Part 1: Diagnosing a Vitamin A Deficiency
1. Learn about the role of vitamin A
Vitamin A helps to maintain healthy skin, ensures good night vision and promotes strong tooth and bone formation. It also keeps tissue and mucous membranes working properly, and is also vital for digestive health, respiratory functions, reproduction and breastfeeding.
2. Recognize the symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin A deficiency can present itself in various ways, such as xerophthalmia, which is an inability to see at night, ulcerations of the cornea or keratomalacia, which is a clouding of the cornea. Other symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are chronically dry eyes, or rough or bubbled patches on the surface of the eyes.
3. Have your blood tested.
If you’re worried about your Vitamin A levels, you should go to your doctor and ask for a blood test. Your blood should contain 50-200 micrograms for every decileter. If a deficiency is found, your doctor might advise you to take vitamin A supplement.
4. Have your child tested.
Children are actually more likely to be affected by vitamin A deficiency, and symptoms of it include slowed growth and increased susceptibility to infection. Vitamin A deficiencies usually arise as a result of not drinking enough milk, or suffering a loss of excessive amounts of vitamin A due to chronic diarrhea.
5. Take precautions if you're pregnant.
In pregnant mothers, vitamin A deficiency can present itself during the third trimester. This is because the pregnancy puts heavy demand on nutrients and vitamins for both mother and fetus. Note that pregnant women should not take synthetic vitamin A and avoid high dosages because they can lead to fetal damage.
Part 2: Eating Vitamin-rich Foods
1. Eat a variety of vegetables.
Vegetables provide a vital source of vitamin A, and this is because they provide you with carotenoids such as beta-carotene. Orange, yellow or red vegetables are the best, so consider sweet potatoes, squash, carrots and pumpkin. With that being said, dark green vegetables such as kale or spinach are also great vitamin A sources.
2. Eat fruit.
Mangoes, apricots and cantaloupe are all great sources of vitamin A. In instances such as pregnancy, medical experts recommend that pregnant women should increase their plant-base vitamin A intake by 40% during the course of their pregnancy, and 90% following childbirth and the initiation of breastfeeding.
3. Add animal food sources to your diet.
Animal food sources provide the retinol form of vitamin A. Your body actually transforms plant-based vitamin A into retinol once they are digested. However, you need to be careful with your retinol intake because it’s absorbed quickly and excreted very slowly.
Vitamin A toxicity is characterized by nausea, vomiting, headaches, loss of appetite, dizziness and excessive fatigue. Also note that retinol levels in your body can be affected by using skin products that contain vitamin A, such as creams or acne medications.
4. Add dairy to your diet.
Milk, yogurt and cheese are also good vitamin A sources. In fact, a single cup of milk can provide you with 10 to 14% of the daily recommended value of vitamin A. Similarly, an ounce of cheese can provide you with between 1 and 6% of the daily recommended value.
5. Consult with your doctor or a nutritionist.
Should you have any concerns over vitamin A, then talking to a professional is never a bad idea. Your doctor might point you in the direction of a specific nutritionist or dietitian to help alleviate your concerns and put you on the right dietary path.
Part 3: Taking Vitamin A Supplements
1. Know the recommended limits for children.
Here are the recommended daily allowances of vitamin A for children:
• For infants up to 6 months old, the RDA for vitamin A is 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams).
• For infants 7-12 months old, the RDA for vitamin A is 500 micrograms (0.5 milligrams).
• For children 1-3 years old, the RDA for vitamin A is 300 micrograms (0.3 milligrams).
• For children 4-8 years old, the RDA for vitamin A is 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams).
• For children 9-13 years old, the RDA for vitamin A is 600 micrograms (0.6 milligrams).
• For children 14-18 years old, the RDA 700 micrograms (0.7 milligrams) for girls and 900 micrograms (0.9 milligrams) for boys.
2. Know the recommended limits for adults.
Here are the recommended daily allowances of vitamin A for adults:
• For men 19 years old and up, the RDA for vitamin A is 900 micrograms (0.9 milligrams).
• For women 19 years old and up, the RDA for vitamin A is 700 micrograms (0.7 milligrams).
• For pregnant women 18 years old or younger, the RDA for vitamin A is 750 micrograms (0.75 milligrams).
• For pregnant women 19 years old and up, the RDA for vitamin A is 770 micrograms (0.77 milligrams).
• For breastfeeding women 18 years old or younger, the RDA for vitamin A is 1,200 micrograms (1.2 milligrams).
• For breastfeeding women 19 years old and up, the RDA for vitamin A is 1,300 micrograms (1.3 milligrams).
3. Do not exceed the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A.
Here are the recommended daily allowances of vitamin A by all age groups:
• Infants less than one year old should not exceed 600 micrograms (0.6 milligrams) of vitamin A.
• Children 1-3 years old should not exceed 600 micrograms (0.6 milligrams) of vitamin A daily.
• Children 4-8 years old should not exceed 900 micrograms (0.9 milligrams) of vitamin A daily.
• Children 9-13 years old should not exceed 1,700 micrograms (1.7 milligrams) of vitamin A daily.
• Children 14-18 years old should not exceed 2,800 micrograms (2.8 milligrams) of vitamin A daily.
• Adults 19 years and up should not exceed 3,000 micrograms (3 milligrams) of vitamin A daily.