The Power of Vitamin A
There are many modalities available for the safe, non-toxic care of children. I will concentrate on vitamin A in this issue, and in ensuing articles cover other therapies such as other vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, volatile oils, homeopathic remedies, isopathic remedies, oxidative therapies, herbal remedies, hormonal support, allergy treatment, dietary adjustments, amino acid therapies, antibiotics and anti-fungal therapies.
Vitamin A is generally regarded as the anti-infection vitamin and mucous membrane protector. It prevents squamous metaplasia, changing of the body linings from tall, ciliated cells (contain little hairs on them which move out mucous and infection) to cells that are like the ones on the skin, which do not protect the lungs, intestines, sinuses, oropharnyx and ears from infection. Vitamin A is vital to support the adrenal glands (stress glands) and is specific for otitis media (ear infections), acne, growth impairment, hyperkatosis (rough skin), night blindness and xerophthalmia–the leading cause of blindness in the world, especially in the third world, when the eyes dry out from lack of vitamin A and then ulcerate and become infected resulting in blindness.
Beta carotene is a double vitamin A molecule, and is much less useful than vitamin A. This is the substance in carrot juice that turns the palms and body orange; it scares doctors into thinking the child is being poisoned from vitamin A.
Since vitamin A is one of the fat soluble vitamins, it can be retained in the body, causing toxicity. The toxicity manifests as a tight, band-like headache, nose bleeds and chapped lips. In very chronic situations, it causes an over-production of tissue on the outside of the bones (periostium). There are no long term side effects from acute vitamin A overdose; they all go away with discontinuation of the vitamin. Vitamin A is bound to a liver protein, a retinol binding protein, which is produced in higher amounts when people take larger doses of vitamin A. When vitamin A is bound, it is non-toxic; when it is free and unbound, it is toxic. People with skin diseases have taken up to one million units per day without side effects, but the dose must be increased slowly.
Cod liver oil (CLO) is a good first supplement for babies, starting around three months of age. The fat soluble vitamins do not cross the placenta in pregnancy and need to be replaced in infants. Not only does CLO have vitamins A and D, but also EPA (eicosapentenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexenoic acid), which are fatty acids that protect the brain, improve intelligence and prevent cancer. The dosage for children should be 1,000 units per year of age. One tablespoon of CLO contains about 4,500 units of vitamin A, so a three month old could take about 1/8th tsp. Also, give vitamin A intermittently, five days per week, so it doesn’t build up to toxic levels. Vitamin A emulsion (drops of vitamin A) is made from lemon grass and is neutral tasting oil if CLO is resisted by the child. Actually, little children tend to really like CLO and love to crunch the pearls in it.
Supplementation with CLO and vitamin A can prevent ear infections and reduce the illness and death due to measles. Overutilization of typanostomy tubes (ear drainage tubes for infection) was addressed in a 1994 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “About one quarter of tympanostomy tube insertion in this study were proposed for inappropriate indications and another third for equivocal ones.” The authors suggest that several hundred thousand children may be receiving tubes that offer no advantage over other therapies. Rats on a vitamin A free diet showed extensive focal metaplasia. Keratization of normally columnar, ciliated epithelium occurred in over half of subjects. Acute otitis media with effusion was found. Vitamin A deficiency disrupts the clearing mechanism of the ear. A study from the ENT department of the University Of Texas School Of Medicine studied Micronesian children that were vitamin A deficient and developed otitis media. They also found that vitamin A deficient Guinea pigs showed otitis media and Eustachian tube dysfunction as the primary mechanism. The Wisconsin Division of Health studied the severity of Measles and showed that Vitamin A reduces mortality in African children with acute measles. In the U.S., children hospitalized with measles retinol (vitamin A) concentrations were depressed, and the degree of depression was associated with the degree if illness severity. Actually, many other studies show that mortality (death) from measles approaches zero with vitamin A supplementation.
JAMA, April 27, 1994.
Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery, 1979, Nov-Dec, 87:6, 837-44.
Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery, 1992 Nov.
Pediatrics, 1993 June, 91:6, 1176-81.
For more info, contact the Gerber Medical Clinic at (775) 826-1900