Researchers have been studying the vast collection of the microbiome that live in human bodies for the past decade. Much of these bacteria and other microbes are accumulated in the digestive system. That’s why most of the attention so far has been directed at its impact on various immune-mediated health conditions. But scientists have also discovered possible links between gut health and in some unexpected places. One of which is how the gut plays an important role in your eye health.
How Complex Is the Gut Microbiome?
About a thousand bacteria alone are housed in your gut. These microbes have 10 times the number of genes in the human genome. But only a handful are well understood. Here’s what studies show about the link between your gut and specific eye problems.
- Uveitis. This is characterized by inflammation of the eye’s middle layer, known as the uveal tract. Symptoms include eye pain and vision changes. Most cases of patients with uveitis get better with steroid medicine. But there are instances when it can cause further eye problems. These include cataracts and glaucoma. Compelling scientific evidence among animal models reveals the link between the gut and ocular health. Uveitis is the connection that is most studied. What they found is that alterations in the gut microbiota and permeability seem associated with the development and severity of ocular inflammatory diseases like uveitis.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Changes in individual gut microbes could activate inflammatory pathways, resulting in eye problems. In fact, one study that involved aging mice showed that feeding them a diet with a high-glycemic-index resulted in ocular issues. These include the deterioration of image forming cells, commonly known as photoreceptors. It also led to the shrinkage of a layer of post-mitotic cells that plays a crucial role in maintaining these overlying photoreceptors.
- Dry Eye Disease. Some subjects with immune-mediated dry eye disease claimed to have felt better. This was when researchers gave them a couple of enemas with fecal microbiota transplant. The researchers also observed that dry eye problems tend to become more severe in germ-free mice. They also saw that when the germ-free mice are placed in a cage with healthy mice, they feed on each other’s poop. Interestingly, this recolonized the former’s gut with microbes. As a result, their disease got better.
- Glaucoma. Early investigations into how your gut is associated with the onset of glaucoma have also been explored. Researchers found that certain glaucoma patients have plenty of streptococci in their oral cavity. The direct connection still has to be established, though.
Experts have been targeting the gut microbiome in treating eye disease in humans. These therapeutic approaches include antibiotics, a high-fiber diet, probiotics, and fecal transplants. Interventional trials are also looked into to alter the gut microbiome.
Are you looking for comprehensive eye care solutions? Contact Eastside Eye Physicians today for more information. Call any of our clinics in Shelby Township and St. Clair Shores, Michigan, to schedule a consultation.