The gut microbiome, consisting of trillions of microorganisms residing in our digestive system, has been a topic of growing interest in recent years. These microorganisms play a crucial role in maintaining our overall health and wellbeing. From aiding digestion to supporting immune function, the gut microbiome has far-reaching effects on various aspects of our body. What many people may not realize is that the gut microbiome also has a fascinating relationship with our eye health.

The Gut-Retina Axis: Understanding the Connection Between the Gut Microbiome and Eye Health

The gut-retina axis refers to the intricate connection between the gut microbiome and the health of our eyes. Researchers have discovered that the gut microbiome and the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, communicate through a complex network of signals. This communication pathway is vital for maintaining the balance and function of both systems [1].

Studies have shown that imbalances or disruptions in the gut microbiome can have a significant effect on eye health. For example, research indicates that individuals with certain eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy often exhibit dysbiosis, an imbalance in the gut microbiome. Understanding and nurturing the gut-retina axis could hold the key to preventing and managing these eye conditions [1,2].

Common Eye Diseases and their Potential Link to the Gut Microbiome

Several common eye diseases have been associated with alterations in the gut microbiome. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults and has been of particular interest. Studies have found differences in the gut microbiome composition between individuals with AMD and those without the condition [1-4]. These findings suggest that the gut microbiome may play a role in the development and progression of AMD.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the blood vessels in the retina. Like AMD, studies have found a correlation between gut dysbiosis and the development of diabetic retinopathy [1,3]. The disruption of the gut microbiome can lead to increased inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which play a role in the progression of the disease.

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions characterized by damage to the optic nerve, often caused by increased pressure within the eye. Recent research has shown that changes in the gut microbiome can affect intraocular pressure, potentially contributing to the development of glaucoma [2,5].

Similarly, emerging research has suggested a potential link between the gut microbiome and other eye diseases, including ocular surface diseases such as dry eye syndrome and inflammatory diseases like uveitis and keratitis [2,4,6]. While more studies are needed to fully understand these connections, the existing evidence highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome for optimal eye health. If you are interested in finding out the composition of your gut microbiome, there are a number of summary reviews of companies that do this here.

Probiotics and their Role in Promoting Eye Health

Probiotics, often referred to as “good bacteria,” are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. These beneficial bacteria can help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiome, which, as we now know, has implications for eye health.

Preliminary studies suggest that certain probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, may have a positive impact on eye health [1-3,5,6]. These strains have been shown to reduce inflammation, improve antioxidant status, enhance immune function, and improve symptoms of dry eye syndrome, all of which are important for maintaining healthy eyes.

Research and Studies on the Gut Microbiome and Eye Health

The field of research on the gut microbiome and eye health is still relatively new, but the findings thus far have been intriguing. Scientists are uncovering the intricate mechanisms by which the gut microbiome influences the eyes and exploring potential therapeutic interventions.

A review article recently published discusses the involvement of specific metabolites produced by gut bacteria that can directly affect the health and function of retinal cells [7]. Research in animal models has shown that manipulating the gut microbiome can influence the development and progression of various eye diseases. In human studies, researchers have observed differences in the gut microbiome composition between individuals with and without certain eye diseases [2-5].

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Gut Microbiome for Better Eye Health

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome can be essential for promoting optimal eye health. Here are some tips to support a flourishing gut microbiome which are also described in greater detail in this previous article:

  • Eat a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to provide essential nutrients and fiber for the gut microbiome.
  • Limit processed foods, added sugars, and artificial sweeteners as they can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day.
  • Manage stress levels through relaxation techniques, exercise, and sufficient sleep, as stress can negatively affect the gut microbiome.
  • Avoid unnecessary antibiotic use, as antibiotics can disrupt the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

By implementing these lifestyle choices, you can create an environment that nurtures a diverse and thriving gut microbiome, ultimately benefiting your eye health.

