Understanding Vitamin A

alt=" Window sign saying that you have to eat for nution so you are able to do things"
Anika

Anika

We don't need a Vitamin A "Detox"

If you start reading this blog and you are not sure what this is all about, you should first read our last blog

„Vitamin A Detox – For we have sinned“

We are not writing our controversial opinion to unsettle or annoy people.

We are writing, because it is necessary to speak about the experiences people have on or after a low Vitamin A diet. Publishing articles that shed a different light on the Vitamin A topic, to educate readers and help to find a better way back to health other than with food restrictions.

It’s pretty easy to only find bad news when you are just looking for bad news.

We came to the conclusion, after educating ourselves more on the whole topic and eating a diet with the recommended daily intake of around 2000 IU to 3000 IU, that Vitamin A is everything, but NOT a toxin.

We do not doubt, that Vitamin A can have toxic effects. This is well known in the literature.

The development of autoimmune disease is well known when patients have a history of using Accutane.

To understand we have to expand our limited view on this topic.

The sophisticated dance of the nutrients is a finely tuned interplay between minerals and vitamins created by mother nature.

What a mistake it would be by nature to place a molecule like Vitamin A in almost every living thing on earth, if it really would be a toxin.

Our friend, our helper, is vitamin A, a beautiful nutrient, like vitamin D.

Both, when taken in their natural forms, are sophisticated and capable of wonderful things, but having too much or too little of either one interferes with the other’s capacity to be lovely.

From what we know today, we believe that I (Anika) was in a deficient / low state of Vitamin A and many other nutrients my entire life.

If you are missing one essential nutrient you will eventually be out of balance.

Vitamin A deficient

Lately, after all the new findings about Vitamin A, I was reconsidering my health disaster history and one thought repeatedly came  to my mind.

Did I have a lack of "Vitamin A" my whole life, due to chronic malnutrition?

This sentence sounds pretty drastically, but it wasn’t unlikely for me anymore after I started to understand what biochemical chaos one missing nutrient and constant dieting can do.

First I had no idea how to explain it to the world without being considered even more crazy. Many already doubting the validity of our blogs and the studies we use. We are well aware of that.

But I think I have a few backups now and I will go trough this step by step.

My childhood nutrition

I was raised as a kind of part-time vegetarian. I remember we had milk products and fish sometimes, but there was little to no meat in my diet. Later, as a teen, I decided to become a full vegetarian. I followed this diet until I was a gown up. As if that wasn’t stress enough for my body I decided to live a vegan lifestyle for around three years. That this wasn’t a good idea either can be read here

„Why we transited away from Veganism“.

I was protein deficient for many years.
I just learned that a protein deficiency can alter the Vitamin A metabolism. (1,2)

Even that you have some amount of Vitamin A in your diet, without protein you are almost not able to use the small amounts properly.
Without adequate amounts of protein and just eating Carotenoids as the sole source for Vitamin A, the liver Vitamin A content can’t be maintained.

The mobilization of vitamin A from liver stores, and /or transport of the vitamin is also impaired.

You need to keep in mind that our childhood nutrition affects our health as adults.

Protein

We are still happy that one day we were fed up eating a vegan diet.

Especially me, as I was not getting any meat since my teens. It has been around 4 years now, that I eat a good amount of meat very regular.

Now we are getting our protein without any restrictions from a variety of natural sources WITH adequate amounts of Vitamin A to maintain a healthy metabolism. 

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Dairy
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and Seeds

Casein

You might have not caught up with our findings about Casein

There is some rumor about the Casein that is used in animal studies. No one seemed to have an answer if Vitamin A free Casein really exists.

The conclusion was that Casein always has retinoic acid attached and that all the lab animals  fed with it on studies never suffered from a deficiency.

Hence all results were wrong, because it was an alleged Vitamin A poisoning due to Casein high in retinoc acid.

Whether there are large amounts of vitamin A in the casein depends primarily on the feeding of the animals.
Grazing animals definitely have retinoic acid in casein. Animals that are fed different feeds and never even touched grass in their lives have just trace amounts in the casein. (3) 

But even this is irrelevant, because for the casein that is used in laboratory tests, is actually vitamin A free casein. (4)

Oral contraceptives

Like most of the today’s women, sadly, I used oral contraceptives a few times.

