Vitamin A metabolism and Circadian Rhythm.

This post is a work in progress! I actually hope to have a research lab that I know who is very interested in sleep disorders to help me out here.

What if sleep disorders are just impaired vitamin A metabolism?I constantly hear this from clients and patients, “When I eat “x” I can’t sleep.”


Zoey’s no sleep foods include: chocolate, beans, and french fries. These are all high oxalate foods. Oxalate is a potent inhibitor of LDH which lowers NAD recycling. Low NAD will prevent vitamin A metabolism to retinoic acid which is the “active” form of vitamin A in the body.

Luckily, Zoey never had plantain flour after noon. By the way, plantain flour is not low oxalate and this is what led to her current vitamin A toxicity issues. You can read the short story here, or for the long version you can head to

I am now convinced that we are cycling between retinol/retinal and retinoic acid throughout the day in various organs. I think that people who stay in a high retinol/retinal state have a risk of vitamin A toxicity.

If people have low NAD habits, they will have a high risk of toxicity, but even without toxicity, low NAD habits can lead to physiological low levels of retinoic acid in various organs.

I think we who are NAD compromised must compartmentalize. People with mitochondrial disorders definitely compartmentalize. They can’t have healthy skin AND sleep. They can’t have a normal immune system AND sleep. Then, when NAD is really low they can’t have any of these because there is no more retinoic acid to compartmentalize with.

Well, retinoic acid is a ligand for Retinoic Acid Related Orphan Receptors that code for many proteins that have various functions in the body including making circadian rhythm proteins. In a low NAD state we aren’t making retinoic acid in sufficient amounts. I see this with my own daughter and also with my clients. They have all the signs of vitamin A deficiency, but are actually vitamin A sufficient and many have hypervitaminosis A due to being in a low NAD state too long.

Circadian Rhythm Proteins!!! Zoey’s mouse model of MBD5 makes very low amounts of these. If you add in a functional vitamin A deficiency, retinoic acid deficiency, then….BAM…no sleep.

What if InZomnia (my nickname for Zoey’s sleep habits when they are disrupted) is actually poor retinoic acid production? I think it is.

How to win back sleep! The Solution?

  • First, if you aren’t vitamin A toxic, I would avoid high oxalate foods after 2PM daily.
  • If you are vitamin A toxic, you could still avoid high oxalate foods after 2PM daily, but be aware that you must fix your detox pathways before you start to mobilize more retinol/retinal to retinoic acid. Going low oxalate before you are able to detox high amounts of retinoic acid could be problematic. Read here for more information on this.
  • Getting 30 minutes of morning sunlight every morning without sunglasses to set the clock for triggering melatonin release. Melatonin isn’t the only circadian rhythm protein, but it is a big one. Avoid melatonin supplements. This impair vitamin A by lowering NAD+ and also using up NAD plus in metabolism. You can read more about that here.
  • Alternatively you can purchase a therapy light. I have a Verilux Happy Light that we use in our home.
  • Avoid blue light two hours before bed. You can buy glasses with blue blockers, or put your device in nighttime mode to decrease blue light.
  • Make your room COLD. It makes us want to stay under the covers. I’m sure it helps in other ways, but I haven’t researched this yet. Feel free to comment if you know more about this.
  • Establish a soothing bedtime routine. Perhaps a bath, a non-electronic book, and prayer, to get you in the sleepy mood you need to be in.

EGGS for sleep????

Eggs will help with sleep because a metabolite of cholesterol can be a ligand for ROR. Eggs are a good source of cholesterol. However, they also do contain vitamin A…that’s a whole controversy in the vitamin A detox world. The benefits of eggs, in my opinion, outweigh the risk. Eggs are a good source of phosphatidyl choline which is needed for the very last phase of liver detoxification when drug metabolites (and vitamin A metabolites) are excreted into bile for removal from the body. At the same time that bile salt is excreted, phosphatidyl choline also leaves the liver cells. Hypervitaminosis A places a huge burden on phosphatidyl choline needs and over medication can do this as well. We can add to that the need to metabolize environmental toxins, and it is easy to see that phosphatidyl choline is an under-rated nutrient.

Also, statins would be bad here because they lower cholesterol production. No amount of coenzyme Q10 restoration is going to replace the metabolites of cholesterol that are needed as ROR ligands. These effects could go beyond just sleep proteins as you can see in this article.

So…that’s about it. Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the NAD bugs bite!

This is not written to diagnose or treat a condition, but only for informative purposes. Please consult your doctor before stopping or starting medications or supplements, and before making dietary or lifestyle changes based on the information provided. –  Meredith Arthur, MS, RD, LD 

2 thoughts on “Vitamin A metabolism and Circadian Rhythm.”

  1. Thank you for giving these presentations to help us understand the pathways and why we seem to get health symptoms that appear unrelated but actually dovetail into the broken metabolic process. In a quest to understand macular degeneration I’ve been listening to Dr. Lisa Wiedeman (YT CarnivoreDoctor) and trying to understand how we have skewed our pathways following common recommended nutritional guidelines. Oxalates, Vit A, protein, sugar, so many confusing factors. Have you unraveled pieces that could help form a nutritional guideline for clearing Vit A, oxalate issues? I would be profoundly grateful for suggestions, I know you have precious little time, so thank you for everything you present, paying forward! 🙂

    1. Carol,
      Thanks so much for commenting. I am actually still unraveling those pieces, but it is coming together. I have a friend who has asked for a diet plan and is willing to be my guinea pig. So, I should be coming up with something sort of standard soon. I think the biggest problem with going by a standard meal plan without supervision in relation to vitamin A toxicity, is that we sometimes get into a situation where we are metabolizing vitamin A to retinoic acid too fast, but may not be clearing it from the body. This will cause major issues such as inability to heal due to monocytes not differentiating to macrophages. Or problems with bleeding due to low platelet counts or poor platelet aggregation because excess retinoic acid can cause this to happen as well. One thing I noticed in a popular oxalate group on facebook is that the nutritionists in there recommend cycling between oxalate levels to help with “dumping syndrome”. Well, many of the symptoms of dumping are actually fluctuations between retinol/retinal and retinoic acid. So when doing a diet, we could actually feel horrible at any moment and be causing damage to our bodies. So your instinct is correct that this is a huge puzzle.

      Write now I’m working out what stages of retinoid my clients are in (and myself too) as well as the factors that put us in those stages. I hope to have a list of symptoms that you can look at to figure out where you are and then a solution to adjust things to make you more comfortable if that makes any sense. For example, one of my clients ended up with alopecia due to high retinoic acid. She was devastated! Very young lady. What caused it? She switched to coconut oil as her fat. This lowered her oleic acid intake significantly. Oleic acid can be metabolized to phosphatidylethanolamine (PE). I think that she accidently freed up a large amount of retinaldehyde (can be bound to PE) which was metabolized to retinoic acid, but also that she has very slow CYP3A4 activity due to taking a medication everyday that also needs this enzyme for metabolism. So, retinoic acid is stuck in her body, and it triggered the hair loss. How to fix this? We added avocado oil back to her diet, but not completely replacing the coconut oil. This has helped to slow down the retinoic acid production and she is getting some hair growth!

      A puzzle for sure!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *