If you’ve read about vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, you might feel like we’ve missed a few vitamins as we jump over to vitamin K. But there are no vitamins F through J (at least not yet). This vitamin is named after the German word for blood clotting (koagulation). In fact, this is probably the most common connection that people make with vitamin K—they associate this vitamin with the process of blood clotting. We’ll explain more about this function of vitamin K in our “Role in Health Support” section below. However, it’s important to know that this vitamin makes a variety of unique contributions to our health, and our knowledge about these contributions has been expanding in new and unexpected ways.
There are three basic types of vitamin K. Their common names are K1, K2, and K3.
· 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.
This vitamin helps to prevent hardening of the arterier because it can keep calcium out of your artery linings and other body tissues, where it can cause damage. This is especially true for vitamin K2, which is the vitamin that is made naturally in the bacteria of your intestines.
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.
· Improves 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 this vitamin can stop bone loss in people with osteoporosis. Your body needs vitamin K to use calcium to build bones.
There is increasing evidence that vitamin K can improve bone health and reduce the risk of bone fractures, especially in postmenopausal women who are at risk for osteoporosis.
According to recent research, men and women with the highest intake of vitamin K2 (which is found in dairy products and is produced naturally in your intestines) are 65% less likely to suffer a debilitating hip fracture as compared to those with the lowest intake of vitamin K2.
These studies have demonstrated that this vitamin can not only increase bone mineral density in osteoporotic people, but it can reduce fracture rates as well.
There is also strong evidence that vitamins K and Vitamin D, a classic in bone metabolism, work together to improve bone density. There is increasing evidence that vitamin K positively affects calcium balance in the body, and calcium is a key mineral in bone metabolism. Studies of male and female athletes have also found that vitamin K helps with bone health. For people who are already injured, consuming enough Vitamin K foods can help prevent sprained ankles and to help heal broken bones.
· Helps with Menstrual Pain and Bleeding
K Vitamin 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.
Excessive bleeding leads to more cramps and pain during your menstrual cycle. Many studies show that since vitamin K can help with the symptoms of PMS, the opposite is also true- a vitamin K deficiency will only make these symptoms worse.
· Fights Cancer
Vitamin K has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of prostate, colon, stomach, nasal, and oral cancers. One study even found that high doses of this vitamin helped patients with liver cancer stabilize and even improve their liver function. One study showed that an increase in dietary intake of vitamin K is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular, cancer, or all-cause mortality in a Mediterranean population at high cardiovascular disease risk.
· 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, this vitamin 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.
Haemorrhagic disease of newborns (known as HDN) is a disease where blood clotting does not properly take place. This is developed by a newborn babies because of a vitamin K deficiency. One study found that it is necessary to give newborns a vitamin K injection at birth in order to safely eradicate HDN; this practice has been proven to be harmless for newborns.
· Improves Brain Function
A study found that vitamin K dependent proteins are particularly important for the brain. Vit. K participates in the nervous system through its involvement in sphingolipid metabolism, which is a class of naturally occurring molecules that are widely present in brain cell membranes.
Sphingolipids are biologically potent molecules involved in a wide range of cellular actions, and they are known for their structural role in building and supporting the brain.
There is also growing evidence that vit. 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.
· Helps Maintain Health of Gums & Teeth
A diet low in fat soluble vitamins including vitamin A, C, D, and vitamin K has been linked to having more cavities and symptoms related to gum disease. Beating tooth decay and gum disease requires you to increase your fat soluble vitamins that play a role in bone and teeth mineralization.
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.
When the body lacks enough vitamin K, it goes into emergency mode, keeping up only the critical functions needed for immediate survival. The result is that the other vital processes break down and leave the body vulnerable to weak bones, cancer development, and heart problems.
Poor diet is one of the factors that greatly plays into a vit. K deficiency. Some other common contributors are taking antibiotics for an extended period of time, suffering from intestinal problems such as chronic irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease, and taking cholesterol lowering medications.
Because vitamin K is produced by healthy bacteria in the gut, any disruption in the intestines- like leaky gut syndrome for example- can result in a decreased ability of the body to absorb or produce enough vitamin K.
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.
Vitamin K deficiency is somewhat rare and is not known to be one the most common deficiencies, however when someone is deficient in vitamin K, it is very serious. A vitamin K deficiency in adults can lead to heart disease, weakened bones, tooth decay and cancer. A warning sign of a vitamin K deficiency is bleeding and bruising easily. This bleeding can begin as an oozing from the gums or nose
Vitamin K is found in:
- green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli and spinach
- vegetable oils
- cereal grains
Small amounts can also be found in meat and dairy foods.
World’s Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of vitamin K
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How much vitamin K do I need?
Adults need approximately 0.001mg a day of vit. K for each kilogram of their body weight.
For example, someone who weighs 65kg would need 0.065mg a day of vit. K, while a person who weighs 75kg would need 0.075mg a day.
You should be able to get all the vitamin K you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
Any vitamin K your body doesn’t need immediately is stored in the liver for future use, so you don’t need it in your diet every day.
If you are pregnant or nursing, you should avoid vitamin K supplements that have a higher dose than the recommended daily allowance. If you have experienced stroke, cardiac arrest, or are prone to blood clotting, you should not take this vitamin without first consulting your physician.
If you take blood thinning drugs, you may need to limit vitamin K foods. You should know that this vitamin, or foods containing vitamin K, can affect how these drugs work.
If you take antibiotics for more than ten days, you may need to increase your intake of vitamin K because antibiotics can kill the bacteria in your intestines, which is what allows your body to absorb this vitamin.
Orlistat, a medication that used for weight loss, and Olestra, a substance that is added to some foods, can lower the amount of fat that your body can absorb; because vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, this can minimize your vitamin K levels. Doctors who prescribe Orlistat will typically suggest that you take a multivitamin as well, and The Food and Drug Administration now requires that all food containing olestra must add in fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E.
Medications that are used to reduce cholesterol will reduce how much fat your body absorbs, and may also reduce absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Speak to your health care provider in order to ensure that you are getting enough vit. K if you take these kinds of medication.
Be careful if you take vitamin E supplements because vitamin E can interfere with how vitamin K works in your body.
References: draxe.com, nhs.uk, whfoods.com