It is known that hormone therapies coming with a great risk of all kinds of side effects.
We are all kind of aware of it, but nevertheless we take the risk to prevent pregnancy.

Even though we know that side effects occur, we are not aware that these side effects are due a quite dramatic change in nutritional changes.
As if a nutritional chaos alone is not enough, it can mess with you even more when you have been, or still are, on some kind of diet that comes along with malnutrition.

I started taking the pill when I met my first boyfriend.

Soon after, I found myself constantly in some altered conditions in my physical and mental health. I did not realize at that point that using oral contraceptives on and off started my awful mental and physical health conditions over the next 20 years.

It is said, that when you go off oral contraceptives side effects will usually clear up in a few months. That was not the case with me.

Nutritional deficiencies

Did your doctor ever told you about that the hormones you are taking have been shown to affect a number of metabolic and nutritional processes? (5)

Oral contraceptives can deplete many B vitamins, including: riboflavin, pyridoxin, folacin, B12, ascorbic acid and the minerals zinc, magnesium and selenium. (6,7,8)

On the other hand, oral contraceptives have shown to increase iron, copper, vitamin A, and vitamin K in the blood.

Two thoughts on this.

I used OC’s repeatedly and felt worse after every round, so my body was not able to go back to homeostasis.
I suspect that my nutritional status was already very bad and the use of hormones simply made it worse.

I was a protein deficient,
malnourished,
hormonal mess.

I am not only talking about a Vitamin A deficit alone, but also many other nutrients.

It’s the interplay of all of them that makes your body work right.

To better understand what impact the loss of nutrients on medications like oral contraceptives can have on our bodies I recommend having a look at this review.

A Review of the Effects of Oral Contraceptives on Nutrient Status…

What about Vitamin A?

Let’s first have a look at the two differences between a “primary” and a “secondary” Vitamin A deficiency. This should help to understand things better.

Keep these two differences in mind while reading this blog and whenever you think about Vitamin A.

Primary Vitamin A deficiency

Primary deficiency is caused by prolonged dietary deprivation. In large areas of the world, Vitamin A deficiency is endemic, causing widespread blindness and mortality.

Secondary Vitamin A deficiency

Secondary deficiency can develop when absorption, storage or transport is reduced or carotene is not adequately converted to Vitamin A. Conditions associated with risk of secondary deficiency include malabsorption syndromes, such as

  • celiac disease
  •  cystic fibrosis
  • pancreatic disease
  • duodenal bypass
  • congenital partial obstruction of the jejunum
  • obstruction of the bile ducts
  • giardiasis
  • diabetes 
  • kwashiorkor

A frequent  finding is that blood vitamin A-levels are higher in women who use birth control pills. (9)

OC users have 50%-80% higher serum levels of Vitamin A than nonusers; however, OC users may have a greater need for Vitamin A than nonusers.

I read about this over and over again, but the reason why this was happening took me some time to figure it out.

I finally found a book about Retinoids and what I found wasn’t very pleasant, but another piece of the puzzle of why my health declined over the years. (11)

Vitamin A "detox"

Question is, does the use of oral contraceptives lead to a risk of Vitamin A deficiency in malnourished women?

Studies with animals, indicate that the amounts of vitamin A stored in the liver could be low, even though the amounts circulating in the blood are higher.

We have several findings on that topic, but it was not clear whether liver stores get depleted or if Vitamin A get’s stored for a longer period of time.

Nevertheless, both indicates for a secondary deficiency (absorption, storage or transport is reduced), which will most likely be the case with other medications too. (10)

Animal studies indicate that DDT (Pesticide) and other drugs or possible environmental contaminants will reduce liver stores of Vitamin A.

If Vitamin A really is a toxin, then we all should be happy about pesticides and medications as they reduce Vitamin A liver stores

-Sarcasm-

The effect is related to the level of nurture, especially the quality of protein in the diet. (11)

Estrogen

Clear seems to be that estrogen has the effect of increasing the steady-state level of circulating RBP (Retinol Binding Protein) in plasma.

The thought behind this is that estradiol has stimulatory effects on the hepatic synthesis of RBP and its subsequent mobilization as the RBP-complex.

Estrogens have been shown to stimulate the hepatic synthesis of other proteins.

Important to understand is, that synthetic estrogens cause an elevation in plasma levels due to increased amounts of RBP that is not due to variation of dietary Vitamin A, but to an increased mobilization from liver reserves. (11)

Depledet

Women who are treated with oral contraceptives for a longer or recurrent period of time are of great risk developing a Vitamin A deficiency.

If a woman is also malnourished, and I am not only talking about women in poor countries, the chances are great to develop critically depleted liver reserves of Vitamin A. 

Now remember what I was writing about my nutrition as a child and teen.

Most time of my life I did not have adequate amounts of Vitamin A and protein in my diet.

Let me summarize these again:

  • being raised with little protein
  • Vegetarian as a teenager
  • Vegan lifestyle for three years
  • drinking alcohol at parties as a teenager (depletes liver Vitamin A stores)
  • stress due to family conditions

Chances are high that the health problems I had for over 20 years simply stemmed from a state of chronic Vitamin A deficiency.

But not just Vitamin A. To complete it’s functions the body needs several more important nutrients.

Some are simply not bioavailabe if you don’t have adequate amounts of Vitamin A, some are missing because of our today’s lifestyle.

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency has become a hot topic in recent years, with research linking this versatile mineral to energy, sleep, mood, hormone balance, muscle relaxation and much more.

Given the body’s widespread needs for magnesium, the typically low dietary intakes and the constant drain on the body’s stores, it is concerning that one of the most commonly prescribed medications (oral contraceptives) in the developed countries depletes levels even further. (12)

Knowing that Magnesium is the „master“ mineral this is very concerning, because it tells the other minerals what to do and where to do it.

Copper

Birth control pills also are known to raise copper levels in the body.

Estrogen and copper are succinctly related. Copper tends to raise estrogen in the body, and estrogen tends to cause copper to rise. Both copper and estrogen tend to feed one another.

There are long term consequences of both copper toxicity and excess estrogen.

High levels of copper can cause numerous symptoms ranging from migraines, to PMS, chronic fatigue and allergic reactions. Copper is used in the body to produce ceruloplasmin, the major copper carrying protein, which is involved in iron utilization and the formation of hemoglobin. (13)

Excess levels of ceruloplasmin is found among those with OCD, Schizophrenia, Angina, Alzheimer’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lymphoma.

"We have observed through TMA studies that vegetarians appear to have a greater tendency to retain copper than non-vegetarians."

-Trace Elements Inc-

Before we go into my own Hair Mineral Analysis and bloodwork, let us define “copper toxicity”.

On a hair tissue mineral analysis high levels of copper indicates bio-unavailability, that is excessive amounts of this mineral that can not be used and thus important bodily functions can not take place .

Blood levels

Before we go into one specific study and learn how mineral patterns in HTMA
(Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) and blood work show up in a Vitamin A deficiency, I want to mention one thing.

The raised blood levels of copper, Vitamin A… seem to normalize  after the use of oral contraceptive. If you have read the studies we provided in this blog you should have stumbled about this a view times.

So after the use the blood levels normalize, but what’s left behind are the depleted levels of liver Vitamin A stores.

This comes with new health challenges, because  many bodily functions just can’t be maintained properly.
 

So if you have stopped oral contraceptives and are still challenged with many health issues, the reason might be due to low levels of Vitamin A.

Keep in mind that we just talked about ONE common medication here. Research other medications and you will find similar outcomes.

Iron, Zinc and Copper

Please take some time and have a look on this study.
 

Iron, Zinc and Copper levels in different tissues of clinically vitamin A deficient rats

We have to mention that this is just a preview, but the preview itself has the information we need already in it. We purchased the article to have the full text, but won’t share it here, because that would not be allowed by the owner.

If you are interested in the whole study you have to  purchase it on your own.

The part that is of interest for the following analysis of my HTMA and blood works to explain my Vitamin A deficiency are following:
Group One – Vitamin A deficient group
Group two – Vitamin A restricted group
Group three – On normal food
  1. Iron and copper in testes were increased significantly, whereas zinc was strikingly decreased in group one when compared with the other groups.
  2. Copper (in lung and kidney) and iron (in the spleen) were increased significantly in group one compared with the other groups.
  3. In the liver, iron, zinc, and copper were significantly different between group one and group two. Decreased Iron in liver in group one. Increased zinc and copper in group one.
  4. In muscle, iron was significantly higher in group one than group two.
  5. In tibia and blood, iron levels (but not zinc and copper) in groups one and two were significantly higher than group three ).

My HTMA and blood works

My first HTMA

This is the first hair test I ever made. You can clearly see my high amount of bio-unavailable copper and calcium.
 The test was taken in 2017. I have not been taking oral contraceptives since seven years  at that time but still had several mental and physical health issues.
Unfortunately my practitioner here in Germany didn’t use any blood work.
 
What is interesting to see is that my cooper and zinc are elevated. In the above study they talk about elevated levels of minerals in the organs. We know that HTMA is measuring the status inside the cells, even though it won’t show us were exactly, this can be used for comparison.
 
If you have problems to follow, have a look at the minerals that were elevated in the Vitamin A deficient rat’s in the study of the prior chapter.
In this blog we won’t concentrate on iron, as this alone is a topic for a blog.
 
At the end of this blog I will attach to podcasts, that will involve iron.

My Second HTMA

This one was made half a year later.
I was on several supplements and 10.000 IU of Vitamin A.
You can see that my copper and calcium started to come down.

This was the first test I took as a patient of Dr. Garrett Smith.

My third HTMA

Three month later on 25.000 IU of Vitamin A per day.
My copper and calcium levels dropped again.

My fourth HTMA

This HTMA is pretty interesting.
I was still on 25.000 IU of Vitamin A almost six months later.

My Calcium started to come down to the normal ranges.
My copper is still high but constantly on the way down.

This is the first bloodwork with minerals of interests.

Copper is in an “ok” range, but still on the lower side.
Same with zinc.

My fifth HTMA

This is the last test I made. As you can see it is from February 2019. I was on the “Vitamin A Detox Diet” from Dr. Garret Smith since September 2018. So I only ate very small amounts of vitamin A.

After 6 month with almost no Vitamin A in my diet, my copper and calcium levels went significantly up again.

Have a close look on how much they raised again, after we brought the values down before. The only thing that changed was that there was almost no Vitamin A in my diet.

The explanation I got on this was that this must be contamination on my hair. Very lame answer. There was simply no knowledge about what was going on.

This is my bloodwork from February 2019.

You can see that my blood copper lever was dropping compared to the prior blood work and also zinc went more down.

This is exactly what the study above describes. High copper  levels in the cells, but low levels in the blood in the case of Vitamin A deficiency. Also, Zinc blood went down, which also fits into this pattern.

I remember that my moms blood zinc levels went significantly down on the Vitamin A Detox. The only presented fix for that was giving her high amounts of supplemental zinc (luckily she never did that, because she had an odd feeling about taking it).

Embrace Vitamin A

I am neither a nutritionist nor a trained HTMA practitioner. No one helped me with these findings.

I really try my best to get all the information correct. I wish I could go into my own HTMA’s in much more detail and explain everything better.

But for getting an overview of what my labs are showing it should be fine and understandable.

I do my research and I find so many interesting studies, articles and books about Vitamin A. Vitamin A is studied pretty well and most mechanisms are widely understood. It is not true that there is no evidence about the necessity of Vitamin A. 

What we are missing from the ones that talk about Vitamin A as a poison are the bio-chemical and molecular backgrounds.

"People would rather believe a simple lie, than the complex truth!"

The fact alone that my bio-unavailable copper comes with so many complications to my health (14) and that it won’t be available without Retinol, explains why I felt so bad after one year without adequate amounts of Vitamin A.

