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Ep63 – The Micronutrients Series: Fat Soluble Vitamins Part 1 (Vitamin A)

Updated: Oct 27, 2023


00:00

Hello, hello, you are listening to Katy Bradbury, nutritional therapist and registered nurse. Today’s podcast episode is called the ‘Micronutrient Series, Fat Soluble Vitamins Part 1.’

00:28

So, hello, good evening to you. Happy Sunday to any of you who do listen to the podcast as it comes out on Sunday night. Otherwise, Happy Monday if you tend to listen on Monday. I would actually really, really love to hear a bit more about where and when you listen to the podcast. So if you want to drop me an email at support@katybradbury.com or drop me a DM on Instagram at KatyBradburyHealth or find me in my Facebook group, I’d absolutely love to know when and where you tend to listen to the podcast because I know I’ve got quite a few listeners around. I know who some of them are, but the rest of you are a bit of a mystery, so I’d love to get a bit more engagement from you and hear a little bit more about my listeners and where you’re at on your journey.

01:26

But look, I’ve been thinking about content actually for the podcast because I’ve been going for over a year now, and it’s got me thinking that the last couple of weeks, I’ve been wondering where to go next with the podcast and what is going to be the most useful stuff to cover. When I was thinking about what to cover today and over the next few weeks, I was reflecting a little bit on something I spoke about in my Facebook group this week, actually, which was around the fact that lots of my one to one clients who I saw this week, I didn’t give them any nutritional advice at all and I was talking a little bit about why that was and some of the examples because they were all completely different examples of why we didn’t speak about nutrition. For some of them, it was, we spoke about nutrition, but in a more indirect way, so we spoke about how they might not be absorbing nutrients so well and things that we could do to manage that. For others, it was things like having a bit of a debrief session after pregnancy loss, and having a chat about self-worth was another big thing. With another client I saw this week, we were really focusing on stress and the impact that stress was having and ways that we might be able to manage that. So really, when I work with people, whether that’s in my one to one practice or in a group setting, if you are interested in working with me in a group setting, you might have caught my episode last week about my membership, which the doors are now open for that. And there are, at the time of recording, a few spots left at the introductory offer price of 50 pounds a month for anyone that wants to come and work with me as part of my lowest cost offer and get some really, I guess, longer termed group-level support. So if you’re curious to know a bit more about that, do go back and listen to last week’s episode. I will pop the sign-up link into the show notes for this week as well in case anyone wants to try and jump in on the intro offer while it’s still available.

04:23

So that got me thinking about the fact that although I am a nutrition therapist by name, when it comes to what I actually trade-in and what I actually offer people, it’s a bit broad; well, it’s a lot broader than that because it draws upon my experience of my nursing background, in gynaecology, in early pregnancy and things like counselling, my eating disorders training, my extensive training with work in behaviour change and advanced communication skills. Really I bring all of that into my practice, but I was thinking about where to take the podcast over the next few episodes and really, I thought what might be really nice actually is to come back to the nutrition because when it comes to nutrition, there is a lot to say and there’s a lot to understand.

05:33

I studied nutrition for three years to qualify as a nutritional therapist, and whilst I couldn’t possibly disseminate all of that information within this podcast, I thought that it might be nice to do some actual deep-dive sessions into individual micronutrients in relation to fertility and pregnancy, and have a little chat through really, because so many people that I speak to feel as though they’ve got a good diet feel as though they’ve got healthy diet, when we dig a little bit deeper into what and when they actually eat. It’s clear to me that there’s quite a lot of misunderstanding as to what a healthy diet is, especially in relation to fertility. That’s both in terms of the three macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fats, and also in terms of the broad array of micronutrients that are out there, too. So I thought, let’s do a bit of a deep dive in the podcast over the next, I guess, six or seven episodes, actually. And really start to think about some of those micronutrients. And when I’m talking about micronutrients, I’m really referring to vitamins and minerals.

07:08

Now I have covered vitamins and minerals on and off through the podcast when I’m talking about specific topics, like sperm health and egg health, and a few other things, But I haven’t done spotlight sessions on them, and I thought, let’s go through, and I’m going to start with vitamins. And I’m going to start this series with fat soluble vitamins.

