My patients often ask me about the benefits of one trendy supplement or another that’s been in the news. And while some, like vitamin D or green tea, can offer a wealth of healthy benefits, you shouldn’t ignore tried and true nutrients that aren’t getting press.
One essential nutrient that hardly gets any attention these days is vitamin A. It’s one of the basic vitamins that works on many levels to ensure good health. Yet, more than half of us aren’t getting enough on a daily basis.
While you might get some vitamin A in your multivitamin, it’s likely not enough to fill all the needs your body has for this powerful antioxidant nutrient.
Here are just some of the ways vitamin A keeps you healthy:
Guards against night blindness:
One of the classic signs of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness. It’s characterized by difficulty seeing in the dark or being momentarily blinded after looking into glaring lights like oncoming headlights.1 Most serious eye diseases, including cataract, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, are linked to low vitamin A levels.
Protects against cancer:
Vitamin A protects against many types of cancer, especially breast, skin, lung and ovarian cancer. Studies show that vitamin A prevents DNA from growing in cancer cells.2
Because vitamin A keeps your mucous membranes moist, it prevents bacteria and viruses from taking hold. It’s especially good at combating measles, respiratory viruses, and even HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Helps maintain younger-looking skin:
Vitamin A helps keep skin moist and fights the free radical damage that can lead to wrinkles.
The best sources of vitamin A
You can boost the amount of vitamin A you’re getting by eating the right foods.
But don’t reach for the carrots to get it. Carrots, pumpkin and other orange, red and yellow fruits and vegetables are terrific sources of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. And while beta-carotene has many health benefits, recent research has found that many people’s bodies don’t easily convert it into vitamin A.3
Making matters even worse, if the intestinal bacteria needed to convert beta-carotene is out of balance, you won’t make enough vitamin A. That’s why I always tell my patients who take beta-carotene to add a probiotic to their daily supplements as well. This helps keep their beneficial bacteria in balance.
So if carrots don’t provide vitamin A directly, what does? Liver, cheese, milk and eggs—not the foods you might think of.
You can eat more of these foods to help raise your levels. But to be sure you’re getting enough to be effective I typically recommend taking 10,000 IU of supplemental vitamin A daily. But make sure you don’t take more than that without checking with your doctor first since like most things super high levels of vitamin A could be toxic.
1. Pitchon E. Night blindness, yellow vision, and yellow skin: symptoms and signs of malabsorption. Klin Monbl Augenheilkd. 2006;223:443-446.
2. Bushue N. Retinoid pathway and cancer therapeutics. Advanced DrugDelivery Reviews. 2010;62:1285-1298.
3. Burri BJ. Î²-Cryptoxanthin- and Î±-carotene-rich foods have greater apparent bioavailability than Î²-carotene-rich foods in Western diets. British Journal of Nutrition. 2011;105:212-219.
Dr. David J. Blyweiss began his medical career as a clinical pharmacist in South Florida prior to earning his medical degree from St. George's University School of Medicine in 1982.
His dual background allowed him to appreciate the relevance of conventional pharmaceutical/surgical based treatments in acute medical conditions, and recognize where these approaches fell short in treating the majority of patients who suffered from the chronic degenerative diseases of "western civilization origin."
Over the last twenty years, with the nutritional medical knowledge base expanding in the fields of nutrigenomics, protemics, and other related "orthomolecular" disciplines directed towards patients' biochemical individuality, Dr. Blyweiss became an early adherent and experienced practitioner of what would become known as "functional medicine." This knowledge allows him to effectively manage and alleviate the symptoms related to the most "difficult-to-treat" conditions by addressing the underlying causes, allowing the body to heal itself.
Dr. Blyweiss was one of the initial researchers doing the early work on chlorhexidine (Phisohex) while earning his first post graduate degree at Temple University School of Pharmacy. During medical school he worked with the WHO (World Health Organization) in vaccinating children in the islands of the Carribbean. He has traveled much of the world, most recently to Belize, Central America, Gabon, Africa, and Zagreb, Croatia working closely with teams of specialists to identify new plant life and natural products for possible human benefit as well as researchers and their stem cell transplantation teams. He has consulted for and created state-of-the-art nutritional supplements for multiple nutritional companies since 1999. He is currently in private practice in South Florida where he resides with his family.
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