Yes, Vitamin A is essential. Why would we have a backup mechanism in which we can convert carotenoids to retinol when preformed vitamin A is not available.

If we were to depend on fruit and vegetables for retinol, would we be able to store adequate reserves of Vitamin A to see us through a famine?

We believe there will be a point, where your health suffers. In our opinion that is one reason why so many vegans fail and developing health issues over time. 

They might be not aware of it. They will not connect the dots when they are diagnosed iron anemic, that one part of the dilemma is a lack of retinol from animal sources.

Again, we want not too much and not too low. The Goldilocks principle of “Just Right” which will depend on variables based on the individual’s health status and lifestyle factors.

Vitamin A is not the only one where a deficiency can be as deleterious as toxic levels. Even water-soluble vitamins like B6 in huge doses results in irreversible neuropathy. Does this mean B6 is not essential?

I also want to recall our findings about carotenoids (we posted some links already) being toxic because they mimic retinol innefectively and interfere with the proper function of retinol. (15)

A word on food

The reason why so many, including us preaching the importance for shopping at farmers markets, where the produce is fresh and nutritious—and preferably grown without the pesticides that can wreak havoc on your endocrine system.

Try to consume organic meat, eggs, and dairy, raised without synthetic hormones that make the animals freakishly bigger and more productive, and do God knows what to your own system.

“Green up” your makeup routine, so you won’t consume all the nasty chemicals found in conventional makeup. All these components will eventually bring a toll on your health.

Interesting

Remember, we picked Vitamin A as the main topic here, but behind the scenes there are some more main actors.

During my research I stumbled over the work from Morley Robbins

I believe some of you had heard of him and his work. He is the founder of the Magnesium Advocacy group and the Root Cause Protocol.

We do not follow this protocol. Just mentioning this for the people who have so many doubts on us. We are not using any supplements at the moment. We just eat food.

But what is interesting is the fact that we intuitively added foods back in the order the protocol suggests being helpful.

We think Morley’s work is very interesting. It is far more than just about Magnesium. It has bio-chemical and molecular background knowledge.

In our opinion his work is very fundamental and exceeds the work of Dr. Garrett Smith and Grant Genereux by far.

If you are still challenged with any kind of health issues you should seriously look into this.

It doesn’t matter if you have Autoimmune Disease, chronic Fatigue, gut issues, histamine issues or any other kind of health problems. Take some time and listen to the two podcasts we attached at the end of this blog. We are sure this will help you.

You will be surprised by the information you get from these two podcasts alone.

There has been no fix to your condition, if you need to stay on a restrictive diet and as soon as you go off it and your symptoms are coming right back.

In the end you will create more biochemical chaos due to nutritional deficiencies when staying long term on any kind of fad diet.

Take care!

Podcats One

How Minerals Run the Show

Podcast two

Discussing Vitamin A (Retinol)

References

(1) Vitamin A and Carotene in protein-deprived rats (Link)
(2) Effects of dietary deficiencies of protein and retinol on the plasma level of RBP in the rat (Link)
(3) Milk protein and retinoic acid soothe immune system (Link)
(4) The effect of heat and oxidation on the nutritive value of a protein (Link)
(5) Effect of oral contraceptive agents on vitamin and mineral requirements (Link)
(6) Effects of oral contraceptives on vitamins B6, B12, C, and folacin (Link)
(7) Effects of oral contraceptives on vitamin metabolism (Link)
(8) Nutritional effects of oral contraceptive use: a review (Link)
(9) The effect of oral contraceptive agents on plasma vitamin A in the human and the rat (Link)
(to get full access to the study, you can create an account for a trial period)
(10) Evidence of drug-nutrient interactions with chronic use of commonly prescribed medications:an update (Link)
(11) The Retinoids (Link)
(12) Oral contraceptive lowers serum magnesium (Link)
(13)  Changes in serum ceruloplasmin levels with commonly used methods of contraception (Link)
(14) Copper Deficiency (Link)
(15) Researchers reveal “dark side” to high beta carotene intake (Link)

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