If you had to pick the most important of your five senses, which would it be? It’s a tough call, but your sight would have to be in the top 3 or at least the top 5, right?
New research shows that there may be an important link between our eye and gut health! Because we love anything gut health, Betr wanted to explore this connection.
We’re going to investigate…
- How your gut and eyes are related
- Evidence for the impact of inflammation on vision loss
- Mutually beneficial approaches to keeping your eyes and gut healthy
- How Betr can contribute to healthy vision
Join us for a closer look at the eye and gut health connection!
The Gut-Eye Axis: A Tale of Two Barriers
Before understanding how the Gut-Eye Axis works, we need to do a super-quick overview of eye anatomy. For this article, we’re going to focus on the retina, the control center of the eye.
The retina is where all the information your eye “sees” is gathered. The retina cells send that information to your brain through the optic nerve and your brain tells you what it is you’re seeing. It’s safe to say that the retina is essential for sight.
One of the significant weaknesses of the retina is, that it’s so busy translating the detailed information of vision that it does a lousy job of repairing itself when damaged. Even minor injuries to the retina can have devastating effects on our vision.
Because the retina is extra-vulnerable to injury, it’s protected from the rest of the body by the Blood-Retinal Barrier (BRB). The BRB ensures that harmful substances stay out of the eye and that waste products in the eye are removed.
Another barrier plays a vital role in what gets in(and out) of our body. That barrier is the wall between our intestines and the rest of our bodies.
When our gut wall functions correctly, it does the same job as the BRB. It keeps the stuff in it’s right place, the gut. But, it can’t do its job when a poor diet, an unhealthy bacterial microbiome, stress, or inflammation interfere with healthy gut wall functioning.
This increased intestinal permeability means inflammatory substances get into and out of the gut. These damaging molecules causes more inflammation when they get into places they shouldn’t, which increases intestinal permeability. The name for this condition is Leaky Gut Syndrome, which we cover in this Betr Blogpost.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is part of a downward spiral of chronic inflammation that allows inflammatory molecules to travel from the gut to points elsewhere in the body, like the eyes. These inflammatory molecules can cause severe, possibly permanent damage to the BRB and eventually, our vision.
Two critical barriers in the body link gut and eye health, the intestinal and the blood-retinal barrier (BRB). When poor diet, disease, and ongoing inflammation cause an increase in unhealthy intestinal permeability, inflammatory substances can travel to the eye and damage the BRB and vision.
Gut Health and Eye Disease: a Closer Look at the Evidence
A recent article from the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that from age 50 to 85, there is a 20% increase in the development of significant visual impairment and blindness. This begs the question, is vision loss a normal part of aging, or is something else at play?
There are two phenomenon’s to explore to understand why vision loss (and other health issues) are associated with aging: inflammaging and immunosenescence. We discuss age-related health changes and the role of gut health in Rocking Chair or Rockin’ Out, but let’s quickly review these two new terms.
Inflammaging is the increase of chronic, low-grade inflammation in older people. It plays a role in many of the common diseases of old age. Some of these include Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and common diseases of the retina.
The other phenomenon that plays a role in disease development and aging is immunosenescence. Immunosenescence is the decline of immune system function over time, and there is a significant link between inflammaging and immunosenescence. Inflammaging burns out the immune system, and immunosenescence means the immune system can’t repair the damage to tissues, which leads to further inflammaging.
What does this have to do with vision and gut health? Your eyes and your gut microbiome are especially vulnerable to these age-related changes. And while chronic inflammation may start in the gut, it can be seen most clearly in the eyes.
More research is needed to understand the inflammatory connection between the gut and the eye. But here are a few pieces of evidence that point to an important link:
- One study of secondary effects of irritable bowel disease found that up to 10% of individuals with IBD also experienced inflammatory disorders in their eyes.
- Examining the eyes of individuals with Age-Related Macular Degeneration(ARMD) showed increased inflammation and immune response in the eye tissue linked to chronic inflammation elsewhere in the body.
- Researchers found inflammatory markers associated with Leaky Gut in the eye tissue of people with diabetic retinopathy. They also connected the severity of retinopathy to the levels of inflammation elsewhere in the body.
