Vitamin K is one of the vitamins many people forget about. We frequently hear about the other vitamins like Vitamin C and D and their importance. But what does Vitamin K do for you? The most important thing Vitamin K does is to clot blood. A Vitamin K deficiency may show up with several symptoms; the most obvious being excessive bleeding. In addition to clotting, it is also instrumental in insuring calcium is directed to bones, rather than arterial walls.
An adult deficiency of Vitamin K is not that common due to the wide variety of sources of Vitamin K in foods and synthesis of the vitamin in our colon. However a deficiency may result from these risk factors as reported in this PatientPlus article:
- Excessive anticoagulation (blood thinning) with warfarin.
- Liver disease: cirrhosis & malignancy decrease the synthesis of vitamin K-dependent factors.
- Malabsorption as in celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, short bowel syndrome due to multiple abdominal surgeries, bacterial overgrowth, and chronic pancreatitis.
- Biliary disease which affects fat absorption (including absorbing fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin K)
- Dietary deficiency occurs in people with malnutrition, including people with alcoholism, as well as patients undergoing long-term parenteral nutrition without vitamin K supplements.
- Drugs: colestyramine, salicylates, rifampin, isoniazid and barbiturates are some of the common drugs that are associated with Vitamin K deficiency.
- Diseases with internally produced coagulation inhibitors (eg lupus anticoagulant and antithrombins) and paraproteinaemias such as myeloma, may cause vitamin K deficiency.
- Miscellaneous causes include massive transfusion, disseminated intravascular coagulation, polycythaemia vera, nephrotic syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and leukemia.
I don’t have any first-hand experience with anyone needing Vitamin K due to one of these risk factors. However I did come across this blog by allshookup who learned first hand how important Vitamin K was for her when a small ovarian cyst had ruptured. Reading her experience really drives home the point how important this forgotten vitamin is!
If you need to supplement with Vitamin K due to these risk factors, it is important to know that the supplement should be taken with a meal containing fats for absorption. It is also important to look for Vitamin K2 rather than the synthetic version K3. Vitamin K2 goes right to where it is needed – blood, bones, and tissue.
In a study published by Osteoporosis International, next to an improved vitamin K status, MK-7 (menaquinone-7) supplementation significantly decreased the age-related decline in bone mineral density and bone strength. Low-dose MK-7 supplements may therefore help postmenopausal women prevent bone loss. You can shop for Vitamin K supplements here.
If you are taking prescription anticoagulants, do not supplement with Vitamin K without speaking to your healthcare practitioner. If you increase your food sources of Vitamin K, also advise your healthcare practitioner as the dosage of prescription anticoagulants may need to be adjusted. Also be aware that antacids may reduce the absorption of Vitamin K.
Check out the infographic below for an easy reference of the other benefits of Vitamin K, deficiency symptoms and food sources.