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Ep65 – The Micronutrients Series: Fat Soluble Vitamins Part 3 (Vitamin E)

Updated: Oct 27, 2023


Hello, hello, you’re listening to Katy Bradbury, nutritional therapist and registered nurse. Today’s podcast episode is called the micronutrient series, fat soluble vitamins part three.


So hello, and welcome to this week’s episode. If you have been following the show over the last few episodes, you will know that today, or in the last few weeks, I have decided to focus back really intricately on nutrition within the podcast. And part of the reason for that is because I really felt as though the spotlight really deserved to be shone on each individual vitamin and mineral as it relates to fertility. So I thought I’d work my way through, really starting off with vitamins and then continuing on to talk about some of my favourite minerals with regards to fertility. And I guess this is really to highlight, ultimately, the fact that a balanced, varied whole foods diet trumps anything else, and if you are getting a balanced, varied whole foods diet, and as I’ve mentioned time and time again, as a general principle, the Mediterranean diet is the best researched diet for fertility. It’s not only because of the macronutrient balance, the proteins, fats and carbohydrate balance within the Mediterranean diet that makes it favourable for fertility. I’m hoping that by shining the spotlight on each of these vitamins and minerals, it can really help you as my listeners to understand some of the real reasons why I might be telling you, like why I bang on about flaxseeds all the time, for example. And you know why there are certain things which I will sound like a broken record about when it comes to making suggestions. And a lot of that is because, through the suggestions that I make through the diet and lifestyle recommendations that I advocate, you are getting the full spectrum of these vitamins and minerals. So I’m starting off with vitamins, and within the vitamins, I’m starting off with the fat soluble vitamins. And this is the third episode. So today, I’m going to be covering vitamin E. There’s only one more left of the fat soluble after this. So they are vitamins A and vitamin D, which I covered in the last two episodes. Today we’re going to talk about vitamin E, which I’m really excited about. Next week, we’ll cover vitamin K, and then I will move on to the water soluble vitamins, which will be the B vitamins and vitamin C, before going on to talk about the minerals. So I’m really excited about this, and it might seem like a boring topic, but I hope it’s not. I hope that I’ve managed to present it in a way that is interesting and relevant for you and where you’re at in your fertility journey because I am thinking about these all of these as they relate specifically to fertility and also pregnancy having a healthy pregnancy.


So vitamin E, I actually, when I was thinking about what to talk to you about with regards to vitamin E, I had a memory, and I remembered back in my nutrition college days. I wish I had a date for this assignment. I don’t know, but it was quite a few years ago, and all of the references that I’ve used are quite old because I wish I knew when it was, but it was years ago anyway. And I did. We had an assignment in college where we had to create a fact sheet about we had to choose four. We had to choose two vitamins and two minerals, and I suddenly had a flashback to this assignment that I did back in the back in nutrition college, and I was like, I wonder if I can find that assignment anywhere, and I did. I managed to dig it out. And it was really interesting for me to look at this because this was, you know, really at the very start of my nutrition. I mean, I trained in nutrition for three years. And I would say that really it despite that, and I learned so much, I found it incredible, just absolutely incredible. It blew my mind.


But despite that, it’s really only in the years since qualifying in nutrition that I’ve really learned, like, half as much as what I know now. So if that even makes sense, it’s Sunday evening. Forgive me, forgive my ramblings. Anyway, the point being, I was interested to look back at this assignment on what I’d written about vitamin E. Back, I guess, in my really early days, is because of this, this was one of the early assignments as well back in the early days of my nutrition studies. Anyway, like it was pretty alright, you know, I gave myself a little pat on the back because it was quite interesting. And one of the really, bear in mind this is before I was really on a fertility journey of my own as well, so I was reading through this, and some of the things that I’ve highlighted in this sheet are that so that vitamin E, as I’ve said, already fat soluble micronutrients, its essential. And essential means not that it’s essential for life although it is, it’s essential in that the body cannot produce enough Vitamin E of its own. So we have to get it from elsewhere; we have to obtain it externally. And so fat soluble, so I’ve already mentioned just to reiterate, again, the fact that fat soluble vitamins require adequate fat in the diet to actually be transported properly and to be absorbed properly. But also we need to be able to digestively absorb the fats in order to also absorb and transport the fat soluble nutrients, so so really important that if there is any level of fat malabsorption going on in the body, then that that really does need to be addressed. So do go back, and if you haven’t already listened to my episodes, my mini-series on digestive health or digestion, please, please do go back and listen to that. Digestion might seem unrelated to fertility, but it’s not; it is the backbone of fertility because if you have all of these nutrients in your diet, but you’re not absorbing them right, then it’s pointless; they’re not going to be doing their job correctly.