Incorporating Probiotics into your Diet for Improved Eye Health

Another way to support a healthy gut microbiome is by incorporating probiotics into your diet. Probiotics can be found in various foods and supplements and offer a convenient way to introduce beneficial bacteria into your system. There are numerous probiotic supplements available that contain specific strains known to support gut health and these are some of the top rated brands.

Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are also excellent sources of naturally occurring probiotics. Consider including some of these gut superfoods in your diet regularly

Other Lifestyle Factors that can Affect both the Gut Microbiome and Eye Health

While the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in eye health, it is essential to consider other lifestyle factors that can have an impact on both systems. Here are a few factors to be mindful of:

  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity has been shown to positively influence the gut microbiome and improve overall health, including eye health.
  • Get regular eye check-ups: Routine eye examinations can help detect any potential issues early on and allow for timely intervention.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of eye diseases, so maintaining a healthy weight is important for both gut and eye health. A healthy gut microbiome can help control your weight.
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking is detrimental to both the gut microbiome and eye health, so quitting or avoiding smoking altogether is highly recommended.

By taking a holistic approach to your overall health, you can positively affect your gut microbiome and your eye health.

The Future of Research and Potential Treatments Related to the Gut Microbiome and Eye Health

As research in the field of gut microbiome and eye health continues to expand, exciting possibilities for future treatments emerge. Scientists are exploring the potential of targeted probiotics, personalized nutrition plans, and even fecal microbial transplantation to modulate the gut microbiome and improve eye conditions.

While these treatment options are still in the early stages of development and require further investigation, they hold promise for individuals with eye diseases and those seeking to optimize their eye health. In the future, personalized approaches to gut microbiome modulation may become a reality, with tailored interventions based on an individual’s unique gut microbiome profile. This could revolutionize the way we approach the prevention and treatment of eye diseases.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the gut microbiome may play a vital role in maintaining optimal eye health. The gut-retina axis provides a fascinating connection between these two systems, with the gut microbiome influencing the health and function of the eyes. As research in this field continues to progress, we are likely to gain a deeper understanding of the gut microbiome’s impact on eye health and uncover novel treatment strategies.

By prioritizing a healthy gut microbiome through a varied and nutritious diet, regular exercise, stress management, and other lifestyle factors, we can support both our gut and eye health. Additionally, incorporating probiotics into our diet may offer additional benefits for eye health.

Remember, it is always important to consult with your healthcare providers for personalized advice and recommendations regarding your gut health and eye health. Schedule a comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist to ensure your eyes are in optimal health and consult with your doctor before starting any new supplementation regimen, such as probiotics, to determine the most suitable options for your individual needs.


[1] Scuderi, G., Troiani, E., & Minnella, A. M. (2022). Gut Microbiome in Retina Health: The Crucial Role of the Gut-Retina Axis. Frontiers in microbiology, 12, 726792.

[2] Cavuoto, K.M., Banerjee, S., and Galor, A., (2019). Relationship between the microbiome and ocular health, The Ocular Surface, 17(3), 384-392.

[3] Russell, M.W., Muste, J.C., Kuo, B.L. et al. (2023). Clinical trials targeting the gut-microbiome to effect ocular health: a systematic review. Eye 37, 2877–2885.

[4] Zysset-Burri, D. C., Morandi, S., et al., (2023). The role of the gut microbiome in eye diseases. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, 92, 101117.

[5] Napolitano, P., Filippelli, M., Davinelli, S., Bartollino, S., dell’Omo, R., & Costagliola, C. (2021). Influence of gut microbiota on eye diseases: an overview. Annals of medicine, 53(1), 750–761.

[6] Shivaji S. (2021). A systematic review of gut microbiome and ocular inflammatory diseases: Are they associated?. Indian journal of ophthalmology, 69(3), 535–542.

[7] Grant, M. B., Bernstein, P. S., et al., (2022). Inside out: Relations between the microbiome, nutrition, and eye health, Experimental Eye Research, 224, 109216.