07:37

Now, again, for a bit of backstory, what I originally thought of this idea, I thought, ‘Okay, well, I’ll spend the first episode talking about the fat soluble vitamins. Then I’ll talk about the water soluble vitamins, and then I can talk about minerals’. And I started planning the episode for fat soluble vitamins, and there was just so much information that I wanted to get across that I thought actually, it doesn’t do it justice to try and lump them all together. Let’s break it down. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Over the next three or four episodes, I am going to cover the fat soluble vitamins. So this is part one, and in today’s episode, I’m going to cover vitamin A. Now a quick bit of background, you might be wondering, you know, when you’re hearing me say the fat soluble vitamins, the water soluble vitamins, that might be alien to you, you might not know what I mean by that. So to be very clear, is that the fat soluble vitamins comprise vitamins A, D, E, and K, so vitamins A, D, E and K, ‘ADEK’ and the water soluble vitamins, which I’ll cover afterwards, is vitamin C and the B vitamins, of which there are quite a few. So the water soluble vitamins dissolve in water, whereas the fat soluble vitamins don’t, and they need lipids. They need fats in order to actually be absorbed.

09:40

So vitamin A the first fat soluble vitamin that I want to talk about in relation to fertility. To give you a bit of background on vitamin A because I think vitamin A is much misunderstood, and it’s also a vitamin that lots of us might be quite lacking in our diet and if I tell you why you might understand. So vitamin A is primarily found, so vitamin A is actually not a vitamin in itself, it’s more a collection of compounds, and collectively they’re known as retinoids. So it’s a number of different, and so you might have heard when you’re thinking about vitamin A, or if you take a prenatal supplement and you look at the ingredients, you might notice that some of it would say preformed vitamin A or retinol equivalent. So what that is referring to is the type of vitamin A that is found in animal products. And really, what we know about Retinol is that it is the most bioavailable, I guess because your body doesn’t have to undergo a conversion process. So I don’t know if you have listened to the episode that I did on folate quite a long time ago now, so you’d have to be a bit of a longtime listener, but I did do an episode on folate back last year sometime and what I shared about folate in that episode is that sometimes, so I spoke a little bit about the differences between folic acid and folate, and really we take that in the context of bioavailability. So how easily can the body actually utilise it in the form that we consume it? In the case of vitamin A, it does come in other forms, but the preformed vitamin A or the Retinol is the most easily usable because it’s used in that form already. Other forms of vitamin A tend to have to go through some conversion in order to become usable in the body. So some of that is with things such as we would call them carotenoids. So carotenoids, this is where the whole carrots will help you see in the dark come from because vitamin A, one of the key features of vitamin A, is that it does help with maintaining vision and eyesight. And one of the symptoms of long term vitamin A deficiency is night blindness, so this is where the expression carrots will help you see in the dark comes from, and it’s because carrots are rich in carotenoids, so beta carotene specifically, and that is a type of vitamin A in that it converts into vitamin A once it’s consumed in the body. Now what we know about the beta carotenes and beta carotenes are widely found in the plant world, mostly in the form of orange vegetables such as carrots. I already mentioned butternut squash, pumpkins, and sweet potato, those kinds of foods. So the orange pigment, but also in dark green leafy veg so things like kale and spinach. But interestingly, the reason lots of people might be a bit depleted potentially in vitamin A is because lots of people are moving away from eating animal products now, so lots of people who come to me are vegetarian, some are even vegan, but even if you did eat meat or animal products like meat, I do, I am not a vegetarian, but even if you do eat animal products, the type of animal products that are richest in vitamin A include organ meats, such as liver would be one of the big ones and then things like cod liver oil. So yeah, things like beef liver cod liver oil.

14:26

Egg and dairy do contain a little bit, but other than that, that’s it. I mean, there’s a little bit in some seafood, but other than that, it’s not like, oh well, if you eat a chicken breast three times a week that you would be getting loads of vitamin A. So you can probably see from that, that vitamin A comes from the types of meat or animal products that even meat eaters tend to shy away from in the modern world. And we consider the fact that vegetable sources or plant sources of vitamin A in their beta carotene, or carotenoid form, are sometimes a little bit harder to actually utilise. And a lot of that depends on our genes, and you can really start to see that vitamin A could be something that is quite depleted for a lot of people.

15:39

The other thing to mention in terms of the absorption of vitamin A, and I will sprinkle this message through the fat soluble vitamins section, is that in order to absorb the fat soluble nutrients, we need to be absorbing fat, okay, so we need to have, I think I spoke a little bit about this in the digestive series, but we need to be able to have like a good amount of well functioning bile acid in order to help us actually absorb fats, and also a good amount of stomach acid, etc. And if we’re not absorbing fats very well, then by proxy, we are also less likely to be able to absorb the fat soluble nutrients very well.

16:31

I often see people who are really, really low in vitamin D, even people who supplement. So vitamin D is one of the other fats or lipids, and I will talk about vitamin D next episode in more detail, but I often do see that vitamin A is not one that we typically test for. You can test for vitamin A, there are a couple of ways you can do that you can test for vitamin A, there is a blood test on Medhi checks for vitamin A, it’s 150 quid, so it’s, no sorry £120. But only for that one marker. So it’s quite a pricey test to do compared to if you were to measure vitamin D, that’s 39 pounds. But you can also measure your vitamin A status by looking at other tests. So, for example, the Nutrival test is another one that I use occasionally, which is a really broad spectrum nutrient test that looks at everything so that you can test for it, but I guess it’s just to recognise that lots of people might be depleted in it.

