Deal with Your Deficiencies!: Vitamin A
Last week I shared a graphic on my Facebook and Instagram pages that talked about 4 specific, common symptoms, all that indicate specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Because this is an incredibly important topic, and one that can be EASILY addressed, I wanted to take the time to expand on each of the symptoms/deficiencies a bit more here, and offer helpful suggestions of ways you can deal with your deficiency! I will be highlighting a different one of the 4 deficiencies I covered in the post each week for the month of June. So, without further ado, today we are dealing with (drum roll, please)...VITAMIN A!
The Importance of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins for our health--and often one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated. Vitamin A (retinol, retinoic acid)is a fat-soluble vitamin that is critical for eye health, immune health, skin health, and cognitive function. Vitamin A as beta carotene is typically the form most people think about when they think of vitamin A. However, beta carotene is not real vitamin A! Let me say that again: BETA CAROTENE IS NOT REAL VITAMIN A! This is crucial to realize and remember when addressing vitamin A deficiency, which we will get to below. Retinol, as noted above, is a fat-soluble compound that is most readily found in whole, natural animal products, and requires sufficient dietary fat in order to be properly absorbed. Without enough dietary fat in one's diet, or without adequate liver, gallbladder, or small intestinal function, absorption and utilization of vitamin A can be interfered with, and deficiency will result.
Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include poor night vision or night blindness, flaky skin (including dandruff), delayed puberty and hormonal dysfunction, autoimmune conditions, food allergies and intolerances, small bumps on the backs of the arms (commonly mistaken for acne or even goosebumps), poor immune function or frequent colds and infections, kidney stones, conjunctivitis, and insomnia/disrupted circadian rhythm.
"But I Eat My Carrots!"
As mentioned above, there are two types of vitamin A: retinol, or REAL vitamin A (the kind that is required in order to satisfy our body's vitamin A needs and avoid deficiency), and beta carotene, pre-vitamin A, which acts ONLY as an antioxidant. The body is able to convert beta carotene into some retinol, but VERY VERY VERY INEFFICIENTLY...meaning that if you have ANY underlying health conditions, are deficient in other micronutrients, or experiencing high levels of stress in your life right now (cue that "sympathetic, fight-or-flight, shuttle all available energy to staying alive instead of making sure our nutrient stores are full" dance), your ability to make this (already inefficient) conversion will be significantly impaired, and potentially inhibited completely.
The vitamin A contained in plant foods (carrots, sweet potatoes, other red and orange foods) is beta carotene, NOT retinol, which is why vegans and vegetarians that do not consume adequate vitamin A-rich animal foods are most often the individuals that experience deficiencies.
Deal With Your Deficiency!
"Okay," you're thinking. "I'm deficient. Now what?!" I got you. The easiest way to deal with your deficiency is to increase your consumption of retinol-rich foods, such as liver, egg yolks, cod liver oil, and grass-fed (preferably raw) dairy products. If this is not possible for you due to allergy/sensitivity or personal dietary choices, then the next best option is to supplement with emulsified vitamin A drops (see below), IF you are already taking a multivitamin that contains vitamin A. If you are NOT already taking a multivitamin (spoiler: you should be), I recommend the Pure Encapsulations brand (see below). If you add a multivitamin and you are STILL showing symptoms of vitamin A deficiency (the easiest sign of this is the small bumps on the backs of the arms), then I would suggest adding the emulsified A drops, and getting your levels checked via a Naturopathic Doctor or Functional Medicine Physician. My favorite test for nutrient status is the Nutreval, and this can be ordered by most Naturopathic Doctors, myself included (if you are interested in more information about available testing, you can email me at email@example.com).
And while vitamin A deficiency can be a big problem, so can vitamin A TOXICITY. Because it is a fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is not excreted as readily and easily as water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C, B vitamins, etc.), and is stored in the liver. Because of this, overdosing on retinol-containing supplements (and to a lesser extent, foods--especially cod liver oil or other livers) can cause liver damage, but only in MASSIVE doses and for prolonged periods of time. However, it is imperative that one consult with their healthcare practitioner, a qualified naturopath, or functional nutritionist for specific and PERSONALIZED supplemental recommendations, as this is truly the only way to ensure each individual person's individual needs are being addressed.
So there you have it: a comprehensive look at vitamin A deficiency! Below are the two products I mentioned above. Please keep in mind that you should ALWAYS consult your medical doctor prior to beginning any supplements, whether herbal or nutritional.
Stay tuned for next week's post: all about zinc deficiency!
Emulsified Vitamin A
Pure Encapsulations ONE Multivitamin
*Please note: the two links above are affiliate links. I earn a small commission on any purchases made after clicking the links, which goes towards this website, my work, and the free content I provide. Thank you for your support!
DISCLAIMER: The statements made in this post and in any content provided by Dr. Anna Johnson and Anna's Organics Wellness are the opinions of the author only, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you are experiencing symptoms of a medical problem, seek medical attention immediately or consult your physician for further guidance.