The last thing I want to be is alarmist, so I don’t always post every little health scare that I find on the internet here.
For a while I’ve been hearing murmurs of concern as regards Vitamin A, and I’ve resisted posting. Finally, though, there’s some hard data to back everything up — which means it’s time to talk.
Vitamin A is a necessary part of everyone’s diet, celiac or no. According to the NIH, Vitamin A plays, “an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation,” while also regulating the immune system, promoting, “healthy surface linings of the eyes and the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts,” and more. It’s also often found in acne medications.
However, it turns out that Vitamin A is also inflammatory. And if you’ve been reading up on your celiac disease and gluten intolerance, you’ll know that inflammation plays a big role.
The study in question was published in March in the journal Nature, and contains research from a number of respected American institutions. As the abstract explains, individuals with celiac disease, “develop inflammatory T-cell and antibody responses against dietary gluten.” Retinoic acid, a metabolite of Vitamin A, plays a role in regulating intestinal response — and, “in a stressed intestinal environment, retinoic acid acted as an adjuvant that promoted rather than prevented inflammatory cellular and humoral responses to fed antigen.”
In short, what it means is that if you stress your gut out — eg if you get glutened — the Vitamin A floating around your system might make the reaction worse.
My interpretation: This isn’t to say that those of us with celiac disease should avoid Vitamin A (it’s important stuff). However, if you know you’ve exposed yourself to something bad it might be prudent not to eat something full of Vitamin A for a little while.
What foods are high in Vitamin A? Healthaliciousness.com reports liver, paprika/red pepper/chili powder, sweet potatoes, carrots and dark leafy greens as the top 5 foods. Yum…but also, who knew?