6 Sneaky Ailments that Result from VITAMIN A Deficiency
Happy 2022, Intuits!
It sure has been a whirlwind of a couple years, hasn't it? But I guess the COVID games continue...
As you all know, I'm not a fan of outsourcing the personal responsibility of our health efforts to top-down "experts" who, despite all their science claims, still have a great deal to learn about the inner-workings of the human body. Rather, my job is to help people realize what they've innately known all along--how to feed themselves, how to engage with nature's medicines, and how to trust their own bodies' messages.
This year we'll further this mission by beginning with the details of what our bodies actually need to survive and thrive from the inside out. Welcome to the Essential Nutrition Series! Here are the rules:
1) Don't get overwhelmed. Nutrition isn't complicated until we make it so. Forget counting calories, macros, micrograms, or IU's. If you eat real food complete with quality animal products, you're winning.
2) Open your mind to new concepts and ideas. Be willing to unlearn and relearn some things. Per usual.
There is profound research confirming that one's overall diet and lifestyle matter much more in regard to the onset of disease than some outside pathogen does. The relationship specifically between micronutrients and the immune system is fascinating and complex--but it's effects are nothing we haven't already known for generations, now is it?
Your great-grandmother could have told you that.
The first essential nutrient we're going to unveil is vitamin A. Read on, grasshopper, for the fundamental truths about this particular molecule might surprise you...
Vitamin A, is a fat-soluble vitamin (dissolves in fat instead of water), and comes in two forms--Retinol (vitamin A1) and Beta-carotene (vitamin A2).
Retinol is the bioavailable form of vitamin A, meaning it is easily absorbed and used for function within the body. Beta-carotene, on the other hand, must be converted into retinol before it can be utilized. A healthy, working body can easily do this, but one that is compromised might have some trouble. As a result, consuming Vitamin A only in the form of beta-carotene can still lead to vitamin A deficiency for those who can't convert it well.
We'll talk more about what food sources offer each type later; but first, let's discuss why this micronutrient is so impactful, and unpack six sneaky ailments that can show up when you don't get enough.
I. Signs of Deficiency
Vitamin A is so important for your body that a deficiency can lead to a cascade of serious internal damage, debilitating symptoms, and even death. Hence, why it's essential for life.
The top 6 signs of deficiency include:
- Increasingly poor eyesight - In particular, vitamin A is vital for the protection and lubrication of the eyes. Without it, you're susceptible to dry eyes and the formation of lesions on the cornea. Vitamin A is also used to enable your eyes to adjust and absorb light in the retina properly. A decrease or loss of night vision especially is one of the first signs of a serious vitamin A deficiency.
- Frequent infection & sickness - The majority of our immune system begins in the gut. Maintaining the integrity of the gut lining is essential for preventing harmful pathogens to enter the bloodstream through the digestive process. When the gut lining is compromised, food intolerances are born and chronic inflammation begins. This ultimately increases your susceptibility to all kinds of illness. In fact, vitamin A deficiency is a significant risk factor for children when it comes to common childhood infectious diseases (such as measles).
If you'd like to continue nerding out on the relationship between your immune system and vitamin A, this is an excellent article.
- Infertility Issues - Vitamin A is critical in the health of both male and female reproduction, as well as the growth and development of a fetus. This is because vitamin A is so broadly used in maintaining hormone health, aiding in the formation of bones, organs and tissues. And since we're all made up of bones, organs and tissues... it's clear why it's such a key player we can't do without. Read more on that here.
- Declining brain function - In an age of rampant dementia, Alzheimers disease and many other neurological disorders, it's fascinating to learn that vitamin A is used significantly in the brain to increase neuroplasticity (the ability to change behavior in light of new information) and neurogenesis (the creation of neurons).
- Anemia - Vitamin A is required in many ways regarding the formation of blood. In particular, it is needed to metabolize iron properly, used in the creation of red blood cells, and is useful for its ability to reduce infection.
- Dry, itchy, scaly or bumpy skin - Your skin is actually your first line of defense against bacteria and pollutants. Through its retinoid receptors, vitamin A is superb for helping to create new skin cells, maintain their suppleness, reduce inflammation and, once again, prevent infection.
The good news is that we can easily avoid all that by focusing on getting adequate amounts of vitamin A in our diet.
II. Top Food Sources
Lots of real foods contain vitamin A--but remember, not all vitamin A is created equal.
Top foods for Vitamin A1 (retinol):
- Goat cheese
Top foods for Vitamin A2 (beta-carotene):
- Sweet Potatoes
*NOTE: Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. You'll find that retinol is found in animal products and beta-carotene is found in plant foods. Because you know better, at this point, than to be buying fat-free foods from the grocery--your meat, fish and dairy all have adequate amounts of fat already in the food to help your vitamin A absorb appropriately. Plant foods do not offer the same benefit. Thus, it is best to add butter, quality coconut or olive oils, or simply combine your beta-carotene foods with some meat in order to sufficiently convert and absorb the nutrition they offer.
Alright, raise your hand if you found this information useful. Good! I'm proud of you for taking the initiative to learn a few things about what makes your body tick. See? You're putting yourself back in the driver's seat already. #winning
Next up, we'll discover the most awesome factoids where B vitamins are concerned, and how you could be unknowingly sabotaging your access to them. Don't miss it!