Vitamin A and Fertility
Found in both animal (known as retinol) and in plant (known as beta-carotene) sources, there are ample food sources to ensure that, with a proper diet, food sourced vitamin A should be sufficient for most Americans. But many people don’t eat near enough foods that contain vitamin A and fertility suffers because of it.
One of the first bits of health advice I remember getting from my grandmother (aside from napping, which I ignored until college…) was about eating carrots. Why? Because carrots are high in vitamin A, and vitamin A is great for the eyes. Well, it turns out Grandma was right! Just 1 cup of carrots provides 113% of your recommended daily intake for vitamin A.
But eyes aren’t the only reason to eat carrots. If you’re struggling with infertility it’s possible that you are one of the 15% of Americans who has a vitamin A deficiency as a contributing factor.
As an antioxidant vitamin A helps to protect the body from cancer and disease by neutralizing damaging free radicals in the body, and it also assists your body in the metabolism of fat, contributes to the function of healthy eyes, hair, teeth, gums, and mucous membranes, and plays a role in immune function and skin health.
Vitamin A is also a crucial component of fertility health.
Traditional cultures actually used to give couples, especially women, with certain foods that were thought to increase fertility. Dr. Weston A. Price did multiple studies all over the world and found that in cultures with very fertile women and healthy strong babies, they were fed diets high in fish, organ meats, and butter from grass-fed cows.
All of these are rich sources of easily absorbable vitamin A.
So while these people had no scientific facts to back what they did, they knew from the healthy, strong bodies that conceived and birthed babies that resulted, how important vitamin A is to fertility.
Vitamin A can help support a woman’s fertility in many ways, most noticeably is that it promotes better cervical fluid. Not only can it help your body to produce more fluid (making it easier to figure out Natural Family Planning) but the fluid itself is more nourishing for the sperm and helps them to live longer, allowing for more time to fertilize the egg.
Vitamin A also assists the follicles in maturing properly. Both in the maturation of an egg and then in assisting the follicle in producing the hormones needed to aid the fertilized egg into the uterus. So if your body is low on vitamin A, a follicle may not be able to function correctly.
To make sure you are getting enough, be sure to consume a diet with a variety of foods that are high in vitamin A.
The retinol (animal) version may be easier for your body to absorb while the plant version, beta carotene, is actually considered a pre-vitamin in the aspect that your body must break it down before it can be used. Some studies also show that you’d have to consume six times more beta-carotene than retinol to absorb the same amounts.
These two types of vitamin A also offer somewhat different health benefits. Retinoid forms can be especially important with respect to pregnancy and childbirth, infancy, childhood growth, night vision, red blood cell production, and resistance to infectious disease while most carotenoid forms of vitamin A function as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. (source)
If you eat few animal products, seem to be low on cervical fluid and have a hard time charting cervical mucous for natural family planning, or have tried for awhile without success, you may want to think about adding a real food supplement, such as cod liver oil, to your diet along with your normal prenatal supplement.
The recommended daily amount for vitamin A:
- men, ages 19-70, is at least 900 IUs up to 3000 IUs
- women, ages 19-70, we need 700 IUs and up to 3000 IUs per day. (during pregnancy and lactation women require about 50 -100 IUs more per day)
Good sources of animal based vitamin A
- Whole milk
- Cheddar cheese
- Fresh, unprocessed butter from grass-fed cows
- Whole egg
- Liver (liver is one of the highest sources, so sneaking it into meals can be helpful)
Good sources of plant-based vitamin A
(just remember the absorbing factor, each person will absorb it differently)
- Sweet Potatoes
For more food sources of vitamin A, check out World’s Healthiest Foods list.
*Also, there is a warning attached to vitamin A, especially when taken in synthetic supplement form. In excess of 10,000 IU’s a day, the synthetic version of vitamin A has shown to increase the chances of birth defects. Though Dr. Price found that many cultures consumed much more than this through whole foods. So find it in your foods before you turn to supplements!