by Glen Swartwout

My middle name, Martin, was given to me to honor our family physician, Dr. Schuyler Martin, who spent his first few decades as a doctor doing hospital-based nutritional research, including some of the original research on Vitamin A metabolism…

Vitamin-A:

Approximately 1,000,000 Americans develop overt Vitamin A deficiency each year. Over 20% of Americans have an intake less than 70% of the RDA. Worldwide, Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness. Dietary sources of vitamin A include liver glandulars (must be from organically raised animals) eggs (should be from free-ranging hens), fish (preferably small, cold water fish), butter (from grass-fed animals) and nutritional supplements alone, as in Mycelized Vitamin A (liquid), or in combination as in Vitamin A & D (gel caps) and multivitamins like Star Gold (tablet/capsule packet). It is also utilized in homeopathic form, as in Natural Resource A-Z to stimulate cellular uptake and utilization of vitamin A. For example, when taking Natural Resource A-Z in conjunction with Star Gold, the urine becomes much less yellow, indicating enhanced cellular uptake of the B complex vitamins which act as a visible marker of cellular vitamin metabolism.

Conditions linked to deficiency

Research shows that deficiency can be associated with:

  • Acne (doses of about 100,000 IU daily combined with 800 IU of Vitamin E helped most patients within weeks, and lower levels were then effective for maintenance in a study of over 100 patients)
  • Alcoholism (because of liver damage, take Vitamin A in small doses together with Zinc monomethionine and other nutrients; Star Gold is a good balanced formula, but depending on liver function, you may need to start with just one yellow multivitamin tablet per day and build up to the full dosage according to tolerance)
  • Allergy (Vitamin A helps maintain intact mucus membranes, reducing exposure of immune tissues to allergens)
  • Anemia (deficiency of Vitamin A causes anemia due to impaired synthesis of hemoglobin, which is reversible with Vitamin A supplementation)
  • Bitot’s spots on the white of the eye (due to drying, caused by a lack of mucin production with Vitamin A deficiency)
  • Cancer (83% of patients with good levels of Vitamin A respond to chemotherapy, while only 36% of those with low levels respond; deficiency of Vitamin A suppresses immune functions needed to prevent and control cancer; Vitamin A deficiency has been found to be a risk factor for stomach, laryngeal, cervical and prostate cancers; Vitamin A level is decreased in tumors; Vitamin A maintains the cell membrane)
  • Celiac disease (reduces absorption of Vitamin A)
  • Cervical dysplasia (Vitamin A deficiency increases risk by a factor of 3)
  • Crohn’s disease (deficiency may be due to problems with protein metabolism)
  • Fibrocystic breast disease (see below)
  • Dry eyes, mouth, vagina, skin, or hair. ACES eye drops containing vitamin A, C, E and organic sulphur (MSM) as well as silver are very popular among clients with Dry Eye Syndrome.
  • Fatigue
  • Growth impairment
  • Hyperkeratosis
  • Hypertension (low dietary Vitamin A intake is one of the top 4 nutritional factors related to high blood pressure)
  • Immunosuppression (Vitamin A deficiency reduces both T and B cell responses, while moderate doses stimulate immune function including natural killer cells; deficiency can cause atrophy of the thymus and the spleen with a reduction in both circulating leukocytes and lymphocytes; doses of 300,000 to 450,000 IU daily for one week following surgery have been shown to prevent post-operative immunosuppression)
  • Infections, colds, fevers (decreased frequency is seen with supplementation; supplementation is indicated also due to increased demand)
  • Insomnia
  • Kidney stones (74% of rats fed a Vitamin A deficient diet formed kidney stones, but human studies have not confirmed the link)
  • Lupus (animal studies show acceleration of the disease process with Vitamin A deficiency, but some evidence suggests that high tissue levels of Vitamin A could exacerbate SLE, so only low doses should be explored, such as that found in Star Gold)
  • Menorrhagia (57% of cases corrected by supplementation, 92% at least improved with 50,000 IU daily for 15 days)
  • Night vision difficulties
  • Periodontal (gum) disease (supplementation in combination with other nutrients, such as found in Star Gold, may be beneficial)
  • PMS (dosages of 50,000 to 300,000 IU daily taken during the second half of the cycle have improved most symptoms, especially headache, for 89 to 100% of subjects in several European controlled experimental studies; following several months of supplementation, most symptoms did not recur during one year of follow-up)
  • Pregnancy (moderate supplementation as in Star Gold is indicated due to increased demands)
  • Psoriasis
  • Respiratory tract conditions (decreased frequency with supplementation)
  • Smell deficiency (a symptom of Vitamin A and Zinc deficiencies)
  • Sexual difficulties (associated with deficiency)
  • Skin ulcers (topical application can help healing)
  • Taste deficiency (a symptom of Vitamin A and Zinc deficiencies)
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Ulcerative colitis (decreases absorption of Vitamin A)
  • Ulcers (both prevention and healing of duodenal and gastric ulcers may benefit from supplementing up to 100,000 to 200,000 IU per day according to controlled experimental studies)
  • Warts (may benefit from both oral and topical Vitamin A)
  • Weight loss (associated with nutrient malabsorption)
  • Wound healing (supplemental and topical Vitamin A can help increase both the speed and strength of tissue repair even when impaired wound healing is due to steroid treatments or diabetes)
  • Zinc malabsorption

The link to Zinc

Since Zinc is also necessary for Vitamin A metabolism, deficiency of either Vitamin A or Zinc can trigger chronic problems in the metabolism of both nutrients. A good zinc supplement, such as Opti-L-Zinc (Zinc monomethionine balanced with copper, Starfire Label), available from Remission Foundation at 800-788-2442, or a Zinc picolinate or Zinc histidinate product from your local health food store is recommended for one month. Longer term zinc supplementation should be balanced with Copper supplementation, to prevent inducing a relative copper deficiency, unless copper toxicity is present.

