Vitamin A – For Health and Fertility
Has your mother ever told you to eat some carrots to “save your eyesight”? My mom did. She also would yell “don’t stand so close to the TV screen or you’ll go blind!” while walking by with an overflowing laundry basket.
Thankfully, I didn’t go blind from watching MTV a little too close, but she was right about eating carrots. Provitamin A /beta-carotene (carrot – get it?) is Vitamin A found in fruits and vegetables. Retinol is active, preformed vitamin A found in animals product, and quite often in facial creams and acne treatments.
Benefits of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is often only thought of in the context of vision, specifically, improving night vision. While vitamin A is essential for being able to see (and drive) in the dark, it has the additional benefits of:
-Fighting viruses. Its antiviral properties are important for everything from the common flu to HPV infections.
-healthy cell function aka fight off abnormal cells/cancerous cells
-great for the immune system
-helps create healthy GI tract mucosal barrier
-supports the function of white blood cells
-helps the embryo’s cells to multiply through meiosis
-important for testicular function
-increased vaginal health and vaginal mucus
Signs of Vitamin A deficiency:
impaired vision at night
Bitot spots (white spots) on the whites of the eyes
reduced sense of smell
damage to mucous membranes, skin disorders
low sperm counts
anemia (iron + B6 + vitamin A may be required)
reduced cervical mucus
lack of saliva, inflammation of gums
vitamin D supplementation (reduces vitamin A)
iron or zinc deficiency (needed for beta-carotene to retinol conversion)
Vitamin A Deficiency
Pregnant women with low levels of vitamin A have a higher likelihood of having children with lung problems and developmental issues, depending upon the time in which the mother was vitamin A deficient.
Vitamin A deficiency can occur through a high in fast food diet, low amounts of fat in the diet, gluten sensitivity, liver disorders or liver disease, lack of absorption in the intestinal tract (aka leaky gut), inflammatory bowel disease (IBS, Chron’s, colitis), lack of bile or pancreatic disorders, drinking alcohol, pregnant/nursing, and during a viral infection.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. Therefore it can be found in meat (especially liver), fish, cod liver oil, and dairy products (is that why I love butter?). Vitamin A is not only in carrots and sweet potatoes, but also kale, spinach, broccoli, black-eyed peas, mango, sweet red pepper, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and dried apricots.
Vitamin A and Fertility
Taking vitamin A supplements, or increasing your supply through taking a high-quality cod liver oil (tested for heavy metals) along with other measures, can help increase cervical mucus.
In addition, there is some indication women that have lower vitamin A levels play a role in fertility and create potentially higher miscarriage rates. This is due to two reasons. Vitamin A helps the germ cells in the ovaries to mature and eventually to produce hormones to sustain a pregnancy. If vitamin A is insufficient, hormones levels could also be too low.
In addition, vitamin A is important for cell differentiation and replication. Low levels of vitamin A could prevent a fertilized egg from growing after a few weeks (or days) of development.
Beta-carotene is an important antioxidant. Men with low sperm counts and low motility can increase their sperm quality with vitamin A.
Vitamin A is needed for proper cranial, palate, kidneys, heart and lung formation. It is suspected that vitamin A deficiency is responsible for an increase in infants with urinary/kidney tract defects.
How much to take?
While an older study raised fears of taking too high amounts of vitamin A, further research has indicated that 10,000 IU – 25,000 IU (roughly 1,300mcg – 7,500 mcg) beta-carotene are a safe range if you are trying to conceive.
There is concern that young women – millennials- are low in vitamin A due to lower consumption of liver and cod oil in comparison to previous generations. Please get tested if you are thinking of conceiving. Speak with your doctor and consider supplementing vitamin A if you have any of the deficiency symptoms listed in this article.
Please note: Too much vitamin A is not a good thing! High doses over extended periods of time can lead to toxicity – even while pregnant. The researcher Weston A Price found that in native cultures, extremely high amounts of vitamin A were consumed with cofactors Vitamin D and K2 which mitigated any negative effects.
These statements have not been confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration. The information on this site is not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any illness. The information is provided for educational purposes only. Please consult a professional healthcare provider with your specific concerns.