Most of my clients have heard of vitamin E, but they might not understand how important it is or exactly how it works. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with several forms, but the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E is the only one used by the human body.
The role of vitamin E
The primary role of vitamin E is to act as an antioxidant, scavenging those pesky free radicals that can damage cells. Free radicals are unstable. To get back into balance, they steal electrons from other molecules in a process called oxidation.
We talk a lot about antioxidants here at More Than Healthy, because oxidative stress leads to a smorgasbord of health conditions. Experts say it is linked to just about every malady you can think of, including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, and more. It also causes us to age.
Additionally, vitamin E is necessary for proper immune function and cellular signaling. Every living thing relies on an extensive array of signaling pathways between cells in order to coordinate proper growth, regulation, and functioning of cells and tissues. Problems in cellular signaling can lead to cancer and other diseases.
Vitamin E is also important to vision, reproduction, and brain, blood, and skin health.
Signs of a vitamin E deficiency
The following are common signs of a vitamin E deficiency:
- Retinopathy: Damage to the retina of the eyes can impair vision),
- Ataxia: A loss of control of body movements
- Decreased immune function
- Peripheral neuropathy: Damage to the peripheral nerves, usually in hands or feet, causing weakness or pain
Even though a deficiency of vitamin E is rare in the U.S., people with digestive disorders (like pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, IBS, and celiac disease), or those with a leaky gut, like David, can develop a vitamin E deficiency.
Vitamin E and leaky gut syndrome
David’s side effect was peripheral neuropathy, which caused excruciating pain in his feet. Twenty-five years ago his neurologists told him that all he could do about it was take more potent and vital pain medication and that the condition would only worsen.
Fortunately, we discovered that he had a leaky gut, and that this was contributing to his peripheral neuropathy. Once we worked on healing that, he could absorb the vitamins and minerals in his food, and the pain in his feet started to disappear.
It’s important to note that the pain medication he was taking was actually contributing to his gut issues, causing inflammation and worsening the neuropathy. It was a vicious cycle: more pain, more medication, more damage to his gut, more inflammation, and more pain.
When David was finally able to break that cycle, the healing began. He no longer takes any pain medication, and his neuropathy is officially in remission.
We’ve seen that with so many things since we’ve healed David’s leaky gut. He can now assimilate the vitamins and minerals in his food, which means his body can use them for health and repair.
Our four favorite benefits of the right amount of vitamin E
There are several benefits of getting the right amount of vitamin E. Here are four of our favorites.
Benefit #1: Reduces oxidative stress
The first benefit goes along with what we talked about above. The right amount of vitamin E reduces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a condition that occurs when there’s an imbalance between your body’s antioxidant defenses and the production and accumulation of compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS). This can lead to cellular damage and increased risk of many diseases. In David’s case, it contributed to the deterioration of the sheathing around the nerve bundles and caused his neuropathy.
Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body. In fact, studies have shown that supplementing with high doses of vitamin E can reduce markers of oxidative stress and boost antioxidant defenses.
A 2018 study of 54 people with diabetic neuropathy (the kidney damage caused by high blood sugar) found that supplementing with 8900 IU of vitamin E per day for 12 weeks significantly increased levels of glutathione peroxidase (GPx) compared with a placebo.
GPx is a group of antioxidant enzymes that protect cells from oxidative damage. Even though David had a different form of neuropathy, we’re guessing that’s what happened to him. His doctor told him that if he worked to get the inflammation out of his body, his body would go to work healing itself, and his pain would go away.
Gratefully, that’s exactly what happened.
Another study from 2021 involved women with endometriosis. Study results showed that supplementing with a combination of vitamin E and vitamin C each day for eight weeks reduced markers of oxidative stress.
Benefit #2: Reduce heart disease factors
Heart disease, still the number one killer in our nation, is always top of mind when helping my clients. Promising research suggests that vitamin E supplements may help reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high LDL (the bad cholesterol), and triglycerides.
A 2019 review of 18 studies found that vitamin E supplements significantly reduced systolic blood pressure readings (that’s the top number). Some studies also show that taking vitamin E along with omega-3 supplements reduces LDL and triglycerides in people with metabolic syndrome. This syndrome covers a group of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease and other health conditions.
We’re all about anything that helps lower David’s risk of heart disease. Even though we’ve been able to dramatically lower his risk over the past five years, tests show that he is still at a higher risk than other men his age. One reason for that is that he has fatty liver despite not drinking alcohol. This leads us to benefit #3.
Benefit #3: Helps Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
The condition David struggles with is actually called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. According to research, vitamin E supplements may improve some aspects of health in people with NAFLD.
This is a common condition where there is an accumulation of liver fat in people who drink little to no alcohol. The cause of NAFLD is unknown, but risk factors include obesity, gastric bypass surgery, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. There are usually no symptoms, and no standard treatment exists.
Over 100 million Americans have a fatty liver, but most of them don’t know it. 20 million of those will eventually develop liver fibrosis or NAFLD as a result. Five million of those will progress to liver cirrhosis or other diseases, which can lead to a liver transplant with end-stage liver failure. So this is something it’s very important to get on top of as early as possible.
