Flaxseed oil and Omega 3 fish oils contain important dietary fats that have been clinically shown to have multiple health benefits, including prevention or control of dry eyes.

Daily supplements of flaxseed oil or fish oil, when used alone or in conjunction with lubricants, reduce dry eye symptoms, including burning, stinging, redness and intermittent visual disturbances.


Flaxseed Oil for Dry Eyes

The nutritional value of flaxseed oil (and fish oil) comes from its omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for optimum health. Flaxseed oil contains high levels of Linolenic acid. Linolenic acid is converted into two different omega-3 fatty acids, called EPA and DHA, that are used throughout the body to protect cell membranes when eaten.

Freshly ground flaxseeds are a good alternative to flaxseed oil for dry eye nutrients, but the oils are also available in capsule and liquid form. Unfortunately, the nutritional value of flaxseed oil is destroyed by light, heat and oxygen. When purchasing liquid flaxseed oil, look for a cold-pressed variety and keep it refrigerated.

As an alternative to flaxseed oil, you can get the same omega-3s by 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.


Comparison of Fish Oil With Flaxseed Oil

Oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines, are good sources of omega-3 fats essential to brain and eye health. Fish fat contains the "long chain" omega-3s (EPA and DHA). 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. Only 5% of flaxseeds that are eaten are converted into EPA and DHA.

Grilled salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids to fight dry eyes.

Fish oils, like flaxseed oil, are available in capsule and liquid forms. Some contain lemon flavoring or are processed in other ways to reduce any "fishy" taste. Cod liver oil is another good source of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. A more enjoyable way to obtain fish oil benefits is by eating grilled cold-water fish at least three times a week. Good sources of EPA and DHA omega-3s are salmon, sablefish, tuna and halibut.


So Which is Better: Flaxseed Oil or Fish Oil?

Because fish oil contains natural EPA and DHA omega-3s (that don't have to be converted from ALA), many nutrition experts recommend fish oil over flaxseed oil.

But other factors are worth considering:

  • If you are a vegetarian, ground flax seeds or flaxseed oil will likely be your preferred choice.
  • Ground flax seeds are more economical than either fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies omega-3 fatty acids from fish as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe). However, fish oil can cause stomach upset and/or diarrhea in some individuals, especially in high doses. Other possible side effects include increased burping, acid reflux, heartburn and abdominal bloating or pain. Risk of these side effects can be minimized if you take fish oils with meals and if you start with low doses.
  • A fishy aftertaste is common with some fish oil supplements. This can be reduced by refrigerating the capsules or liquid, or by purchasing brands that promise no such problems.