Vitamin E may be very helpful to women. Research shows relief from menstrual pains, as well as general relief from various menstrual disorders. Many problems of menopause, such as headaches, hot flashes, or vaginal itching due to dryness, may be reduced with the use of supplemental vitamin E. When birth control pills are used, the tocopherols may help protect the body from their possible side effects. Estrogen may decrease the effect of vitamin E, so more is needed when estrogen therapy is used. Vitamin E has been used both topically and orally with some success in the treatment of fibrocystic breast disease, or cystic mastitis, likely due to its protective mechanisms against estrogen, which seems to potentiate this disease.
Vitamin E’s antioxidant functions help to protect our cell membranes and lung tissue from pollution, particularly from ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air. Research in rats clearly showed their ability to tolerate increased ozone levels and to survive much longer with vitamin E. There is also some cardiac protection from smoke and alcohol with vitamin E, and it protects against the cardio-toxic effects of adriamycin, an anticancer drug.
Vitamin E has also been used to enhance immunity in the treatment of viral illness and to reduce the neurologic pain from shingles, a viral infection of the nerves and skin. It is also helpful in preventing eye problems, such as poor vision or cataracts, that may be due to oxidation of fatty tissues and free radical formation leading to areas of inflammatory damage. Headaches may sometimes be helped with tocopherol treatment, depending on the cause. Various kidney and liver diseases and muscular dystrophy have all been treated with vitamin E, though more immediate inflammatory problems, as in bursitis, gout, and arthritis seem to benefit more. Leg cramps and circulatory problems associated with diabetes may be helped with vitamin E treatment. For various skin rashes, including those of lupus erythematosus, vitamin E, usually along with vitamin A, may be of some help.
Deficiency and toxicity: Vitamin E is not stored as readily as are the other fat-soluble vitamins. Excess intake is usually eliminated in the urine and feces, and most doses clear the body within a few days. For these reasons, toxicity from vitamin E use is unlikely. In animal studies, very high amounts of E have been shown to retard growth and decrease muscle tissue, decrease the red blood count, and cause poor bone calcification, though in humans these seem more likely to be signs of E deficiency. High intakes of the vitamin E oil can cause nausea, diarrhea, or flatulence in some people.
Large doses of vitamin E are generally avoided for people with high blood pressure as it has been thought to raise blood pressure, though this has not been easily reproduced experimentally. Usually, though, 400–600 IUs daily (the nonoily, water-dispersible vitamin E succinate may be preferable for patients with hypertension) can provide some antioxidant and circulatory benefits without increasing blood pressure. It is possible that large doses of vitamin E (over 1,200 IUs), may have a mild immune-suppressing effect; smaller doses seem to be immune supportive. There is also some concern about using higher doses of vitamin E in people with rheumatic heart disease and administering it to people undergoing digitalis or anticoagulant therapy, as vitamin E may increase the anticoagulant effects of these medicines. Its effects on blood clotting must be watched carefully in such cases. Vitamin E does not contribute to blood clots or abnormal lipid patterns as is sometimes thought.