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Vitamins and Minerals

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Protecting your body against attack with Vitamin A

Vitamin A is best known for its ability to promote and maintain healthy eyesight, but has also become famous as an anti-infective vitamin because it helps to build the immune system and protect the membranes in the body. These membranes, which are found in the lining of the nose, throat, lungs, genital tract and gut are the body’s first line of defence against attack by harmful bacteria and viruses.

Vitamin A comes in two forms. The first is retinal which is found in animal products like liver, eggs, butter and fish liver oils, and the second is beta-carotene which is found in dark orange vegetables, dark leafy green vegetables and fruits. Carrots, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli and cabbage are all excellent sources of beta-carotene.

The functions of vitamin A

• In the form of retinol, vitamin A helps to promote healthy vision. It also assists in preventing night blindness and helps the eye to adapt from bright light to darkness.
• It keeps infections like colds, flu and bronchitis at bay. Vitamin A aids with the healing of damaged lung tissue in those who have suffered from bronchitis.
• Assists in relieving inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
• Treats skin disorders like acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.
• Wards off cold sores. Vitamin A is well known for its anti-viral properties and can be taken to boost the immune system. The liquid form of this vitamin can be applied directly to the cold sore.
• Rectifies hair and scalp problems. One of the first symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency is a flaking of the scalp.
• Promotes the healing of minor burns, cuts, and scrapes. When applied to the skin, vitamin A cream or ointment can speed up the healing of minor cuts and burns.
• Vitamin A is helpful in protecting the lining of the digestive tract and may therefore ease the symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease and ulcers.
• Vitamin A helps to boost the immune system by optimising the infection fighting abilities of the white blood cells. It is vital for the growth of bones, cell division in the body and human reproduction.
It is impossible to get too much vitamin A from the nutrients in foods but caution is advised if vitamin A supplements are being taken. Symptoms of vitamin A toxicity include dry and cracking skin, brittle nails, excessive hair loss, bleeding gums, weight loss, irritability, nausea, and fatigue. Pregnant women should avoid concentrated sources of vitamin A such as liver and supplements unless otherwise advised by their doctor.

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