It is also know as Retinol, retinoic acid and the pre-cursor to it is Beta Carotene. In this post I will just cover Vitamin A and will do Beta Carotene in another one. Vitamin A is needed for many functions within the body and there is a lot of fear surrounding supplementing with it especially when pregnant. However there are many food sources that can supply it safely.
I look at all of my clients individual needs before prescribing any supplement or food changes. It is recommended that you consult a professional Naturopath or Nutritional therapist before making any changes yourself.
What does it do?
Vitamin A has many immune system functions. It activates T and B lymphocytes (immune cells) and therefore may help to increase resistance to infection. It also stimulates natural steroid hormone production within the body. It also helps to enhance phagocytes (eating cells) and antibody production along with helping to protect the body’s mucosal barrier. It has been found to inhibit skin cancer cell growth and cell growth in general plus helping the immune system to differentiate cells and even promote cell death in those not necessary.
As a powerful antioxidant it helps to protect fat so can help protect myelin sheath (nerve cell protecting layer), cell membrane integrity (cell walls are made up of protein and fats). It is widely used in Acne especially when hormones and immune issues (allergies) are factors. It may help to stimulate the base layer of the skin cells and helps to give cells a strong structure and integrity. It is also used to assist in wound repair as it helps stimulate tissue renewal.
It helps the body to use Iron to form hemoglobin (part of the red blood cell that transports the oxygen within blood).
It also helps cells within the eye that deal with sensory perception, vision, and reading. It also is involved in the cell production that enables us to see at night (rhodopsin or visual purple)
Where do we find it?
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and is found in animal fats and some vegetable fats. , Butter (from grass fed cows), fish liver oils (especially cod, salmon and halibut- fermented is the best source of liver oils), liver and egg yolks. Apricots, carrots, green leafy vegetables, and other yellow or green foods contain vitamin A but are more rich in beta-carotene
Factors that deplete it (increasing demand)
Allergies and other immune depleting conditions such as giardiasis, diarrhea and stress. Air pollution and other factors increasing need for antioxidants such as smoking, chemical content of foods, cosmetics, cleaning products. Inability to digest fat due to a digestive weakness or gall-bladder removal.
A therapeutic dose for vitamin A is normally high for a short period of time. Children and pregnant women can be supplemented (it can help to reduce birth defects and promote healthy growth of tissues) Toxicity can depend on a number of things and needs very high levels within the body. Since it is a fat stored vitamin the amount of fat in the body is a consideration plus the amount and duration of supplementation. This is a reason why some people prefer to supplement with beta-carotene. Toxicity symptoms include loss of periods, abnormal bone growth, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, nausea, peeling skin painful joints and bones, irritability and loss of hair. If you are worried contact a nutritional therapist to check doses and also to have a look at the whole picture.
Many Acne medications are a form of Vitamin A and can be administered in high doses for long periods of time. If on medications for acne or anything else a good dialogue between your nutritional therapist and medical practitioner is advisable. As always contact someone qualified to give supplement recommendation.