By now you’ve probably heard that Flaxseed oil and fish oil contain important dietary fatty acids that have multiple health benefits, including prevention or treatment of dry eyes.
Other benefits include a lower risk of heart disease and a reduction of chronic inflammation that can lead to a variety of serious diseases, including cancer and stroke. Chronic inflammation has been indicated as an underlying cause of osteoarthritis and Alzheimer's disease. Research also suggests these same fatty acids may reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Daily supplements of flaxseed oil or fish oil, when used alone in oil form, pill forms, or in tandem with lubricating eye drops, appear to reduce dry eye symptoms, including burning, stinging, redness and intermittent visual disturbances.
For this reason, many eye doctors now are recommending flaxseed oil and fish oil supplements for their patients who suffer from dry eyes.
So, which is better — flaxseed oil or fish oil?
Flaxseed Oil for Dry Eyes
The nutritional value of flaxseed and fish oil comes from its omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for optimum health. Flaxseed oil contains high levels of an omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). During digestion, ALA is converted into two different omega-3 fatty acids — called EPA and DHA — that are used throughout the body to protect cell membranes.
Freshly ground flaxseeds are a good alternative to flaxseed oil for dry eye nutrients.
Flaxseed oil supplements are available both in capsule and liquid forms. Although flaxseed oil capsules are more convenient, you may need to take a large number of capsules to achieve the daily dose your eye doctor recommends treating dry eyes.
As an alternative to flaxseed oil, you can get the same omega-3s by “milling” or grinding whole flax seeds in a coffee grinder and sprinkling the ground seeds over a salad, adding them to a smoothie or mixing them in fruit juice. If you choose this option, be sure to use the seeds immediately after grinding them to get the full omega-3 benefits. The nutritional value of flaxseed oil is easily destroyed by light, heat and oxygen. When purchasing liquid flaxseed oil, look for a cold-pressed variety and keep it refrigerated.
Comparison of Fish Oil with Flaxseed Oil
Fish oils and fatty fish — such as salmon, tuna and sardines — are great sources of omega-3 fats essential to brain and eye health. For those who have don’t care for a “fishy” tasty in their meals, they can be taken in pill form too.
Fish oils may help reduce high blood pressure and Hypertension, which can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the area at the back of the eye where images focus, though fish oil’s role in prevention is unclear.
Fish fat contains the "long chain" omega-3s (EPA and DHA), which are the omega-3 fats the body needs for vital functions, including eyesight. In contrast, the "short chain" ALA omega-3 fat found in plant foods such as flaxseeds must be converted to EPA and DHA in the body for beneficial eye effects. When you eat plant foods, your body converts only about 5 percent of dietary ALA into essential EPA and DHA.
Also, most Americans' diets are too high in omega-6 fatty acids — an imbalance that further reduces the amount of ALA from plant foods that gets converted to EPA and DHA. This imbalance also blunts the benefits of EPA and DHA omega-3s obtained directly from fish and fish oil.