Vitamin K: Overview
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble essential vitamin. There are three forms of Vitamin K: K1 (a.k.a. phylloquinine, phytonadione); K2 (a.k.a. menaquinone); and K3 (a.k.a. menaphthone or menadione). Vitamin K is abundant in green vegetables and is also produced by the friendly bacteria that reside in the intestines.
Vitamin K Deficiency
Vitamin K deficiency is rare and does not occur with the consumption of a healthy diet that includes plenty of green vegetables. Symptoms include excessive bleeding and/or bruising. Deficiency results from the impaired ability to absorb fat and is related to some of the following conditions: cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, liver disease, taking blood-thinning medications, serious diarrhea and serious burns.
Newborns are particularly susceptible to a condition known as hemorrhagic disease of the newborn (HDN), which is a result of Vitamin K deficiency. Vitamin K may not transfer very well from mother to fetus during pregnancy. Additionally, breast milk is not a good source of the nutrient, and exclusively breast fed infants may be in danger of deficiency. All infants in the United States and Canada receive a Vitamin K injection at birth to minimize the risk of developing HDN. Mothers can increase the level of Vitamin K in breast milk by regularly eating many green vegetables. Consult your ob/gyn for guidance.
Vitamin K's Health Benefits
In addition to being necessary for good health, Vitamin K has been shown to have other benefits. Vitamin K is necessary for proper blood clotting, and also helps the liver manufacture blood clotting factor. Additionally, Vitamin K helps support bone health. Studies have shown that Vitamin K helps reduce the risk of excessive bleeding. Vitamin K helps the body utilize calcium, and therefore the nutrient may ward off osteoporosis. Vitamin K helps prevent kidney stones, works to reduce unpleasant body odors, and is used topically to treat skin wounds.
Using Vitamin K
Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not use a Vitamin K supplement or any other drug without first obtaining the advice of an ob/gyn. Consult your physician before using any dietary supplements if you are currently taking any medications, as Vitamin K may interact with other medications or drugs you are taking. Vitamin K has been known to interact with antibiotics, blood thinners, doxorubicin, phenytoin, cholesterol-lowering medications, mineral oil laxatives and orlistat.