17:46

So we can think about supplementing vitamin A as well. There’s quite a lot of fear around supplementing with vitamin A, and for a good reason. The thing with vitamin A, and indeed all of the fat soluble vitamins, is in the same way that in homeostasis, so the body maintaining its normal physical function requires tightly regimented markers. So what I’m referring to here, in terms of homeostasis, and the body, for example, is that our blood pH, the pH of our blood, has to be kept within; I’m having a mind blank now because I wasn’t going a bit off the cuff here I’m going on a bit of a tangent, so from memory, it’s 7.35 to 7.45. But I could be completely making that up because I didn’t prepare the notes but going back to my nursing days, that’s what it is.

18:49

So really, really tight measures of the blood and the same for blood glucose, you know, really, really tight parameters of what is safe for the body. It’s the same for the fat soluble nutrients, so more is not always better. And vitamin A particularly in the context of fertility and pregnancy, is often shied away from. The reason for that is because vitamin A does have quite clear levels of toxicity, and if you reach vitamin A toxicity, or if we supplement into a higher dose of preformed Retinol or vitamin A in pregnancy, there was some research a while back that showed that that could have teratogenic effects on a foetus meaning it can cause severe birth defects. So there’s a lot of fear around vitamin A actually, and for any of you who are or have been pregnant in the past, you might be aware that a lot of the advice that you might get from your midwives during pregnancy around things to eat and avoid in pregnancy, a lot of that includes liver. The reason for that is because there is this fear around vitamin A toxicity in pregnancy because of these links with foetal development. However, we also know that the opposite is true. So vitamin A, one of its functions as well as helping with vision and helping with maintaining eyesight and sensing light is cellular growth and reproductive function. So vitamin A is essential for foetal development. And as much as we see negative effects from vitamin A toxicity in pregnancy, we also see negative effects from vitamin A deficiency. So it’s a balance. And I’m not going to tell you in this podcast episode how much vitamin A or how much you should be supplementing with because it is different for everyone, and it does depend on a myriad of factors. So if you do want to get that personalised advice, you’ll probably know by now that I never give personalised advice in the podcast, especially when it comes to supplements, because it simply wouldn’t be safe to do so. But if you do want personalised advice on vitamin A or any nutrients, or anything around your fertility really, then please do know that you can work with me one to one should you want to, and should you want that that individualised support. And my doors are open for discovery calls at the time of recording the podcast, so I do have some availability for June. So do let me know if you want to book in for a free call to chat about what it will look like to work together in any of my one to one packages. So I will put the link to book a discovery call into the show notes as well.

22:04

So other functions of vitamin A, and you can see now why I choose to do vitamin A and work through the nutrients on a singular basis. Other critical functions of vitamin A include so the vision I’ve spoken about, and the immune system is a huge, huge part of it. And so vitamin A is really important in creating some cells within the immune system. So T cells and B cells. And without vitamin A, the T cells and B cells just can’t be synthesised very well. So we need that vitamin A in order to actually produce those cells. But vitamin A is also really involved in the inflammatory response as well. And I know that I have spoken negatively before about inflammation being a bad thing in terms of fertility. What I’m not referring to is acute inflammation, inflammation is a part of the immune system, and it absolutely has a place in our bodies because without inflammation, we could just become overrun by bacteria or viruses or whatever it is that is out there, and it can do severe harm. So we do want to have a really beautifully functioning immune system that has the correct type of inflammatory responses. And what we know about vitamin A, along with the other fat soluble vitamins actually, which I’ll talk more about in the other episodes, but vitamin A is critical in this correct inflammatory response. And we consider vitamin A to be immunomodulatory in nature. And the term immunomodulator is really, really important because what it refers to is the way in which it can support the immune system in a way that is not necessarily going to make it go into overdrive. The context for which this is really important is that its immune modulator rather than immunostimulatory is in the context of autoimmunity. So lots of the people that work with me do say because they have some kind of autoimmune condition. A lot of the time that comes out of the woodwork when we look in detail because I always look at the thyroid in detail with my clients and do testing around the thyroid. So sometimes that comes up as part of our testing that we will find thyroid autoantibodies and in the thyroid testing that we do, but lots of people might already be aware that they have some autoimmunity going on, for example, celiac disease or if they have had testing done for things like antiphospholipid syndrome or lupus or any kind of connective tissue disorder or rheumatoid arthritis or any that there are. There are so many autoimmune conditions out there, and so vitamin A being an immuno modulator in nature is important because we know then it could be helpful for modulating that immune response in the context of autoimmunity rather than sending it on overdrive. Because what we don’t want to do in the context of autoimmunity, especially since we know that autoimmunity can be a driver of infertility and pregnancy loss as well, is we don’t want to put the immune system on overdrive. So, vitamin A is a beautiful immunomodulatory vitamin.

