There are two forms of the vitamin that the body can utilise. One is K1 (phylloquinone), which is from plant sources and the other is K2 (menaquinone) which is produced by bacteria in our own intestines.
This is where many of us get into trouble because we are not eating sufficient raw and unprocessed foods for health, and additionally many of us suffer from bacterial imbalances in the gut so do not produce sufficient from that source either.
The vitamin is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of the stores come from our diet and the balance from bacteria in the intestines. We need healthy bile production for efficient absorption of Vitamin K and our lymphatic system circulates it throughout the body.
Prescribed usage of Vitamin K
Apart from helping reduce excessive bleeding during menstruation, it is also used therapeutically for the prevention of internal bleeding and haemorrhages, including emergency treatment for overdoses of blood thinners such as Warfarin.
Blood clotting is a critical function in the body that solidifies blood to prevent us from bleeding to death from external or internal injuries. Vitamin K is essential for the production of a protein called prothrombin and other factors involved in the blood-clotting function and is therefore necessary to prevent haemorrhages. Interestingly Vitamin K also activates other enzymes that decrease the clotting ability so it assumes the role of regulator within the blood stream. An example of this might be if a clot forms within a blood vessel that could block the flow and needs to be dispersed.
The vitamin has also been the subject of a great deal of research in recent years as scientists discovered that it played a significant role in liver function, energy production in the nervous system and in preventing bone loss as we age by assisting the absorption of calcium.
Vitamin K is needed to activate osteocalcin, the protein that anchors calcium into the bone, building and repairing the structure. A deficiency in the vitamin can therefore lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.
As the vitamin works within the body it changes from function to function according to the various interactions with enzymes and at one stage it acts as an antioxidant preventing oxidative damage to cells. There may also be a role for the vitamin in cancer prevention as it is believed it may stimulate rogue cells to self destruct.
Research into Vitamin K2 is ongoing and is very exciting.
Dementia – including Alzheimers and neurological diseases including Parkinsons with the vitamin being identified as deficient in patients suffering from irregularities in brain chemistry.
Kidney disease – Most patients with stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD) suffer from extensive vascular calcifications.4 Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is a powerful inhibitor of vascular calcification, and requires vitamin K2 to be fully activated
Cancer -In recent years, various reports have shown that vitamin K2 has anti-oncogenic effects in various cancer cell lines, including leukemia, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and hepatocellular cancer. Although the exact mechanisms by which vitamin K2 exert its antitumor effect are still unclear, processes, such as cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, appear to contribute to the therapeutic effects of vitamin K2.
To read the full report on the research: http://vitamink2.org/?benefit=research-continues
A study recently published by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has revealed that increased intake of vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent. The authors point out that the benefits of K2 were most pronounced for advanced prostate cancer, and, importantly, that vitamin K1 did not offer any prostate benefits.
To read the whole report: https://chriskresser.com/vitamin-k2-the-missing-nutrient/
Why are you likely to be deficient?
- As I mentioned above if you do not include sufficient Vitamin K rich foods in your diet then you will be missing out on 50% of your requirements immediately.
- If you have prolonged use of antibiotics you will have compromised the bacterial balance in your intestines and reduced the production of the vitamin from this source too.
- Anyone suffering from gall bladder or liver disease may well suffer a deficiency as do people with malabsorption problems such as celiac disease.
- Newborn babies are often given vitamin K particularly if they are going to be breast fed and the mother is deficient.
- Anyone taking anti-coagulant drugs such as Warfarin or Dicoumarol will find that these block the effect of the vitamin.
- Some people might be susceptible to deficiency if they are taking high amounts of Vitamin A and E as these can block the absorption of Vitamin K.
- A slightly acidic environment is necessary for the efficient production of this vitamin so people who use antacids on a very regular basis neutralise their stomach acid resulting in neutralised chyme (stomach contents) passing into the duodenum.
What are the symptoms of a Vitamin K Deficiency?
- Certainly if you suffer from excessive bleeding each month during a period then you should be checked to see if you are deficient in vitamin K.
- Men and women who find that their blood fails to clot after an injury are also likely candidates as well as people who suffer from frequent and heavy nosebleeds.
- Other symptoms include eye haemorrhages, anaemia, bleeding gums, easy bruising, frequent fractures and other bone problems.
- There are a number of birth defects linked to a deficiency of Vitamin K passing from the mother to the foetus through the placenta. These include flat nasal bridges, mental retardation, bone deformities, growth deficiency and facial abnormalities.
Best food sources of Vitamin K
It is very easy to obtain sufficient Vitamin K through diet and you will find good sources in dark green leafy vegetables such as asparagus, avocado, broccoli, brussel sprouts, green beans, kale, spring onions, spinach, fennel and leeks.
Although the vitamin is fairly resilient it is better to eat plant sources either raw or lightly steamed to obtain the maximum benefits. Freezing reduces the amount of the vitamin so you need to eat a little extra of frozen vegetables than fresh.
Prunes are a good source as well as plant oils such as olive oil.
Fermented foods are an excellent and great if you can get your hands on Natto – a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. You can also make at home: https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/soy/how-to-make-homemade-natto/
In the western world, we can find good sources of Vitamin K in grass fed matured cheddar and other cheeses, also from yogurt and other dairy products. Also good sources from eggs and a raw egg yolk has the most concentration.
Liver from grass fed animals including beef, pigs and lamb are a good source.
N.B. Corn fed dairy do not produce milk, cheese and other dairy products as rich in Vitamin K and you should try to find the traditionally made butters from summer grass animals. It is available and I buy one from Tesco. The same applies to Free Range Eggs. Hens that are corn fed instead of scratching around in the grass of a field do not produce eggs with as much Vitamin K.
© Just Food for Health Sally Cronin 1998 – 2018
A little bit about me nutritionally.
A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.
All available in Ebook from: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6
Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html
Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally