Vitamin A: Rabbits Have it Right

picture of vitamin A food sources

What is Vitamin A?

It is the name used to refer to several fat-soluble vitamers such as retinol, retinal and four carotenoids (pro-vitamin A) including beta-carotene. These carotenoids are plant pigments that give plants red, yellow and orange colors.  There are some 600 different carotenoids, the most common and well understood are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.

What foods are rich in Vitamin A?

Carotenoids (or building blocks) are found in foods such as:

  • Carrots
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, etc.
  • Butternut squash
  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin

In order to ingest actual, pre-formed vitamin A you could consume:

  • Turkey or chicken liver
  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Eggs

What Does Vitamin A Do?

It is required for the proper development and functioning of the eyes, skin, immune system and mucous membranes.  Mucous membranes are the tissue that lines the entire digestive tract, the respiratory tract, and vagina.

What is Vitamin A Good For? What are the Benefits of it?

It is beneficial for the following:

  • Improving vision and treating eye disorders
  • Treat or improve skin conditions including acne
  • Treat acute infections
  • Women often take it to help with heavy menstrual periods, PMS, cervical dysplasia or to prevent breast cancer
  • Men can take it to raise sperm count
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Protecting the heart and cardiovascular system
  • Promoting healthy bone growth
  • Slowing the aging process

What are the Signs of Low Vitamin A?

The following signs and symptoms may indicate a need for more vitamin A:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Dry eyes
  • Poor vision at night or in dim light
  • Skin scaling
  • Brittle fingernails and hair
  • Respiratory infections
  • Urinary tract infections

How Much Do I Need?

The average multivitamin has about 1000 IU of pre-formed vitamin A and about 3000 IU of beta-carotene.  Depending on the particular health condition, we may choose to supplement anywhere from 10 000 IU to 50 000 IU per day for short periods of time, up to 3 months.  Because of the risk of toxicity, supplementation other than through a multivitamin should only be done under the supervision of a naturopathic doctor and should never be done while pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive.

Can You Overdose on Vitamin A?

Yes.  It is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that it can be stored in fat tissue in your body.  Too much can cause toxicity symptoms such as:

  • Hair loss
  • Confusion
  • Liver damage
  • Bone loss
  • Hemorrhage
  • Coma and even death

For herb, vitamin and supplement advice, please schedule a consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors.

Thank you!
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