So I’m coming back to vitamin E, and it is, so it’s got like four or eight actually different components, different types of isomers, they call it in terms of its chemical structure. And it’s broken down into two. So you’ve got tocopherols and tocotrienols, and tocopherols are genuinely the better absorbed in the body. So when we’re thinking about vitamin E, generally, then tocopherols are better absorbed than tocotrienols. And when we’re thinking about vitamin E, the really the thing that we’re really thinking about is antioxidant. And there are a number of antioxidants. Vitamin C is an antioxidant. I will talk about that another time. There are lots and lots of antioxidants. But Vitamin E is one of them. And vitamin E is an important antioxidant because it is a lipid antioxidant. It’s a fat antioxidant. So what that means, and the way I like to explain this is that on a cellular level in our bodies, each and every one of our cells, every single cell of the millions and millions of cells that we’ve got in our body is is held together by a lipid membrane, and so it’s the wall of the cell its the lipid membrane. And lipid means fat, fat and lipid are interchangeable. So we have these lipid membranes in every cell in our body, and the health of our lipid membranes is so important for the rest of our body because that is how everything is transported in and out of the cell all of the time. And that’s whether we’re talking about units of energy, whether we’re talking about electrolytes, whether we’re talking about vitamins, whether you’re whether we’re talking about nutrients. And these transactions are constantly happening, this exchange of things coming in and out of the cell. And it’s all via the lipid membrane. And so, we need our lipid membranes to be functioning as optimally as possible. But unfortunately, cells are pretty small, and they’re pretty delicate. The lipid membranes can be subject to oxidative damage. And the way I like to think about that is if we think about fats and oils, sometimes you might open a bottle of oil that has maybe been in the cupboard or maybe even left outside of the cupboard for some time, maybe had a lot of exposure to direct sunlight and heat. Maybe you’ve been open for a long time, and you open that bottle, it’s like, oh, like a rancid smell comes out of it. Right. And that is that means that that fat has oxidised that oil has been subjected to oxidation. And it’s the same in our lipid membranes. Our lipid membranes can be subject to oxidative stress to damage. Antioxidants, so the fat soluble antioxidants like vitamin E, like coq10, are great for helping to repair and mop up some of that free radical damage, which, if I’m using terminology that you’re not comfortable or not familiar with here, please see it very simply as damage, right damage, and this is helping to mop up some of that damage. So really important, and really important in the context of cholesterol, as well. So again, vitamin E helps to inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which in turn can be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, etc.


Now, you might be wondering, hang on a minute, Katy. I thought you were going to talk about this in the context of fertility? I absolutely am. And it’s really important to remember that when we’re thinking about fertility as a symbol, a bit of a clue into what might be happening in terms of the rest of the body and drivers for health and disease. In terms of drivers for health and disease, then we do need to consider all of these things. And so if someone’s high risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and all of these kinds of things, because of the amount of oxidative stress that they’re under, then that is naturally going to be impacting their fertility as well. That doesn’t mean that someone with high blood pressure can’t get pregnant. But it does mean that the more, the more risk factors that a person has for their health in general, then the more you know, in terms of optimising health and optimising fertility, we really would want to be driving these things down driving these risks down, so that your body is a place where your reproductive system can say, oh, okay, great. We know that this is a really safe place. We know that this is a place where we can have a healthy pregnancy. Let’s switch it on. Let’s get going.


So specifically in terms of, Oh, one interesting thing, actually, that came out of this assignment, right at the bottom, I’ve got a little section. And I’ve spoken about in this assignment, my old assignment, I’ve spoken about the antioxidant properties, the cholesterol, or the cardiovascular disease, heavy metal, all of these things that I’ve already mentioned, how it links in with the immune system even. And then right at the bottom, I’ve got this tiny little section, where I’ve just said, and bear in mind, I didn’t really have much interest specifically in fertility back then. I’ve said Vitamin E is also associated with the reproductive system and the term tocopherol. So if you remember, I said that vitamin E is divided into tocopherol and tocotrienols. So the term tocopherol is derived from the Greek words tos and phero, together meaning to bear children. So that is really interesting and I wish that I’d expanded on that point back when I did this assignment, but I didn’t, unfortunately, but really the point of that is that we have known for a long time that vitamin E is associated with reproductive health.


Now, the Research Board core evidence is varied on vitamin E., and in terms of kind of medical trials where Vitamin E might have been supplemented, I think I said similar to the vitamin D piece last week as well like with vitamin D, there’s loads of evidence that says that vitamin D deficiency of vitamin D insufficiency is associated with all of these poor fertility outcomes, and how vitamin D, replenish and like good levels of vitamin D in the blood were associated with more positive outcomes, but not much in the way of clinical trials that say, Okay, well, if we do a trial where we give X amount of vitamin D to X amount of people in X circumstances, then does it increase the likelihood that they will have, you know, better pregnancy outcomes. So this is where some of the data is a bit lacking, to be quite honest. And, you know, perhaps this is an area where there should be more research. However, as I say, what we do know about vitamin E is that it is a powerful antioxidant. There is research around it in terms of both male fertility and female fertility. From a female fertility point of view, it’s understood to have an impact on egg health, so it can be used to help to prevent ovarian ageing. So for anyone who’s worried about that, who maybe has got a lower AMG, or they’re worried about their age, then Vitamin E is definitely a really important nutrient. Just to, you know, if nothing else, to help prevent that oxidative damage. And we know that eggs on a cellular level, the health of our eggs, we really want to be preventing that oxidative damage to and the same with sperm. For females, it is also thought to improve the endometrial lining.


