Vitamin A

Vitamin A is key for good vision, a healthy immune system, and cell growth. There are two types of vitamin A. This discussion focuses the active form of vitamin A, called "retinoids." This comes from animal products. The second form of vitamin A is beta-carotene, which comes from plants.

Topical and oral retinoids are common prescription treatments for acne and other skin conditions, including wrinkles. Oral vitamin A is also used as a treatment for measles and dry eye in people with low levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A is also used for a specific type of leukemia.

Vitamin A is critical for mucosal immunity and zinc function, but be careful not to get too much. Birth defects can occur in women taking over 8,000 units/day, and higher doses of vitamin A (not beta carotene) can also aggravate osteoporosis. At doses of over 50,000 units/day, vitamin A can even cause liver injury. Use doses over 8,000 units daily under the supervision of a holistic practitioner. Two examples of when higher doses may be used by your practitioner include acne, which is associated with low vitamin A and improves with high dose vitamin A plus zinc (which augments vitamin A activity) and heavy menstrual periods during peri-menopause. Called "Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding (DUB)," the bleeding often resolves without the need for a hysterectomy by taking 50,000 units of vitamin A (with 25 mg zinc) daily for 3 months. It is, of course, important to also treat the low thyroid and low iron (even if blood test levels are "normal") which are 2 other (and more common) important causes of heavy periods.

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