A Startling Fact About Vitamin K
Vitamin K is perhaps the least known of all the vitamins, and yet is essential for the correct clotting of blood, the building of strong bones, plus many other necessary bodily functions.
Vitamin K comes in the form of two related substances, which are known as vitamin K1, and K2. Vitamin K1 consists of a yellow oil which is found in a variety of vegetables, while K2 is a yellow waxy substance that is produced by bacteria in the small intestine. Although we get a supply of vitamin K from leafy green veggies like spinach, alfalfa, broccoli and cabbage, this is only a portion of what we need. The remainder comes from the bacteria which are in the small intestine, so a deficiency of vitamin K2 is rare.1
An excess of vitamin K, even though it is stored in the body fat, is not dangerous or toxic. This is because it is the liver which controls the blood clotting factors, and not the actual vitamin, that is nevertheless necessary for the liver to process the clotting function.2
What is the main function of vitamin K?
Vitamin K is one of the chemicals used by the liver in the production of blood components, known as the clotting factors, all of which are needed for the effective healing of wounds. Without the support of vitamin K, the production of some of these factors may decrease, and compromise the coagulation of the blood.3
This may lead to serious bleeding from small cuts and scratches, as well as large bruises under the skin from what seem to be minor bumps and scrapes.4
Because both vitamin K1 and K2 are soluble in fat only, deficiencies can occur during illnesses such as gluten intolerance, coeliac disease, and some liver diseases. In these cases, supplements are usually recommended, as without effecting clotting control, serious internal bleeding can occur – especially in the case of liver disease.5
Some benefits of vitamin K
Research has shown that both vitamin K1 and K2 have significant health benefits. However, the latest studies have indicated that K2, in the form of bacteria produced in the gut, goes straight to the blood vessel walls, bones, and tissues. K1 however, which is obtained from the diet, goes directly to the liver to support the production of the blood-clotting chemicals.6
Here are some of the health benefits of vitamin K:
- Prevents hardening of the arteries which is a common cause of coronary artery disease.
- Vitamin D, working with K2, may help to keep excess calcium out of the body tissues and organs where it can cause damage. Calcification of the coronary arteries is also prevented, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Helps to prevent osteoporosis by maximizing the use of natural minerals, such as calcium which is obtained from the diet, to build strong bones.
- Because of the bone-strengthening properties, vitamin K is also effective against tooth decay, arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
Further research has provided evidence that by maximizing the use of calcium in the body, vitamin K may also be important in reducing the risk of diabetes, many types of cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, which some studies maintain, is influenced by calcification of certain parts of the brain.7
Best foods for vitamin K1
Here are some foods you can add to your diet to get some vitamin K into your system:8
- Proteins such as lamb, beef liver, dark-meat turkey, and chicken livers.
- Collard greens like cabbage, kale, broccoli, alfalfa, and spinach.
- Whole egg mayonnaise.
- NATTO, (fermented soya beans) is an excellent source of vitamin K1.
Because vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, make sure to eat something fatty for it to be properly absorbed by the body. If you are concerned that you are not getting sufficient vitamin K from your diet, a good quality natural supplement will help do the job.
The supplements will also need to be taken with some dietary fat to enable optimal absorption by the body.
Who needs vitamin K?
The following situations may put you at an increased risk of a vitamin K deficiency:9
- Poor eating habits, or a restricted diet, may result in you not getting enough vitamin K into your system.
- Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and any other condition which interferes with nutrient absorption in the small intestine.
- Any form of liver disease that hampers the storage and production of vitamin K.
- Taking medications like strong antibiotics, cholesterol drugs, and aspirin may interfere with the gut bacteria and lead to a deficiency of K2.
Healthy eating and a new diet will help improve matters, as will natural probiotic supplements to restore the good gut bacteria, which may be depleted daily by chronic medications.
Who should avoid taking vitamin K?
- If you are pregnant or a nursing mom, Vitamin K2 supplementation should not be more than the RDA, which is universally about 65mcg, unless specifically recommended and monitored by your medical practitioner.
- If you have suffered a stroke, or are prone to blood clots, do not take vitamin K without consulting your doctor.
- You must exercise caution if you are on anti-coagulants, and in addition to your diet, do not take supplements of more than the RDA.
Health experts agree that healthy folk not on medications can supplement up to 150mcg per day, as it is non-toxic and is stored in the fat cells of the body.10
There is often a deficiency of vitamin K in newborns, as the intestinal bacteria is not present at birth, and the vitamin K from the mother’s bloodstream only lasts a short while. There is also very little Vitamin K in breast milk.11
In many countries, to make up for the deficiency, newborn babies, and especially those born prematurely, it is routine procedure to orally (by syringe) give babies a small amount of vitamin K.12
This is further evidence that vitamin K, the so-called forgotten vitamin, is essential for across-the-board good health.
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