A 2021 review of eight studies found that supplementing with vitamin E reduced certain levels of liver enzymes, decreased blood lipid levels, and improved liver health in people with NAFLD. Elevated lipids can indicate liver inflammation as well as liver damage in people with NAFLD.
David currently takes a supplement called Liver Care to help with this condition. (Note: This supplement is not available on Amazon; if you are interested in it reach out to me.) It has vitamin E in it from natural foods and herbs. We’re hopeful that his next bloodwork shows an improvement in this area.
l always find it interesting with all our work on our health, we still keep finding these health issues in our scans and bloodwork. Maintaining our health is truly a lifelong pursuit! I’m just so grateful we’re catching them early. Left unaddressed, they could become a significant health crisis down the road.
Benefit #4: Benefits skin health
You might have heard that vitamin E can benefit skin health. This is usually the reason that most of my clients are using vitamin E. They have some type of scarring, and they’re rubbing vitamin E on it to reduce the scar or make it go completely away.
Vitamin E was discovered in 1922 by researchers at the University of California who suggested it had beneficial properties for skin, especially in support of wound healing and scar repair. It is the main lipid-soluble antioxidant in the skin.
Vitamin E can be applied topically and has the ability to penetrate deep dermal tissue well. Its antioxidative property helps stabilize cell membranes, including cells affected by the inflammatory process. This reduces the amount of chemicals released by those cells.
Some research shows that vitamin E has a role in the treatment of skin lesions and scar formation, but more research is necessary. I just know there are a lot of people that swear by its results. If you’re interested in using the one we have used, we recommend Nature’s Bounty Vitamin E Oil.
Additional benefits of vitamin E
It’s worth noting that vitamin E may have some effects on certain neurological conditions.
Research shows that high-dose vitamin E might delay the progression of Alzheimer’s in people who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin E may also improve lung function. Studies show that vitamin E supplements can improve lung function and other symptoms for children and adults with asthma.
How to get more vitamin E in your diet
Now that we’ve talked about the benefits of vitamin E, let’s take a look at which foods you can eat to get your vitamin E naturally.
The best sources include plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Below is a chart of some of the best natural food sources of vitamin E.
Food sources of vitamin E
|Pumpkin Seeds||100 grams||35.10 mg, 233% DV|
|Wheat Germ Oil||1 TBL||20 mg, 135% DV|
|Sunflower Seeds||1 ounce||10 mg, 66% DV|
|Almonds||1 ounce||7.3 mg,48% DV|
|Hazelnut Oil||1 TBL||6.4 mg, 43% DV|
|Sunflower Oil||1 TBL||5.6 mg, 37% DV|
|Almond Oil||1 TBL||5.3 mg, 36% DV|
|Rice Bran Oil||1 TBL||4.4 mg, 20% DV|
|Hazelnuts||1 ounce||4.3 mg, 28% DV|
|Abalone||3 ounces||3.4 mg, 23% DV|
|Pumpkin||1 cup canned||3.2 mg,22% DV|
|Peanut Butter||2 TBL||3.0 mg, 20% DV|
|Pine Nuts||1 ounce||2.7 mg, 18% DV|
|Peanuts||1 ounce||2.4 mg, 16% DV|
|Salmon||Half a filet||2.0 mg, 14% DV|
|Avocado||Half||2.1 mg, 14% DV|
|Rainbow Trout||1 filet||2.0 mg, 13% DV|
|Red Sweet Pepper||1 medium||1.9 mg, 13% DV|
|Brazil Nuts||1 ounce||1.6 mg, 11% DV|
|Mango||Half a fruit||1.5 mg, 10% DV|
|Turnip Greens||1 cup||1.6 mg, 10% DV|
|Beet Greens||Half cup||1.3 mg, 9% DV|
|Kiwi||1 medium||1.0 mg, 7% DV|
|Blackberries||Half cup||0.8 mg, 6% DV|
|Collard Greens (raw)||1 cup||0.8 mg, 5% DV|
|Spinach||1 cup||0.6 mg, 4% DV|
|Dried Cranberries||1 ounce||0.6 mg, 4% DV|
|Pecans||1 ounce||0.4 mg, 3% DV|
|Cashew Nuts||1 ounce||0.3 mg, 3% DV|
|Apricots||1 medium||0.3 mg, 2% DV|
|Raspberries||10 pieces||0.2 mg, 1% DV|
And please remember…getting vitamin E from your foods is always better than supplements. That’s because, just like most vitamins, you don’t want to get too much of it, either. You can get too much vitamin E through supplementing. But there is no evidence of toxic effects from vitamin E found naturally in foods.
Vitamin E toxicity
Vitamin E toxicity happens due to excessive vitamin supplementation, not to diet alone. This is a potentially serious condition. Vitamin E can also interact with many medications.
One of the more severe complications of vitamin E toxicity is increased bleeding risk, especially in patients already on blood thinners. Another frightening side effect is life-threatening hemorrhagic strokes. Additional potential complications include gastrointestinal manifestations, weakness, fatigue, and emotional lability.
More Than Healthy Hair Analysis and vitamin E
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Note: Remember, we’re not doctors. We’re just sharing what’s worked for us on our health journey. You will want to consult your doctor before significantly changing your diet and supplementation.