Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in bone and heart health. It is one of the main vitamins involved in bone mineralization and blood clotting, but also helps to maintain brain function, a healthy metabolism, and to protect against cancer.
Vitamin K is most well known for being responsible for bone building and blood clotting. Blood would not clot without vitamin K because the vitamin activates the protein that is responsible for forming clots within the blood.
The vitamin K that we are able to absorb from our diet is related to the intestinal bacteria that we have, so your current vitamin K levels can depend greatly on the gut or digestive health. Vitamin K is also one of the most crucial vitamins for preventing heart disease. Studies have shown that individuals who increase their intake of dietary Vitamin K have a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality. This is why vitamin K deficiency can be so dangerous.
Vitamin K types —
There are two main types of vitamin K that we acquire from our diets: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is found in vegetables, while vitamin K2 is found in dairy products and is produced by the bacteria in your gut. The best way to get the daily requirement of vitamin K is by eating foods that are rich in the vitamin, like green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, fish and eggs.
Why is vitamin K necessary?
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient necessary for responding to injuries – it regulates normal blood clotting. In addition, by assisting the transport of calcium throughout the body, Vitamin K may also be helpful for bone health: it may reduce bone loss, and decrease risk of bone fractures. It also may help to prevent calcification of arteries and other soft tissue.
What are the signs of a deficiency?
A vitamin K deficiency occurs when the body can’t properly absorb the vitamin from the intestinal tract. A deficiency can commonly be a result of taking antibiotics long term because the bacteria in your intestines make vitamin K, and antibiotics can kill the helpful bacteria.
Some other health problems that can prevent your body from absorbing vitamin K are gallbladder or biliary disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease. Taking blood thinners, dealing with long term hemodialysis, and suffering from a serious burn can also lead to a vitamin K deficiency.
While rare, a deficiency in vitamin K can lead to
• Defective blood clotting,
• Increased bleeding and
Symptoms include —
• Easy bruising,
• Gastrointestinal bleeding,
• Excessive menstrual bleeding and
• Blood in the urine.
Those most at risk for a vitamin K deficiency include people with chronic malnutrition, those with alcohol dependency, and anyone with health conditions that limit absorption of dietary vitamins.
How much, and what kind, does an adult need?
Adults and children who eat a balanced diet that include the foods listed below will obtain enough vitamin K, and do not need supplementation. People who may benefit from supplemental vitamin K are babies (who usually get a shot of vitamin K at birth) and those with digestive diseases.
How much does a child need?
In an effort to prevent “hemorrhagic disease of newborn,” also known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding or VKDB, a vitamin K1 injection may be given to newborns and young infants. Otherwise, food sources should fill any daily needs.
How do you get enough from foods?
Vitamin K is abundant in
• Green tea
• Brussels sprouts
• Wheat bran.
• Spring Onion
• Dried Coriander
• Sesame Oil
Provide K2, which is especially helpful in increasing bone density and reducing the risk of fractures. Those with osteoporosis or osteopenia should consider supplementing 50 to 100 mcg (micrograms) of K2, and eat foods rich in vitamin K.
Health Benefits –
1. Supports heart health — Vitamin K has been shown to help prevent calcification of arteries, one of the leading causes of heart attacks. It works by carrying calcium out of the arteries and not allowing it to form into hard, dangerous plaque deposits. Some studies show that vitamin K is a critical nutrient for reducing inflammation and protecting cells that line blood vessels, including both veins and arteries. Consuming proper levels of vitamin K is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure and decreasing the chances of cardiac arrest.
2. Improving Bone density — Vitamin K increases the amount of a specific protein required to maintain bone calcium, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Some studies on vitamin K have even found that high intakes of vitamin K can stop bone loss in people with osteoporosis. Your body needs vitamin K to use calcium to build bones.
3. Helps in Menstrual Pain and Bleeding — Vitamin K can help to reduce PMS cramps and other menstrual pains by regulating the function of your hormones. Because vitamin K is a blood clotting vitamin, it can also help with excessive bleeding during the menstrual cycle and offer pain relief for PMS symptoms.
4. Fights Cancer — Vitamin K has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of prostate, colon, stomach, nasal, and oral cancers.
5. Helps Blood clotting — Vitamin K clots blood and stops your body from bleeding or bruising easily. The blood clotting process is very complex, as it requires at least 12 proteins to function before the process can be completed. Four of these protein clotting factors require vitamin K for their activity; therefore, vitamin K is essential. Because vitamin k helps to facilitate in blood clotting, it plays an important role in helping to heal bruises fast and also to heal cuts.
6. Improves Brain Function — There is also growing evidence that vitamin K has anti-inflammatory activity and can protect your brain against oxidative stress caused by free radical damage. Oxidative stress can damage your cells and is thought to be involved in the development of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and heart failure
7. Helps Maintain health of Gums and Teeth — A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals helps to kill harmful bacteria that live in the mouth and produce teeth damaging acids. Vitamin K is one nutrient that works with other minerals and vitamins to kill bacteria that destroy tooth enamel resulting in tooth decay, and also provides teeth with the proper minerals they need to remain strong.
Are there any risks associated with too much vitamin K?
While no known toxicity is associated with vitamin K, high doses may cause numbness or tingling in the extremities.
Are there any other special considerations?
People taking prescription anticoagulants, which intentionally interfere with the role of vitamin K, need to monitor their dietary intake of vitamin K containing foods closely, and should never take supplemental vitamin K.
Vitamin K supplementation during pregnancy (beyond normal dietary intake) may increase the risk of jaundice in newborns. Vitamin K ingested by breastfeeding mothers is generally considered safe.
High doses of aspirin and quinine may increase vitamin K requirements; antacids may decrease absorption of vitamin K, and vitamin K may decrease the blood thinning effects of several herbs including alfalfa, American ginseng, anise, celery, chamomile, horse chestnut and red clover.
I’m Dr. Malini Bhat MD (Ayu); an Ayurvedic Doctor and a health blogger. Follow me on social media to get daily health tips which you can easily adapt to a healthy lifestyle.