It’s a well-known fact that vitamin A is essential for our vision. Although, vitamin A acts as an important compound of the retinal pigments for vision; it is also essential for many functions in the body including fertility. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin; meaning we require dietary fat in order to absorb vitamin A. It helps the body maintain homeostasis, supports your metabolism during pregnancy, aids in tissue maintenance and fetal development.
Weston A. Price, a dentist that studied indigenous cultures worldwide, has noted from his research that the traditional diets that were rich in vitamin A resulted in healthy pregnancies. Vitamin A has an important role in fertility and a vitamin A deficiency may halt reproduction prior to implantation. Evidence suggests that this may be due to vitamin A’s role in egg development. Additionally, vitamin A supports thickening cervical fluid that aids the sperm in transportation to fertilize the egg. The development of the follicle also requires Vitamin A. A vitamin A deficiency may result in the follicle not functioning properly thereby negatively affecting conception.
Our world is full of toxic substances, in everything from our household cleaners to the pesticides we find on our non-organic produce. Not only are environmental toxins estrogenic, disrupting our hormonal balance, but they produce free radicals that damage our reproductive cells. As an antioxidant, vitamin A provides protection from such environmental toxins and damaging free radicals.
During pregnancy, Vitamin A is responsible for fetal cells differentiating into various organs. Consuming low amounts of vitamin A may result in birth defects or miscarriages early in the pregnancy. We already know that vitamin A plays a crucial role in the visual development of a baby. Additionally, it also plays a key role in the development of the inner ear, spinal cord, thyroid, parathyroid, kidneys and lungs. Furthermore, Vitamin A is involved with different lipoproteins including those that are essential in producing breast milk.
But doesn’t high Vitamin A consumption negatively affect birth outcomes? A well-known paper from 1995 demonstrated that high amounts of vitamin A will result in birth defects. However, the study did not distinguish between whole food vitamin A and supplemental vitamin A, which was used in the study. Other studies have contradictory evidence finding fewer birth defects with those that consumed higher rates of vitamin A. Current research shows that vitamin A consumption of 20,000 – 25,000 IU during pregnancy is safe and may actually reduce birth defects.
Vitamin A comes in two forms: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is also known as retinoids: retinyl esters and retinol. Retinoids are stored in the liver and are obtained from animal foods such as eggs, fish, seafood, liver, and grass-fed butter. Retinoids, retinyl esters and retinol, are the active type of vitamin A which our body is “ready-to-use”. On the other hand, provitamin A is the non-active type of vitamins, which means provitamin A needs to undergo a series of conversions to become the active form of vitamin A, that our bodies can utilize. One of the main sources of provitamin A is carotenoids and the most famous type of this is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is found in many orange, yellow, and red fruits and vegetables, as well as dark green leafy vegetables. Though beta-carotene is beneficial to our health it may not supply enough vitamin A needed for the high demands of reproduction and pregnancy.
Getting Vitamin A from whole food sources is best!
I suggest making sure that you have a variety of these foods included in your daily diet:
Cod liver oil
Fish and seafood i.e. herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon, tuna
Leafy green vegetables i.e. collards, kale, spinach, Swiss chard
Orange fruit i.e. apricots and cantaloupe
Orange vegetables i.e. carrots, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato
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