Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means we store it in the body, mostly in the liver. Vitamin A supports eye health, skin health, immunity and also helps to heal the epithelial tissue. This makes it useful for reducing symptoms of intestinal permeability (leaky gut) other mucous membrane related issues. It can help prevent infections in the immune system such as colds and flues and also other body parts such as the kidneys, bladder and lungs.
Additionally, vitamin A plays an important role in the formation and development of bones and teeth and also acts as an antioxidant. Its antioxidant abilities make it an important player in cancer prevention and also helps with new cell growth.
Vitamin A is a group of unsaturated organic compounds, which include retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. A set of compounds called carotenoids (of which there are over 500 different ones) act as precursors of vitamin A (also called provitamin A) and also as antioxidants. The most well-known one is beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Beta-carotene scavengers and/or neutralises free radicals making it a potent antioxidant. Other carotenoid groups are the xanthophylls and phytosterols. Lutein is a phytosterol and is preventative against the risk of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and prostate cancer.
Deficiency of vitamin A can lead to dry skin and hair, dry cornea and conjunctiva and night blindness. Other issues sometimes related to vitamin A deficiency are abscesses in the ear, reproductive issues, fatigue and insomnia, sinusitis, pneumonia and acne.
As vitamin A is stored in the liver, you should not take high doses long term as it can become toxic. Symptoms of toxic levels are abdominal pain, amenorrhea, enlarged liver or spleen, hair loss, itching, joint pain, nausea/vomiting and cracks in the corner of your mouth. There is caution for pregnant women taking vitamin A in high amounts leading to birth defects such as cleft palate.
Beta-carotene is considered a safer form to supplement in high doses than vitamin A as it is not harmful in large amounts and does not have the same effect as vitamin A has on the liver.
Beta carotene: Sweet potato, dark green leafy veg and carrots, apricots, broccoli, dandelion greens, red and orange peppers and butternut squash.
Vitamin A: liver, eggs, milk and fish.
Daily recommended allowances for adults: 600-700ug/day
Carotenoids are best taken in combination rather than individually.
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