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Is Your Eyesight Deteriorating?

Got night blindness? You may be deficient in this vital vitamin…

One of the leading preventable causes of night blindness and blindness in children is vitamin A deficiency. If you’ve heard the saying “carrots help you see in the dark”, it’s not a myth as they really do! Carrots are rich in vitamin A, a vital vitamin for eye health.

Not only does vitamin A help your eyes, it’s also essential for healthy skin, your immune system and lungs, bone development and reproductive health. So, if you’re struggling with deteriorating eyesight, acne, eczema/dry skin, recurrent infections or infertility, you may need to up your vitamin A intake.

Find out the deficiency signs and symptoms to look out for and which foods you should eat to boost your vitamin A levels.

Why is Vitamin A important?

Vision and eye health. Vitamin A plays a pivotal role is keeping the cornea clear – this is the outer layer of the eye that covers the iris and pupil which helps the eye to focus light so you can see properly. Vitamin A is also required to make a light-sensitive protein called rhodopsin which helps convert light into an electrical signal that goes into the brain, giving the message of sight. Those experiencing night blindness, vision loss and cataracts would benefit immensely from increasing their intake of vitamin A.

Immune and respiratory health by maintaining the body’s first line of defence against infection. Vitamin A plays a fundamental role in maintaining the mucous membranes (the protective barrier) in the eyes, lungs and gut – lubricating and protecting organs and preventing unwanted pathogens. It also stimulates the production and activity of immune cells (white blood cells).

Skin health – vitamin A helps to stimulate the growth of new skin cells and break down dead skin cells. It also prevents pores from becoming blocked by regulating keratin (a skin protein) production so that skin cells don’t overproduce and stick together. Vitamin A is particularly helpful for those with acne, psoriasis, eczema and other skin disorders.

Bone growth and development. Vitamin A is an important bone nutrient, along with vitamin D and calcium. Low levels of vitamin A reduces calcium absorption and has been linked to increased risk of bone fractures and osteoarthritis. Vitamin A influences bone building cells (osteoblasts) and plays a key role in how new bones are formed.

Reproductive health and embryo development. Vitamin A is required to make healthy sperm and the development and implantation of the egg in the uterine lining. Those experiencing fertility issues (both male and female) should consider increasing their dietary intake of vitamin A.

Shown to reduce cancer risk and prevent cell damage due to its antioxidant properties. Dietary sources of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene (from plant sources) influences the growth and development of cells, preventing abnormal cell growth and tumours. Carrot juicing is often used as part of the Gerson Therapy cancer treatment protocol.

Vitamin A deficiency – how to know?

Vitamin A deficiency is common in developing countries caused by malnutrition and poor dietary intake; however, it is becoming increasingly prevalent in developed countries due to malabsorption triggered by gastrointestinal problems, liver disease and other chronic health disorders. Those most at risk are infants and children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Night blindness (vision impairment at night), dry eyes and an inability to produce tears – these are all early signs of vitamin A deficiency
  • Blindness/ complete vision loss can occur with prolonged vitamin A deficiency
  • Light sensitivity and an inability to adapt to dim light
  • Thickening of skin of upper arms (hyperkeratosis)
  • Reduced skin integrity – making the skin vulnerable to injury, damage and poor healing
  • Problematic skin – rough, dry patches, eczema, acne
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Poor sense of taste and smell
  • Recurrent infections – colds, coughs, flu
  • Poor bone growth and development

Alcoholism and those with diabetes, thyroid issues and liver disease may experience vitamin A deficiency due their inability to convert beta-carotene from foods into the active form of vitamin A. Poor gut health and zinc deficiency also compromises the way the body absorbs and utilises vitamin A. Without sufficient zinc, the body is unable to move vitamin A from the liver (where it is stored) into the bloodstream. Learn which foods are zinc rich.  

What foods contain Vitamin A?

  • Dark green vegetables – spinach, kale, broccoli, collard greens, turnip greens
  • Orange and yellow fruit/vegetables – carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, mango, cantaloupe, papaya, apricot
  • Red fruits/ vegetables – bell peppers, pink grapefruit
  • Liver
  • Cod liver oil
  • Egg yolk
  • Mackerel, salmon

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin so it is best consumed with fats such as coconut oil, olive oil or avocado. Another way to increase absorption of plant sources of vitamin A is to cook (slightly steam) the vegetables.

How much vitamin A do you need?

As the body stores vitamin A, excessive intake of animal sources (especially liver) and vitamin A supplementation can cause toxicity which can lead to birth defects, liver disease, bone fractures (due to the over production of bone cells) and red, scaly skin.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults (19 years +) is:

  • 900 mcg RAE for men (equivalent to 3,000 IU)
  • 700 mcg RAE for women (equivalent to 2,333 IU)

Higher doses are appropriate in some situations but should only be used short-term under the guidance of a natural health practitioner.

Boost your eyesight with carrot juice

Freshly squeezed carrot juice (using organic carrots and a cold pressed juicer) is the best way to boost your vitamin A intake. Cold pressed juicers use a much slower juice extraction method to preserve nutrients and prevent enzyme loss.

Squeeze 6 – 8 organic carrots to make 1 cup of juice. Don’t peel the carrots as the skin contains most of the nutrients! Wash the carrots in filtered water with some vinegar. Learn more about washing fruits and vegetables.

You can also add organic green apples, fresh ginger and celery for additional health benefits. Green apples aid liver detoxification and digestion, ginger promotes healthy circulation and reduces inflammation, and celery helps relieve water retention and bloating.

To learn more about vitamins and minerals, take a look at CNM’s short online courses Nutrition for Everyday Living and Vegan Nutrition for Everyday Living.

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