26:15

So some of the other things that it does include, I already mentioned around the cell growth and, by proxy, embryo development. So embryo development, vitamin A is really important for but also sperm production. So spermatogenesis requires adequate vitamin A in order for sperm to even be able to be made in the first place.

26:46

So really, that’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of some of the functions of vitamin A. We also know that it links in with the thyroid gland, even outside of autoimmunity that I already spoke about. It links to susceptibility to infectious disease, so the immune response that I spoke about already and it’s great for skin health as well. So vitamin A is often included as an ingredient in expensive cosmetics, like face creams and stuff like that, as being really rejuvenating to the skin. So it’s involved in keratin production. It’s also linked to, so vitamin A deficiency has also been linked to poor responses to vaccines, which is also perhaps quite significant in today’s world. So lots and lots of things there in terms of the functioning of vitamin A. It links in with lung health as well.

28:10

So you can understand that vitamin A is a super important nutrient and not just because it’s directly involved in foetal development and the production of sperm, but because of all the things that, by proxy, we know can impact fertility and healthy pregnancy like inflammation, like the immune system, like autoimmunity. So, really, we want to make sure that our vitamin A is adequate. As I say, you can test for it. If anyone wants to do that, that’s fine but often, what I can do is, particularly in my one to one work, I can help you do an assessment of whether the vitamin A that you are having is the right type the right amount for you. And then whether you ought to be supplementing and, if so, by how much. So that can be a really important thing to figure out. But hopefully, even in the recording of this episode, this has helped you to gain an understanding of whether you may or may not have adequate levels of vitamin A in your diet and or in your supplements. Remember, just a caveat again once more in case you weren’t paying attention earlier in the episode and tuned in just now. Please do remember that if you are thinking about supplementing with vitamin A, do you know that more is not better? To reiterate what I said before about the toxicity. It’s not like vitamin B12, where you can stick in like, you know, several 1000 times the recommended daily dosage, and it’d be okay. We need to be really careful with it. So, as important as it is to get it right, it’s also easy to get it wrong. And I think that’s where lots of the fear around Vitamin A has been generated, especially by people who perhaps don’t understand it that well like, as I said before, the advice that I often hear about people getting from midwives in pregnancy about, you know, avoid altogether.

30:21

So, that’s vitamin A in a nutshell. I am more than happy to answer generalised questions about vitamin A and any other nutrient in my weekly support calls with my wonderful members. They commence this week in the group membership. Now, remember, I can’t give personalised advice on exactly how much vitamin A you should be taking in terms of supplements. But what I can do for anyone who is in my lovely membership who do, and I know that lots of the people who are joining the membership do listen to the podcast., so if anyone is coming into the membership and you want to inquire about whether across any of this series, whether you are getting if you’re concerned about whether you’re getting the rights, right amounts of these micronutrients, but also the macronutrients, that is what I’m here for in the membership. So you know, really, it’s, it’s a matter of troubleshooting, it’s a matter of saying, Okay, this is perhaps what my diet looks like, at the moment, do we think that I’m lacking in vitamin A? am I lacking in vitamin B? could I use some more magnesium? And we can absolutely talk through what some of those dietary sources of those foods are to help you increase them to ensure that you are covered for all of your basic macro and micronutrients in generalised terms. So I’m more than happy to support you with that, either in terms of supplements and really getting the personalised advice in my one to one work, or within the context of the group membership, which is, at the moment, there are just a few more slots left at the 50 pounds a month rate. So it really is the cheapest way you can work with me, and you can cancel anytime as well. So that’s it. That’s vitamin A in a nutshell. And I will be back next week to talk about vitamin D. And I would love, love, love, love to get a bit of feedback from you on whether you’re finding these podcast episodes helpful.

32:40

You can do that by giving me some stars on your podcast platform wherever you listen. And also, by giving a review, and it doesn’t have to be a big old hefty review, just a few words would be great. So, as usual, if you have any questions, please do get in touch at support@Katybradbury.com. I always love hearing from you and getting to know my listeners. And for anyone that does want to take this further and get either individualised support or group level support. I should put the link in the show notes to a) sign up for the weekly membership and b) begin a 30-minute discovery call with me to talk about. Alright, that is all from me. I hope you found that useful and have a wonderful week. Take care

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