We are on the cusp of flu season yet again, and I am asked daily by my patients, “How can I stay healthy? How can I keep my kids healthy? What do I do if we get sick?”
While I have covered my suggested vitamins and supplements here in the past, I have failed to write about a very important, and often overlooked vitamin. It seems to commonly be forgotten by doctors, too. Vitamin A is a powerful -and crucial- vitamin needed for our immune systems to prevent or treat a virus.
However, Vitamin A is not to be taken lightly. Vitamin A Toxicity is a very real and scary possibility, so dosing this vitamin correctly is quite important. As it is a fat soluble vitamin, it is stored within the body and not passed like water soluble vitamins. If an individual has adequate vitamin A stores, supplementation with high doses of vitamin A may cause a temporary malfunction in the regulation of immune function. This may result to an increased susceptibility to illness. Knowing the amount of Vitamin A you are consuming is vital.
I’d like to begin with the history of Vitamin A.
Although recent research is shedding light on how important Vitamin A is in preventing and treating viruses, it has been in the spotlight for decades in the holistic world. Used to treat Measles, the Vitamin A Protocol is viewed as a staple in natural-minded practices and homes across the globe.
Dating back to 1932, research was performed using high dosing of Vitamin A on groups of people diagnosed with the measles. Within equal sized groups of 300, the control group had 26 deaths, and the vitamin-treated group had 11.
Now consider the advancements we have made through research over the last 80+ years.
A protein called STRA6 is a receptor for retinol-binding protein (RBP), which forms a complex with vitamin A. RBP’s binding to STRA6 allows the attached vitamin A to be absorbed into the cell. This is where the magic happens. These ‘A-Powered Cells’ are needed to ward off viruses and cancers. They keep your body healthy, and when a virus does take root, these cells are needed to attack it.
(Side note: You know how important Vitamin D3 is, right? Well, it cannot aid your body without some Vitamin A. They both bind to the same cells.)
In 2011, The World Health Organization stated:
Acute lower respiratory tract infections, in particular bronchiolitis and pneumonia which are the most severe forms of acute lower respiratory tract infections, are the leading cause of mortality in children under the age of five. Pneumonia alone kills 1.8 million infants and young children every year.
With further investigation, we discover that Vitamin A supplementation is associated with large reductions in mortality and morbidity with children under the age of five.
A 2002 study revealed, a dose of 200,000 IU of Vitamin A given for TWO DAYS was associated with greatly reducing the risk of overall mortality and pneumonia specific mortality in all ages, with children under the age of two being the highest benefiters.
Vitamin A and the Measles:
In the case of measles, the evidence suggests that even after the onset of infection, vitamin A supplementation can improve the course of the virus and the fatality rate.
You should always work with your doctor when changing your supplements, or plan to follow an intense, high-dosage supplement protocol.
I tend to follow the WHO recommendations, along side of what the research presents, when dosing Vitamin A. Check your multivitamin before adding any extra into your daily routine. It is not advised to take more than 25,000 IU per day, and even that should not be done more than 2 months at a time. A healthy diet already includes plenty of opportunity for natural supplementation, so proceed with caution. However, if you find that you come down the colds and sicknesses often, including a Vitamin A supplement daily will prove helpful. Most studies show that even at 5,000 IU daily, people felt benefits.
At the onset of the flu, measles, or other viruses, the current protocol I recommend is 200,000-400,000 IU per day for ONLY TWO DAYS. This is a huge difference, isn’t it? Research has been done on both of these numbers, with results showing little difference, and both being effective. I would like to take into account that each individual is different, so every treatment can be slightly different. Again, you never go beyond 400,000 IU a day, and you never follow this high-dosage for more than 2 days.
Natural Vitamin A Sources:
- beef and chicken liver
- fish oil
Bright and vibrant yellow and orange fruit as well as dark green leafy vegetables – the more intense the color the more nutrient dense the produce.
- Carrots and Beets
- Sweet Potatoes
- Kale and cabbage
- Spinach and Rapini
- Squash and pumpkin
Other Facts about Vitamin A:
- Vitamin A protects the body from free radicals, neutralizes them as well as aiding in combating oxidative stress (which is attributed to infections and cancer).
- The amount of Vitamin A stored in the body is a direct correlation between a risk of cancer development.
- If there is a drastic decline or lack of vitamin A in cells within the body there is an increased potential that such cells can become malignant.
- Vitamin A is critical for good vision
- Vitamin A plays an important role in healthy bone growth
- Vitamin A is essential for reproduction
- Vitamin A plays a role in cell division and cell growth
- Vitamin A supports skin health
Side Note: It is recommended by WHO that infants are given 50,000 IU of Vitamin A along side of vaccines to ensure their cells are not depleted of this important vitamin while vaccinated.