Thursday, September 25, 2014

Vitamin A: You Could Be Deficient


A ten state survey done by the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare found widespread vitamin deficiency in the general public (1).  Chances are that you yourself are deficient.  The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin A is 1500-4000 IU for children, and 4000-5000 IU for adults (2), although those who have deficiencies probably need much more than this.   Although Vitamin A is a fat-soluable vitamin and is therefore stored by the body, Vitamin A toxicity from taking supplements does not occur until in adults until they have taken in excess of 50,000 IU per day for several months (1).  It would therefore seem safe to ingest Vitamin A supplements and adjust the dosage as you see your health improve.

Vitamin A occurs in nature in two forms:  preformed vitamin A and provitamin A, or carotene.  Preformed vitamin A is found only in animal products, one of the richest sources

being fish-liver oil, and is readily destroyed with exposure to light, heat, and air (3).  Cooking of meats and pasteurization of dairy products greatly reduces the amount of available Vitamin A, so unless raw meats or unpasteurized dairy products are going to be consumed, fish-liver oil as a supplement is going to provide higher levels of Vitamin A than cooked foods.  Carotene is found only in fruits and vegetables, and must be converted to Vitamin A so the body can use it.  Carotene is found abundantly in carrots, but is found in higher amounts in green leafy vegetables such as beet greens, spinach, and broccoli.  While Preformed vitamin A is fat-soluable and stored by the body, carotene is water-soluable and is not stored by the body.  Any excess unabsorbed carotene is excreted in the feces (2).   This makes carotene extremely safe and there should be little concern about taking supplements of it.

Having said all that about the two forms of Vitamin A,  it should be known that the preformed Vitamin A absorbs more quickly and easily than the carotene form.  Preformed vitamin A is absorbed by the body in 3 to 5 hours after ingestion, whereas the conversion and absorption of carotene takes 6 to 7 hours.  In addition, the not all the carotene you ingest gets converted to Vitamin A.  Approximately 1/4 of the carotene in carrots and root vegetables undergoes conversion, and about 1/2 of the carotene in leafy green vegetables undergoes conversion (2).  Although it is preferable to eat vegetables in their raw form in order to get the most benefit from the live enzymes they contain, carotenes are more readily available for use by the body when the cell membranes are ruptured through cooking, pureeing, or mashing (2) so including both the raw and cooked forms in the diet is necessary.
The best way to release the carotenes from the cells without cooking or mashing is by juicing.  "Solid food requires many hours of digestive activity before its nourishment is finally available to the cells and tissues of the body.  While the fibers in such food have virtually no nourishing value, they do act as an intestinal broom during the peristaltic activity of the intestines, hence the need to eat raw foods in addition to drinking juices.  By the removal of the fibers in the extraction of the juices, however, such juices are very quickly digested and assimilated, sometimes in a matter of minutes, with a minimum of effort and exertion on the part of the digestive system" (4).

What is Vitamin A used for, and why do we need it?  "Vitamin A aids in the growth and repair of body tissues and helps maintain smooth, soft, disease-free skin.  Internally it helps protect the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs, thereby reducing susceptibility to infection.  This protection also aids the mucous membranes in combating the effects of various air pollutants.  The soft tissue and all linings of the digestive tract, kidneys, and bladder are also protected.  In addition, vitamin A prompts the secretion of gastric juices necessary for proper diestion of proteins.  Other important functions of vitamin A include building strong bones and teeth, formation of rich blood, and the maintenance of good eyesight" (5).

Another very important purpose of vitamin A is to greatly increase and enhance RNA production.  RNA is an nucleic acid that transmits to each cell of the body instructions on how to do their jobs.  So if you don't have enough Vitamin A, basically every cell of your body doesn't get good instructions on what to do, and a whole host of diseases result.

