I love to focus on the fundamentals of ocular disease

For many ODs and their families, children, and patients, it’s back to school time. It is a unique time to get back to mainstream daily activities and re-focus on the fundamentals of life. As an optometrist, I love to focus on the fundamentals of ocular disease, especially dry eye disease. 

Many times I have counseled my patients on what I consider to be “ground zero” in treating dry eyes. I ask questions like, “Are you drinking plenty of filtered water every day? Do you eat lots of processed foods or more whole foods? How much sugar is in your diet?”

I have been surprised by the feedback my patients have given me. What seems almost obvious to us as OD’s is really not so obvious to our patients. I decided to make a specific list of “Fundamentals of Decreasing Ocular Inflammation” to share the details of these recommendations to my patients. This has sparked much interest and feedback from my patients. They are surprised to find out just how much things like sugar, gluten, and the ingredients in processed foods drive the process of inflammation. 

I tell my patients daily, “Removing factors that worsen inflammation is just as important as adding Rx or OTC treatments to improve your OSD.” One patient in particular returned for a dry eye progress check one month after implementing these fundamentals. In addition to her OSD symptoms drastically improving, she almost cried when she reported “I have lost 10 pounds in the last month! I did not know that adding sugar to my green tea every day would promote inflammation in my body.” This was a double-win for this patient because she also happened to have diabetes. 

Cases like this keep me motivated to stay at the leading edge of OSD treatments and technology while remembering the fundamental root causes of inflammation. 

Fundamentals of Decreasing Ocular Inflammation

  • Minimize sugar intake. Eliminate high fructose corn syrup. Read labels of all food to evaluate how many grams of sugar per serving.  Many “healthy” foods are high in sugar.
  • Minimize use of artificial sweeteners. Use stevia instead.
  • Minimize consumption of processed foods. Eat whole foods instead.
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of filtered water daily. (not tap water)
  • Minimize use canola oil and vegetable oil. Use olive oil instead.
  • Watch out for foods that contain gluten. Avoid gluten as much as possible. Common sources are wheat, barley, and oats.
  • Practice “sleep hygiene”- aim to get at least 7 hours nightly; 8 is even better.  The more hours of sleep prior to midnight the better.
  • Optimize Vitamin D3 levels. Get your 25-hydroxy D3 levels tested via your PCP.  Most insurance plans will cover this.  Optimal levels according to some experts are near 75ng/mL.  People with low vitamin D3 have higher overall levels of inflammation.
  • Manage stressors.  Stress is well known to raise levels of the pro-inflammatory hormone cortisol. Take time to resolve stressful issues.
  • Include high-quality probiotics as part of your daily routine.  Ocular inflammation is related to an imbalance in healthy gut bacteria.