Vitamin A Worsens Gluten’s Inflammatory Effect For Celiacs

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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? reports liver, paprika/red pepper/chili powder, sweet potatoes, carrots and dark leafy greens as the top 5 foods. Yum…but also, who knew?

8 thoughts on “Vitamin A Worsens Gluten’s Inflammatory Effect For Celiacs”

  1. i didn’t buy the guide yet…thank you for sending me all this information…i’m taking cod liver oil also it has omega3 and vitamin a&d..375mg of vitamin that ok?…..

  2. This is a very preliminary study done on mice. It is not always possible to extrapolate animal study findingst to humans. It is, however, a provacative finding. It is also in line with studies done at Univ. of Chicago on the role of IL-15 and its promotion by retenoic acid. Since it is a preliminary study, it is premature to make any diet alterations.

  3. I am not surprised. I have good skin, but years ago I tried an eye cream with Vitamin A and thought my eyelids were going to fall off! The dermatologist chalked it up to being allergic to Retin A, but in light of my later Celiac diagnosis, I would say it was due to the auto-immune response.

  4. Interesting, in light of the acne med Accutane causing Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The article mentions acne meds, and a quick Google search tells me Accutane is a derivative of Vit A.

    I always wondered if maybe the victims had silent celiac which got triggered into active disease by the meds (and CD could’ve been the reason behind the acne in the first place)… Of course there are likely other situations besides CD where Vit A increases inflamation.

  5. Interest article and it makes sense. My husband is a celiac and funny enough he instinctively does not like carrot, sweet potatoes, chillies, anything spicy hot, green salad food. He always has a reaction, not a serious celiac one but just an uncomfortable reaction.

  6. I agree with Lynn that this is still at the basic research stage. It is totally inappropriate to draw any conclusion about vitamin consumption!

  7. I think there is something to this. I have celiac and am pretty good about gluten avoidance. I’ve heard about this correlation before and have noticed a distinct improvement since switching from my longtime multivitamin to one that doesn’t contain vitamin A. It’s called ebA Multivitamin “everything but A”.

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