So many issues can be related to vitamin A deficiency. The 2 most abundant sources of retinol are liver and cod liver oil- 2 things which I had never even heard of until a few years ago (seriously, I didn’t know people could eat liver!). I am sure a majority of people in the Western world grew up the same- lots of process foods, very low fat and cholesterol, margarine, etc. We are severely lacking in this nutrient. It is very potent for people that start it too- many have to start beef liver or cod liver oil very slowly in order to prevent a healing reaction.
Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient needed to heal from copper dysregulation. It is a prime part of creating ceruloplasmin. (Source-PubMed) Most A is stored in the liver so blood tests can’t be very effective in telling us our A stores. Low ceruloplasmin and low potassium on the HTMA are good indicators of an A deficiency. I know there is a blood test for A but it really wouldn’t reflect A in storage.
Autoimmune disorders, leaky gut, inflammation, ATP energy production, food intolerances, and more are connected with vitamin A. Retonic acid impacts about 500 different genes!! This article is probably one of the best I have ever come across. Vitamin A is so important for our healing process, but we do need to go slow with it and support our livers!
The Lie about Vitamin A
One of the BIGGEST lies we have been told is that beta carotene is the same as vitamin A. While beta carotene is an important nutrient, it has to go through a process to be converted into retinol. In order to make this conversion we need a healthy gut, healthy liver and gallbladder (bile flow is the KEY), and certain enzymes and nutrients (like zinc). From this study, “Î²-Carotene is absorbed from the intestine and is converted into vitamin A only in the presence of bile acids.” So we need a healthy liver, period!
Even a person in 100% health will still not get a full conversion of beta carotene to retinol- some experts say we need at least 6 times the beta carotene to be able to use it for retinol. Some say it is up to 12 times more beta carotene than retinol!
There has been so many misconceptions over the last few decades about vitamin A and the foods that contain it. Eggs, butter, liver, and cod liver oil are among the highest sources of retinol but we keep hearing that fat and cholesterol are bad or that animal products are not necessary because they are unhealthy. We’ve even been told that retinol is toxic- which stemmed from a story of people eating polar bear liver. This makes ZERO sense when you realize that our ancestors thrived on foods like this for thousands of years. Toxicity from food sources is very unlikely. Synthetic vitamin A supplements and medications (like Accutane) are more likely to cause toxicity issues, especially liver damage.
Fat and cholesterol are essential for health. We have an epidemic of obesity, hormonal disorders, and autoimmune diseases despite the “low-fat” craze that has been going on for decades. The problem is not the fat or cholesterol- it is the QUALITY of the food we are consuming. Factory farming, hundreds of pesticides used, genetically modified foods, added sugar, and artificial ingredients have ruined our food supply. Luckily more people are catching on now to the lies that we’ve been fed.
So what is vitamin A needed for?
The BIG eye-opener about retinol is that it is absolutely essential for gut and immune health. This article is absolutely A-mazing with its information on why vitamin A is a huge missing link to this auto-immune epidemic that we have going on. Vitamin A has a relationship with the gut lining, as well as making us able to have a wide tolerance of foods.
Vitamin A is also needed for vision (along with zinc): night blindness is often the first sign of vitamin A deficiency. Also, Vitamin A is a main part of the treatment of measles, chickenpox, and some cancers, because of its role in immune system health. Vitamin A is also essential for raising low potassium levels as this vitamin helps us retain potassium.
Signs of Vitamin A deficiency:
Night blindess (one of the first signs)
Poor vision (wear glasses? You most likely have a vitamin A deficiency)
Dry hair/ nails
Ridges on nails
Weak immune system (chronic colds)
Infections: cold sores, boils, etc
Poor smell, taste or appetite
“Chicken Skin”- keratosis pilaris: Little bumps that show up mostly on the back of the arms, buttocks, and thighs.
Women of childbearing age are at a risk of vitamin A deficiency as well
Where to Find Retinol
You can find retinol in eggs, butter, liver (especially beef), cod liver oil, and dairy products.
Now you can use my code SASSY for an extra 10% off on Perfect Supplements website where you can find the desiccated beef liver and either of the cod liver oils!
If you are brave, you can attempt to cook liver. I’m not quite at that stage yet so I use the beef liver powder. Honestly, for those that are very sensitive I would suggest starting with a beef liver supplement before attempting to eat it that way you can get your body used to the nutrients. Beef liver is a very nourishing food and is abundant in retinol, copper, iron, zinc, B12, folate, choline and taurine.
Beta Carotene has its own benefits but there have been several studies about how poorly it is converted into retinol- this article talks about these studies. There are about 600 different kinds of carotenoids, and only 50 of them are even able to be converted into true vitamin A.
You can find beta carotene in pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers, and spinach.
Stay away from isolated vitamin D supplements as well as they kill vitamin A stores. We actually need 25 times more A than D! That is how our ancestors lived- with a TON more a than D.
We need happy livers and adrenals to utilize vitamin A. If you are a slow oxidizer, this might be a problem for you: you need the vitamin A, but you can’t always utilize it. This is where liver lovers like bitter herbs, BioRay Liver Life, and herbs like dandelion root come into play. Read here for more about liver loving!
Seeing more info about “vitamin A toxicity” or “how to detox from vitamin A”? Please read this article here for ALL you need to know.
My notes on this “issue”:
There are some going around claiming that vitamin A is toxic- that we need to avoid it and that we need to detox it from our bodies. Unfortunately, these people are also claiming that beta carotene rich foods are involved in this, which (for me) throws the argument out the window. Vitamin A from plant sources is NOT the same as animal sources. It is the precursor to real vitamin A and has the potential to be converted- if there is enough of it and if the liver is up to the conversion. Many of us don’t even have the ability to convert it anyway because of our ancestry (think Northern European!).
**We need happy adrenals to mobilize vitamin A from the liver to be utilized. We need bile, digestive enzymes, and zinc to use vitamin A correctly. This is why in this group we work on gut and liver healing FIRST before throwing retinol rich foods/supps in. We have to be able to utilize it properly, otherwise you’re just wasting your money.
My name is Kristin, and I've been on the path to help people achieve better health using whole food nutrition, mineral balancing, and holistic healing principles for almost 7 years now. The body is a whole and we must treat it as such! I have my Bachelor of Science in Natural Health Sciences, certificates in Herbal Studies from Herbal Academy, and I am constantly learning more about health to help my clients and followers.