In most situations where Vitamin A supplementation is desired, a dosage of 25,000 to 50,000 IU daily is effective without causing symptoms of overdosage. A study on fibrocystic breast disease gives an example of what can happen when using higher dosages. It showed that 10 out of 12 women who had not improved by avoiding caffeine, showed improvement on 150,000 IU per day of Vitamin A. Five patients had to decrease this very high dosage, however, to eliminate side effects of excess Vitamin A, though the side effects reversed on lowering the dosage. Half of those who improved in this study showed at least a 50% reduction in breast masses. Perhaps a lower dose such as 50,000 IU over a longer period of time would have been effective without the risk of side effects. Certainly, for self-care moderate dosages are preferrable.

How much should I take?

Vitamin A is the most frequently overdosed of all vitamins, although this is still a very rare event. The tolerance range for Vitamin A varies extremely between individuals, due to wide variations in liver health. Some individuals can take as much as 1,000,000 IU every day for 5 years without developing any toxicity. In European Biological Medicine, dosages in this range are used with careful monitoring in the treatment of cancer. At the other extreme, symptoms of hypervitaminosis A have been observed in a few individuals after several months or more of supplementing between 25,000 and 50,000 IU per day. In most of these cases, this has been due to either the presence of liver disease or a diet extremely high in Vitamin A, which comes almost exclusively from animal sources. In the whole world, this most common of all vitamin toxicities is estimated to affect only about 200 individuals. The number of reported cases has not changed significantly, despite continued growth in the production and consumption of Vitamin A dietary supplements.

Symptoms of toxicity closely parallel symptoms of deficiency. This principle of nutrition closely parallels the law of similars in homeopathy. This law, ÒSimilia similibus curenturÓ observes that Òlike cures like.Ó

Symptoms of Excess

The symptoms reported from excess Vitamin A, and therefore among the symptoms which may be relieved by either increasing low Vitamin A intake, reducing high intake, or using homeopathic Vitamin A, include:

  • fatigue, weakness
  • malaise, lethargy
  • headaches
  • abdominal discomfort
  • constipation
  • insomnia
  • restlessness, irritability
Extreme Vitamin A toxicity may result in further symptoms such as:

  • night sweats
  • hair loss
  • brittle nails
  • irregular menses
  • emotional instability
  • mouth fissures
  • itchy, dry, scaly, rough, yellowish skin
  • superficial retinal hemorrhages
  • exophthalmos
  • peripheral edema
  • anorexia
  • increased intracranial pressure with headaches, nausea and vomiting
  • bone growth problems in young children
  • bone or joint tenderness, pain
  • congenital abnormalities
  • deposition of calcium in soft tissue, with high calcium in the blood and urine
  • liver or spleen enlargement
  • triggering of gouty arthritis attacks

Fortunately most of the side effects of excess Vitamin A reverse within a few days of lowering the dosage with full recovery typically taking up to a couple months for the 200 cases in the world each year. Occasionally more long term effects are seen in either the bones or liver. The use of homeopathic Vitamin A and microwater may speed this recovery.

Beta carotene: Vitamin A precursor

Beta carotene does not contribute to the potential for Vitamin A excess, because active conversion of beta carotene into Vitamin A will only occur when the body needs more Vitamin A. Beta carotene is also called pro-Vitamin A, because the healthy liver can convert a molecule of beta carotene into two molecules of Vitamin A. Unfortunately, 20% of the population cannot make this conversion effectively and must obtain Vitamin A as such in the diet. Most of these individuals are in Phase 3. They tend to have candida symptoms, low body temperature, weak liver function, and sometimes an underactive thyroid gland as well.  While Vitamin A deficiency remains the number one cause of blindness in the world today, the GMO rice that is being sold as a solution is not, because people who are otherwise malnourished cannot break down the beta carotene in the rice to make the Vitamin A they need.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is said to be the only vegetarian source of Vitamin A. Lemongrass oil contains aldehyde monoterpenoids similar to those found in the herbs melissa, citronella, lemon verbena and eucalyptus. One of these compounds, citral, has strong antiseptic properties, while most aldehyde volatile oils have sedative activity. However, double blind clinical research specifically on lemongrass has ruled out any clinically significant sedative or hypnotic effects from lemongrass oil.

Stability of Vitamin A

Vitamin A can be destroyed by heat, acidity, oxidation and light. It is stable in alkaline and reduced conditions, such as alkaline-reduced microwater.

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