One last tidbit that indicates gut health in eye disease development is from a study published in Scientific Reports. This report showed consistent, unhealthy changes in the species of gut bacteria in people with ARMD.
Immunity and inflammation play a significant role in many age-related eye diseases. There is growing evidence that inflammation caused by poor gut health may be a major contributor.
Eat for your Eyes!
If evidence indicates that inflammation in the gut could affect your eye health and vision, what are you supposed to do about it?
The good news is that there’s another meaningful connection between eye and gut health- your diet! The second most important predictor for developing ARMD is obesity (after smoking)! On top of this, the more obese a person is, the higher the risk of developing ARMD.
One study tested a hypothesis for how obesity, gut health, and macular degeneration work together. Researchers fed mice a high-fat diet and observed unhealthy changes in the gut microbiome. The disruption of the microbiome resulted in increased intestinal permeability. The increase in inflammatory substances in the bloodstream caused damage to the retina related to macular degeneration.
It’s not just dietary fat, though! Another experiment tested the effects of high-glycemic foods(foods that cause a spike in blood sugar) on eye health. Researchers observed that a high-glycemic diet also caused damage to the retinas of mice.
This study also provided some good news, though! When researchers switched mice from the high-glycemic diet to a healthier, low-glycemic diet, the new diet reversed the damage to the mice’s retinas!
In both studies, there were higher inflammatory markers in individuals with higher levels of retinal damage. Again, we need more information to determine the whole mechanism for how gut health and eye health impact each other.
However, it is a pretty interesting coincidence that the same dietary changes impacting eye health encourage a healthy gut microbiome and improve intestinal function.
High-fat and high-sugar diets are bad for eye health. In some cases, researchers have linked intestinal permeability to increased damage to the retina. At the very least, gut-healthy diets appear to support eye health and slow progressive vision loss.
Seeing Clearly, the Betr Way
We didn’t just pull this subject out of thin air. When Betr started hearing our clients reporting improved vision, we knew we had to investigate the connection.
As it turns out, we weren’t surprised by the link between poor gut health, inflammation, and certain kinds of vision loss. It’s been our experience that the gut microbiome plays an outsized, often undersung role in health throughout the body.
The entire Betr approach focuses on restoring the gut microbiome and letting those beneficial bacteria fight inflammation and heal your body and mind.
While we leave the complex research to the experts, we have TONS of experiential evidence. We’ve seen that using the Level 1 protocol, which heals inflammation and restores the gut microbiome, Betr members have found relief from various conditions and diagnoses.
Many people join Betr for weight loss. Reducing stress, healing inflammation, and rebuilding the microbiome definitely helps shed pounds. But more importantly, we’ve also seen members lower blood pressure, overcome chronic digestive disorders, clear their skin, and improve their vision!
The research we’ve reviewed in this article points to the effectiveness of the Betr approach to supporting healthy vision. Using food as medicine to restore your gut microbiome and heal chronic inflammation can prevent severe damage to the essential structures of your eyes!
A Final Look at the Gut-Eye Axis
There’s still a lot of unanswered questions on the connection between gut health, eye health, and inflammation. But, hopefully, we’ve shed light on the possible links. At the very least, it’s important to remember that:
- Two critical barriers in the body link gut and eye health, the intestinal and the blood-retinal barriers (BRB). When poor diet, disease, and ongoing inflammation cause an increase in unhealthy intestinal permeability, inflammatory substances can travel to the eye and damage the BRB and vision.
- Immunity and inflammation play a significant role in many age-related eye diseases. There is growing evidence that inflammation caused by poor gut health may be a major contributor.
- High-fat and high-sugar diets are bad for eye health. In some cases, researchers have linked intestinal permeability to increased damage to the retina. At the very least, gut-healthy diets appear to support eye health and slow progressive vision loss.
- The research we’ve reviewed in this article points to the effectiveness of the Betr approach to supporting healthy vision. Using food as medicine to restore your gut microbiome and heal chronic inflammation can prevent severe damage to the essential structures of your eyes!
After reading this article, you may be asking yourself if your own health hurdles could be related to an unhealthy gut.
Explore Betr's risk-free trial to see if you could benefit from using food as medicine to rebuild your microbiome and realize the healthy potential you never knew you were missing!