Here is a list of ailments for which Vitamin A can be beneficial:

Acne ...Alcoholism ...Allergies ...Athlete's foot ...Amblyoppia ...Angina pectoris ...Arterisclerosis ...Arthritis ...Asthma ...Atherosclerosis ...Bedsores ...Bitot spots ...Boils ...Bronchitis ...Canker sore ...Carbuncle ...Cataracts...Celiac disease ...Chicken pox ...Cirrhosis of liver ...Colitis ...Common Cold ...Congestive heart failiure ...Conjunctivitis ...Constipation ...Croup ...Cuts ...Cystic fibrosis ...Cystitis ...Dandruff ...Dermatitis ...Diabetes ...Diarrhea...Dry skin ...Ear infection ...Eczema ...Emphysema ...Epilepsy ...Eyestrain ...Fatigue ...Fever ...Fractures...Gallstones... Gastroenteritis ...Goiter ...Gout ...Hair problems ...Halitosis ...Hay fever ...Headache ...Hemorrhoids...Hepatitis ...Hyperthyroidism ...Impetigo ...Impotence ...Influenza ...Jaundice ...Kidney stones...Measles ...Meningitis ...Mononucleosis ...Muscular dystrophy ...Myocardial infarction ...Nail problems ...Nephritis ...Night blindness ...Osteomalacia ...Psoriasis ...Prostatitis ...Pyorrhea... Reproductive problems...Rheumatic fever ...Rhinitis ...Rickets ...Scurvy ...Shingles ...Skin abscesses ...Sinusitis ...Stress ...Stroke ...Swollen glands ...Tooth and gum disorders ...Tuberculosis... Ulcers ...Vaginitis ...Varicose veins ...Warts ...Worms

How should I get my needs for Vitamin A met?  The first and best way is to consume fresh coldwater fish and unpasteurized dairy products.    The second best source of preformed Vitamin A is fish-liver oil.  In taking carotene supplements, try to get one which uses the whole family of carotenes.  In recent years, beta-carotene has been most focused upon.  However, naturally-occurring cantozantheen is known to be a more effective antioxidant (6).   The whole family of carotenes include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, cantozantheen, gamma carotene, and omega carotene.

I personally would not eat fish or use fish liver oil because of the mercury poisoning in the fish these days.  Instead, I would use a Krill oil supplement, as Krill are harvested from Antarctica and there is virtually no pollution in those water. 

Here is a list of foods and herbs which contain Vitamin A or carotenes:

Green and yellow fruits and vegetables ...Apricots ...Asparagus ...Beet Greens ...Broccoli ...Cantaloupe ...Carrots ...Collards ...Dandelion Greens ...Dulse ...Fish liver ...Fish liver oil ...Garlic ...Kale ...Mustard Greens ... Papayas ... Peaches ... Pumpkin .. Red Peppers ...Spirulina ...Spinach ...Sweet Potatoes ...Swiss Chard ...Turnip Greens ... Watercress ...Yellow Squash ...Borage leaves... Burdock root ...Cayenne... Chickweed ... Eyebright ...Fennel Seed ...Hops ....Horsetail ...Kelp ...Lemongrass ...Mullein ....Nettle ....Oat Straw ....Paprika ...Parsley ....Peppermint ....Plantain ...Raspberry leaf ...Red clover ... Rose hips ...Sage ...Uva ursi ...Violet leaves ...Yellow Dock (7) 
  


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Copyright 2015  Judie C. McMath and The Center for Unhindered Living


References:

(1)  Personal Health Lifestyles. (2000).  Pick A Nutrient:  Vitamin A. Healing With Nutrition.com. Available Online [http://www.healingwithnutrition.com/vitamin.html#VitaminA].
(2)  Dunne, Lavon J.  (1990).  Nutrition Almanac, 3rd edition.  New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 13.
(3)  Vitamin Information Center (2000).  Vitamin A. Available Online:  [http://www.cyber-north.com/vitamins/vitamina.html].
(4)  Walker, N.W.  (1970).  Raw Vegetable Juices. New York:  Jove Books, p. 12.
(5)  Dunne, Lavon J.  (1990).  Nutrition Almanac, 3rd edition. New York:  McGraw-Hill, p. 12.
(6)  NutriTeam, Inc.  (2000).  Natural Vs. Synthetic Vitamins:  How They Are Different and How to Tell Them Apart. Available Online:  [http://www.nutriteam.com/natural.htm].
(7)  Inner Self Publications.  (2000).  Vitamin A and Carotenoids.  Available Online:  [http://www.innerself.com/Magazine/Health/guides/vitamin_a.htm].
  

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