Vitamin A (Retinoic acid) Vital for Normal Gut Immune System Development

vitaminA  Our skin and the lining of the GI track from mouth to anus represent the two largest surface areas where our body comes into contact with the outside world. We have an intricate immune system that allows our bodies to absorb nutrients and avoid toxins. There is increasing awareness that the gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which represents more than 50% of our entire immune system, is vital to health and normal brain function. What can we do to maximize our chances of having a vibrant and healthy GALT?

In the study, “Retinoic Acid Differentially Regulates the Migration of Innate Lymphoid Cell Subsets to the Gut,” authors point out that ILC1 and ILC3, Innate lymphoid cells, undergo a homing receptor switch to migrate to the gut. They show that this process is regulated by the gut-specific tissue factor retinoic acid (vitamin A). You can read the study here…

We have known that vitamin A is important in disease prevention, avoiding infections and is even a treatment for measles. In a recent review of the vitamin A role in our immune system, “The pleiotropic role of vitamin A in regulating mucosal immunity,” we see the role of vitamin A is extensive. They write, “the role of vitamin A on mucosal immunity is far beyond regulating the adaptive Th1-Th2 cell response, but is highly pleiotropic and more complicating, e.g., polarizing the phenotype of mucosal DCs and macrophages, directing gut-homing migration of T and B cells, inducing differentiation of effector T cells and Treg subpopulation, balancing mucosal ILCs subpopulation and influencing the composition of microbiota.” Indeed there is a vital role for vitamin A in regulating mucosal immunity. You can read the study here…

The natural sources of vitamin A are fish oil (cod liver oil being especially high in vitamin A) and the yellow vegetables, like carrots, squash, and cantaloupe, all of which are high in beta carotene that we convert to retinoic acid (vitamin A). Be sure you are eating these during pregnancy and while breast feeding, and consider supplementing your infant with a small amount of cod liver oil. Studies have shown that supplementing with cod liver oil (1/2 teaspoon before age 1 and 1 teaspoon after age 1) reduces infections. Learn more about the benefits of cod liver oil here…



Dr. Paul



One comment

  • Gamma Deanne

    I would emphasize that NON-GMO fruits and vegetables a VERY important, otherwise you are defeating the whole purpose. Also, research cod liver oil extensively before buying as the location it is caught in and the form of processing used is also very important. Do not used fermented CLO if you have not thoroughly researched the pros and cons.

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