Here at Rise Chiropractic in Jacksonville, FL. we recommend that you take vitamins as part of a healthy diet. We hear from an early age that it’s important to get our vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong. But, most of us don’t know or may not care to learn why. The reality is, though, that each carries out vital functions in the body and without them, our quality of life would significantly decline, potentially to the point of death.
What is Vitamin A?
One of those important vitamins we may recognize, but don’t really know the function of is Vitamin A. This nutrient was actually the first of all vitamins discovered which is why it was designated with an “A.” It is fat-soluble making absorption a little more challenging and toxicity a greater risk.
Some confuse this nutrient with carotenoids which can be found in brightly colored foods like bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and carrots. While this nutrient is pro-Vitamin A, it is not the vitamin itself. A healthy gut can form Vitamin A from carotenoids that are eaten, so it is still quite beneficial to consume.
The Benefits of Taking Vitamin A
Now that we’ve established what it is, what does Vitamin A do? Like other vitamins and nutrients, it plays several key roles in the body including the following.
1. Protects the Eyes
Growing up, many of us probably heard that eating our carrots was good for our eyes. While this is in reference to the carotene that is in carrots, it’s actually Vitamin A that helps our eyes to see and provides protection for them. It helps to convert the light that enters the eye into an electrical signal that is sent to communicate with the brain.
This nutrient is also a major component of the pigment found in the retina called rhodopsin. If an individual becomes deficient, he or she will be able to see clearly during the day, but may experience reduced vision or night blindness when it’s dark. Additionally, dry eye and advanced aging of the eyes or age-related macular degeneration can also occur with deficiency.
2. Promotes a Healthy Immune System
Next to the eyes, Vitamin A aids the immune system by supporting defense mechanisms like the mucosal linings of the lungs, gut, eyes, and genitals. These linings trap bacteria and other harmful infections.
It also helps to produce white blood cells. These not only capture harmful pathogens in the blood, but will expel them. Without proper amounts of this nutrient, individuals are more likely to get sick and have a hard time combating infections.
3. Reduces Acne Risks
If you’ve ever gone to the dermatologist for acne or other skin conditions, you may have been prescribed some sort of topical Vitamin A cream. That is because it is a vital nutrient in regenerating epithelial tissue and keeping it in excellent condition. This may include externally, like the skin, as well as internally, like the lungs, the urinary tract and GI tract.
4. Helps in Cell Differentiation and Apoptosis
Another important role of Vitamin A is in the growth, differentiation, and apoptosis of cells. As new cells are formed, this nutrient helps to determine what kind of cell it is, as well as its function. This process is called differentiation and without it, cells could become misshapen or misplaced, many times leading to cancer.
Furthermore, when the lifespan of a cell is over, it helps to start the destruction of the cell in a process called apoptosis. Without cell differentiation and apoptosis, the body would not be able to grow and function properly.
5. Aids in Reproduction
When it comes to reproduction, Vitamin A plays a major role for men, women, and even a developing fetus. Men lacking this nutrient will have an inability to make sperm. On the other hand, women may have a reduced egg quality and issues with implantation of the egg in the womb.
For a fetus, this nutrient plays key roles in development. It is involved in the growth and development of many structures including the nervous system, heart, kidneys, lungs, eyes, pancreas, and even the skeleton.
Where to Get This Vitamin?
Since we know that Vitamin A is fat-soluble, it makes sense that it would be found in fatty substances. These include items such as:
- Butter, milk, and cheese
- Organ meats like liver
- Fatty fish like herring and salmon
- Fish oils
Additional sources of carotenoids and beta-carotene which can be converted to Vitamin A in the body include:
- Dark, leafy vegetables like spinach, turnip greens
Can You Take Too Much?
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, it’s always best to receive them through diet. Certain lifestyle factors or medical conditions may inhibit this, however, and supplementation is needed. Requirements vary based on age and sex, but males 14 years and above should take in about 900mcg per day and females 700 mcg a day.
Though not particularly common, toxicity can be an issue. Symptoms include:
- Gum disease
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Vomiting, dizziness, headaches, nausea
- Hair and skin changes and brittle nails
- Weak bones, bone pain, or swelling
- Liver disease
- Vision changes
- Fetal deformities during pregnancy
The upper-level intake of this nutrient can vary depending on age, but for those over 19 years, consumption should be kept below 3,000 mcg per day.
Vitamin A Deficiency
While reaching toxic levels may be hard to obtain, a deficiency is not uncommon, especially for those who do not get enough animal or milk fat. Common signs of deficiency include:
- Inflamed skin with raised or red bumps
- Chronic UTI’s, respiratory infections, colds, or influenza
- Birth defects
- Cleft palates
- Stunted growth
- Reduced mucus production in the lungs, gut, and urinary tract
Complement Your Healthy Lifestyle
Knowing more about what you are consuming and how it impacts your body gives you the tools you need to properly fuel and heal your body! Complement a healthy diet with acupuncture and chiropractic care at Rise Chiropractic and Acupuncture located in Jacksonville, Florida. Call today to schedule your appointment and discover how getting the body in alignment will have you living and feeling your best yet!