So when given for three months, this is in supplement form. I’m not going to talk about doses because I don’t do that on this podcast. I don’t ever want anyone to run out and start taking supplements on the basis of something I’ve said in this podcast because it’s not appropriate. And you really need to get an expert eye cast on your situation and your individual circumstances before you start taking supplements. And I hope that that is really clear if you are a regular listener. So vitamin E supplementation for three months, I’m not going to talk about type. I’m not going to talk about dosages. But it is thought to be helpful for thickening the endometrial lining. So again, if you’re in a situation where you know you’ve got an issue with either your egg health, your partner’s sperm, or the endometrial lining, then Vitamin E could be a super helpful nutrient for you to consider.


Now I have to say that in my own practice, and whilst I do sometimes recommend vitamin E supplements, I love just recommending that people get enough vitamin E through their diet. Vitamin E is abundantly available in foods and eating, and this is where the Mediterranean diet comes in, which you’ll see in a moment when I start talking to you about some of the really great sources of vitamin E. So really, when we’re thinking about vitamin E, the first things that springs to mind are those oily foods, so things like nuts and seeds, olive oil, oily fatty fish, but also dark green leafy vegetables. And in fact, if we look at some of the top sources of vitamins E and vitamin E, sunflower seeds are really high up there. And then next in the kind of excellent range if you like a big height highest in vitamin E are a series of dark green leafy veg. And if you think that dark green leafy veg has to be limited to things like spinach and kale, You’re so wrong. Like, I’m going to give you a few examples here, but we’ve got things like yes, spinach, swiss chard, turnip greens, asparagus, beetroot greens, mustard greens, broccoli, yes, kale, collard greens. So, so many different types of dark green vegetables are really great sources of not just vitamin E, but all sorts of other nutrients like folate and vitamin C and even vitamin A, or beta carotene anyway, so dark green leafy vegetables are just hands down one of the best things that you can be eating on a really regular basis, as are those really great sources of healthy fats and so things like sunflower seeds, avocados are really rich in vitamin e, and then oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. Shrimp even is a good source of vitamin E and extra virgin olive oil. And then even things like green beans, leeks, carrots, kiwi fruit, raspberries, cranberries, they all have some vitamin E in them. And, of course, the rest of the nuts as well, like walnuts. So really, if you’re thinking about like a nice range of vegetables, and daily healthy fats in your diet, then you’re going to be giving your body a really lovely dose not just of healthy fats, but vitamin E as well. And this has such a protective impact on our health at the cellular level, including our egg health and including our sperm health. So really vitamin E, I always think of as this just really nourishing, and I own nutrients and nourishing, but I see it as so like healing almost and nutritive. And it works really well with vitamin C as well. So again, if we’re having those kinds of dark green leafy veg, which are also high in vitamin C, it’s a really nice combo because, as with all antioxidants, if you have too much of them. And I don’t think that you could get too much vitamin E from diet alone. But if you were supplementing with really high dose vitamin E, then you could be then at risk that that becomes bro-oxidative. And so we don’t want that. And so it is a balance to be struck, but the Vitamin C helps to actually mop up any possible any, like oxidative damage that might come from the vitamin E itself. So those two working in combination together work very synergistically. They complement each other beautifully.


So really, in a nutshell, it is to say that we know and have known for a very long time that vitamin E is really important for fertility. There is not a huge amount of research in the way of clinical trials in terms of supplementing it. But there is a lot of research into diets that contain a lot of vitamin E naturally and its impact on health and fertility.


So that’s, that’s about all I have to say on Vitamin E, to be honest. Hopefully, that’s been helpful. Really, I guess one of the big reminders to you, as I said at the start, is really optimising that digestion to make sure that you haven’t got any issues with absorbing it. In case any of my listeners are still scared of fats or still feel that fats are bad. Please, please, it’s high time we started to move away from that concept now. And if you’re not getting enough healthy fat in your diet through nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and good quality oils, then you’re just not going to be doing your body any service in terms of its reproductive health of so many levels.


So I hope you found that helpful today. I’d love to hear how you feel your vitamin E intake is at the moment and whether you have found this episode helpful. So do go ahead, give me a review, and get in touch. I’ve got all of the ways you can get in touch with me on the show notes, which are also within the iTunes app, if you click on the episode today and read the description. So do get in touch. Let me know where you’re at on your journey. And if you feel confused at all about anything that you feel you should be doing for your own health and your own fertility. I do have a couple of spaces opening up for one-to-one work in July, so if anyone listening thinks that it actually is really time that it got some tailored support with this stuff and started to do some digging started to do some of the investigations. I do have just a couple of slots for July. So if you would like to go ahead and book a discovery call with me, you can do that. The link is in the show notes, and we can have a little chat through and figure out whether I am the right person to help you.


Okay, speak to you next week. Have a lovely week. Bye-bye.

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