Reap the Benefits of Fat Soluble Vitamins
While I was in the bloodmobile recently, I had time to ponder the health benefits I am offering to whomever gets the blood I was donating. I eat well, exercise and pay special attention to the nutrients in my diet, some of them being the critically important fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K. I include good quality fats in my diet that are required for proper absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins in my food. Why are these vitamins so important, where do we find them and how do we make sure our bodies can use them?
Let's start with Vitamin A, which is a crucial anti-oxidant vitamin. We are exposed to our sometimes-toxic environment, and oxidation can cause cellular damage and sometimes cancer. Anti-oxidants help protect us and prevent this damage.
Vitamin A was the first named vitamin. It is also known as retinol or preformed vitamin A. One way to remember an important use of vitamin A (retinol) is that it supports an important function in our eyes' retina. The retina uses vitamin A to produce a pigment known as "visual purple." This pigment, which helps the rods detect light, cannot be made without vitamin A. Night blindness is an early sign of vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin A is also needed for general cellular growth and bone cell repair, and for healthy teeth. The base layer of our skins and our inner skin layers need vitamin A to maintain their structural integrity. Vitamin A protects our bodies' tissues during infections and helps promote healing by supporting our bodies' mucosal linings.
One of the best sources of vitamin A (and D) is cod liver oil (CLO). I know some of you have less than fond memories of having the "pleasure" of receiving a daily tablespoon of this not very yummy oil in your youth. Fortunately CLO is now available in tasty citrus-flavored versions, or in easy-to-swallow capsules.
Another source is pro-vitamin A, commonly known as carotenes, which are found in greens such as kale, and yellow vegetables such as carrots, yellow squash and pumpkins. There is a common belief that we can convert carotenes to vitamin A. It's not quite that simple…children under the age of five, and anyone with liver or thyroid issues, may not be able to convert carotenes to vitamin A.
Next we have vitamin D (calciferol), which is important for absorption of calcium, needed for maintaining bone health, especially during menopause. Vitamin D is involved in our bodies' immune function, and can help prevent inflammation.
Our skin, bloodstream and kidneys are involved in vitamin D production and utilization. With the help of cholesterol, we produce vitamin D in our skin when exposed to ultra-violet or sunlight. Supplementation of vitamins A & D as found in cod liver oil is important for Willamette Valley residents because of our long dark winters.
Dr.Wayne Graveline MD, a retired NASA astronaut and physician, has studied the connection between the use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs such as Lipitor and the growing issue of vitamin D deficiency. Because we need cholesterol to produce vitamin D and statin drugs prevent the production of cholesterol, as the saying goes, "Houston, we have a problem!"
Discovered in 1922, Vitamin E is also known as tocopherals and tocotrienols, the most commonly supplemented being alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E speeds up the healing process, is an important anti-oxidant, supports immune function and, according to Dr. Elson Haas MD in Staying Healthy with Nutrition, works with vitamin A to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Because hormone therapy with estrogen reduces the effect of vitamin E, additional supplementation is indicated. The trace mineral selenium, which is lacking in our local soils, is an important co-factor in vitamin E's anti-oxidant support.
Vitamin K got its name from the Danish word "koagulation," and supports blood clotting. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in nature (alfalfa), Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is produced in our intestinal tract and there is synthetic version K3, which has twice the activity as a blood-clotting agent as the two natural forms.
Ongoing supplementation with vitamin K should only be done with the monitoring of your physician. Many people use Coumarin (from sweet clover) to prevent clotting and should not supplement the competing vitamin K at the same time.
Deficiencies of vitamin K are uncommon because our bodies are usually able to store and use what we require of this important vitamin.
I have just touched the surface of the importance of these fat-soluble vitamins. In our quest for longevity and the best quality of life, let's remember to eat our healthy foods and fats, giving our bodies the ability to absorb these critical vitamins.
Yaakov Levine, NTP
About the Author:
Born and raised in the New York area, Yaakov has made his home in Oregon since 1998. He brings his passion for healthy nutrition and herbal medicine to his practice as a Nutritional Therapist and Herbalist.
Yaakov is an avid researcher and writer. He has a regular column in the Creswell Chronicle, and writes for the NTA Newsletter. He has been involved in the natural products industry for many years as a retailer, manufacturer, and educator. Yaakov has participated in the Breitenbush Herbal Conference since 1997 and is now a conference organizer, and has staffed the NW HerbFest since it’s inception in 2005.
In 2007 he received his certification as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Yaakov is currently practicing as a Nutritional Therapist/Herbalist and is the Assistant Instructor for the NTP training class in Eugene, OR.
He can be reached at (541) 895-2427 or email@example.com
Additional Training: Medical Herbalism, Homeopathy and Flower Essences therapies.
Yaakov’s newspaper column link:
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