Certain nutrients may help maintain overall eye health. In larger quantities, they may provide some relief from dry eye symptoms.

Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes produce too few or low quality tears, and the eyes do not stay properly lubricated. It causes several eye symptoms, including burning, redness, itchiness, and blurred vision.

Research has established a connection between dry eye syndrome and the diet. Certain nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, help maintain overall eye health and alleviate dry eye symptoms.

A person with dry eyes may find some symptom relief by consuming these nutrients in larger quantities. They can do this most effectively by taking nutrient supplements. However, a person should not replace medical treatment with supplements or dietary changes without consulting a doctor.

This article reviews some of the nutrients that a person with chronic dry eye may find beneficial for symptom relief. It also lists some of the foods that are good sources of these nutrients.

Several nutrients may help improve chronic dry eye.

However, a person should keep in mind that it is necessary to consume large amounts of some of these nutrients to lessen dry eye symptoms. Due to this, they may not notice a difference by simply adding certain foods to their diet. Instead, they may need to take supplements or change their dietary patterns significantly to get the best results.

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Infographic by Jason Hoffman

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids can provide a variety of potential health benefits, including relief from chronic dry eye symptoms.

According to a 2019 meta-analysis, omega-3 supplements may help reduce the symptoms of dry eye.

Although the study focused on supplements, eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may also help. However, not all omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial. Research shows that only eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may relieve dry eye symptoms when people take them in high dosages.

These specific types of fatty acids are only present in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. However, to see effects, a person would likely need to use supplements or consume a diet that involves eating fish regularly, such as the Mediterranean diet.


Probiotics are commonly present in fermented foods, and they are also available as supplements. Probiotics may help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. The gut microbiome consists of millions of different bacteria and other living organisms that aid in a variety of functions, including digestion.

According to a 2020 study, the gut microbiome can provide several potential benefits to people with dry eyes and other health concerns. The authors note that taking diverse probiotics may help create a well-balanced gut microbiome that can aid in tear production.

Some foods that contain probiotics include:

  • yogurt
  • sauerkraut
  • pickles
  • sourdough bread
  • miso

It is important to note that although probiotic-rich foods may be helpful, eating foods that contain probiotics may not have the same effect on eye health as taking a probiotic supplement. If a doctor prescribes or recommends a certain probiotic, the person should follow the doctor’s advice and not try to replace the supplement with dietary changes.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that occurs naturally in orange fruits and vegetables, as well as certain animal sources, such as dairy, eggs, and organ meats. Vitamin A can help with overall eye health and tear production.

A 2019 study reported an improved quality of tears in people with dry eyes who took vitamin A supplements. However, the authors note that further studies are necessary to confirm this finding.

Foods rich in vitamin A include a variety of orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, oranges, and sweet potatoes. These sources contain what is known as provitamin A, which the body must convert to vitamin A in the intestine. Animal sources of vitamin A, such as dairy products, eggs, and organ meats, provide preformed vitamin, which means that the vitamin is fully formed.

Multivitamins also typically contain vitamin A in both preformed and provitamin forms.


Zinc is a mineral that several foods contain. It may help with protecting the eyes from light and promoting retina health. However, its exact effect on dry eyes is unknown.

People interested in adding more zinc to their diet can include foods such as:

  • beans or legumes
  • fortified cereals
  • whole grains
  • lean red meats
  • oysters
  • poultry

It is possible that adding these foods may not affect a person’s dry eye symptoms. Therefore, a person may wish to seek a doctor’s advice on trying zinc supplements before they change their diet.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E may help improve overall eye health. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that can protect the eyes. A 2016 study found that antioxidant supplements containing vitamin E may help improve the stability of the tear film.

Foods that provide vitamin E include:

  • red peppers
  • peanuts
  • almonds
  • wheat germ oil
  • pumpkin

Zeaxanthin and lutein

Zeaxanthin and lutein are two types of antioxidants that can aid the general health of a person’s eyes.

A person can find these nutrients in various foods, including:

  • brightly colored vegetables and fruits, such as grapes
  • leafy green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and collard greens
  • eggs

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that helps with a variety of health conditions, including dry eye. It may help maintain tear production.

Foods that contain vitamin C include:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • citrus fruits, such as lemons and oranges
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli

There are no specific foods that researchers advise people with dry eye syndrome to avoid.

However, dehydration and a dry environment can contribute to dry eyes, which means that staying hydrated may help minimize the symptoms.

Consuming certain nutrients, particularly in large quantities from supplements, may help relieve the symptoms of dry eye syndrome. However, eating certain foods that contain these nutrients may not be as effective.

It is best to discuss new supplements or dietary adjustments with a doctor before making any changes.

Although adding only a few foods without completely changing dietary patterns may not have a significant effect on dry eye symptoms, these foods are good for overall health, which may help improve general eye health.