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Vitamin A: The Key to A Tolerant Immune System?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010 by | Comments: 12
Reading Time: 9 minutes

By Michael Ash, BSc(Hons). DO. ND. FellowDipION

Vitamin D and Vitamin A are essential co-partners in immunological and bone health.[1],[2] I’m particularly excited about vitamin A because of its profound effects on the gut mucosal immune system—a specialty of mine. Just as vitamin D has attracted attention for its ability to increase antimicrobial peptides and help us defeat pathogens, it’s fascinating to me that vitamin A is also essential for the very tissues that protect us from the same pathogens.

The availability of vitamin A in our food is a key factor in a tolerant, highly functional immune system. To quote from the title of a brilliant commentary in the March 2008 issue of Nature’s Mucosal Immunology, “Vitamin A rewrites the ABCs of oral tolerance.”[3]

Vitamin A is crucial to a very sophisticated bi-directional mechanism that takes place in the digestive system and leads to immune tolerance across the entire gut lining. Immune tolerance is the essence of good health. An intolerant immune system will lead to a wide range of illnesses, and the gut is where many people first lose immune tolerance. Vitamin A (retinoic acid) is key to our ability to consume a wide range of antigens (food) and yet not react adversely, and it’s quite fascinating.

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