can get the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from either source. However, fish oil contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) while flaxseed oil contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
When you consume flaxseed oil, your body converts the ALA into DHA and EPA. Your body doesn’t have to convert anything when you consume fish oil. This means your body can use more of the omega-3 fatty acids, and it might mean that you’ll see more dry eye relief from fish oil than from flaxseed oil.
However, that doesn’t mean fish oil is the right choice for everyone with dry eyes. People who follow vegetarian and vegan diets, for example, are unlikely to want to take fish oil supplements. In this case, flaxseed oil may be a great choice. Additionally, some people find that fish oil supplements have an aftertaste and simply prefer the taste of flaxseed oil.
Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids. There is some evidence to show that omega-3 fatty acids might be beneficial for people with dry eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids might relieve dry eyes by increasing healthy tear production, reducing inflammation, and balancing hormones.
However, these claims need more research. It’s important to use caution when taking flaxseed oil for dry eyes. Ask a medical professional before you take flaxseed oil or any other supplement.