Approximately 51 percent of American adults don’t get enough dietary vitamin A. First, the bad news: Low vitamin A levels are the #1 cause of blindness in kids, and a lack of vitamin A raises your risks of disease and infections. And now, the good news about vitamin A and your immune system: If you want a stronger immune system, getting more vitamin A isn’t hard to do.
Why You Need Vitamin A
You only need a small amount of vitamin A each day, but this little micronutrient has a BIG impact on your overall wellness, starting with your general immune system. As far back as the 1920s, researchers and scientists were calling vitamin A the “anti-infective agent” because of how it supported your body’s first, natural defense against bacteria and viruses: Your mucus barrier (or mucous membrane).
You can find these barriers head-to-toe throughout your body, in areas like your eyes, your lungs and your intestines. The mucus barrier physically helps to block, trap and get rid of germs as they attempt to enter your body.
Not to get too science-y, but vitamin A helps various types of cells to signal, communicate, and build and maintain a strong mucus barrier, thus keeping you healthy.
This may be why vitamin A levels are so strongly linked with numerous bacterial and viral risks.
The anti-viral properties of vitamin A have even been linked to a reduction in measles mortality.
The list of benefits extend far beyond protecting you from viruses and bacteria:
- Vitamin A may reduce your risk of many forms of cancer
- Vitamin A may speed up how quickly a wound heals
- Vitamin A may protect your skin from infections caused by acne bacteria
- Vitamin A may be linked to improved fertility in both men and women
Signs of a Vitamin A Deficiency
Signs and symptoms that you aren’t getting enough vitamin A include dry eyes, vision problems (especially at night), dry skin, skin rashes, slow healing of skin sores or scratches, and more.
Most adults need 10,000 IU of vitamin A a day. The amount that children need varies widely by age.
Regardless of your age, if you’re worried about your vitamin A intake, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor, naturopathic physician, or other medical expert. That’s because not only is a vitamin A deficiency bad for you, but so is having too much vitamin A.
Also known as vitamin A toxicity, such a condition is rare but serious. Taking too much vitamin A may lead to side effects like birth defects in pregnant women, and a higher risk of osteoporosis in the general population.
How to Get Enough Vitamin A
Many commercially prepared and packaged foods, such as cereals, breads, orange juice and milk, are fortified with vitamin A. However, it’s always ideal to get most of our nutrients from whole foods the way that nature intended us to.
Some of your favorite foods are rich in vitamin A, with no artificial fortification required:
- 1/2 cup of baked sweet potato nets you an incredible 19,218 IUs of vitamin A
- One egg gives you 270 IU of vitamin A
- 1/2 cup of cooked spinach offers 9,433 IUs
- 1/2 cup of cooked kale has 8,854 IUs
- 1 slice of cooked beef liver provides 21,566 IUs
It’s important to point out that zinc helps improve our bodies’ ability to absorb vitamin A, and zinc is another powerful immune booster. Consider pairing your vitamin A-rich foods, and vitamin A supplements, with foods and supplements that contain zinc.
For example, BioProPlus-500 includes 500 mcg of zinc in every serving, which helps to support its overall positive effects on your immune system.
Combine supplements with a whole foods diet rich in your micronutrients to get maximum benefits for your health, wellness and longevity!
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