Vitamin K Deficiency: How To Tell If You Have One
You may be surprised to hear that a vitamin K deficiency is quite common.
When it comes to vitamins it can all be a little overwhelming. Especially when we add numbers to them or just call them something completely different! For instance, here we are mainly talking about vitamin K2 as Menaquinone-7.
Trying to balance the correct intakes in our supplements and knowing which foods are good natural resources takes time and effort. Luckily for you we are doing the hard yards right here.
So what is the deal with vitamin K?
Vitamin K refers to a collection of compounds that have long been associated with healthy blood clotting - or coagulation, but how do we know if we have a vitamin K deficiency?
A vitamin K deficiency usually shows up in a series of ways, including bruising easily, the inability to stop bleeding at a wound or puncture site, or for women, having an unusually heavy menstrual period.
The good news is vitamin K2, as menaquinone-7, is a ‘long-chain’ molecule and has all the benefits of vitamin K, plus longer-lasting effects and higher bioavailability.
It’s distributed by the liver and carried around in circulation by LDL cholesterol, rather than being excreted. It stays longer in the body and is better absorbed by cells and tissues than shorter-chain menaquinones or vitamin K1.
Though not a very mainstream supplement in its own right, vitamin K works particularly well with vitamin D3, both of which can be found in our liquid D3/K2 formula. We highly recommended adding D3/K2 to your Athletic Greens, particularly during the winter months.
As a side note, there is a reason we haven’t just included D3 and K2 in the Athletic Greens powder. Both are fat-soluble, oil based vitamins, which means we couldn’t mix them in.
Even though vitamin K is that quiet kid in class, it is actually the first vitamin most of us are exposed to as we enter the world.
It is so crucial, that newborn babies are given a shot of it soon after birth to prevent a rare, but fatal, bleeding disorder called 'vitamin K deficiency bleeding' (VKDB).
More recently, the complex functions and benefits of vitamin K have been better understood - including its role in calcium metabolism and bone health, the nervous system and cellular signalling.
It’s an impressive and essential nutrient.
Vitamin K: Getting it Directly From The Source
Like many vitamins, vitamin K comes in different forms:
→ Vitamin K1 or phylloquinone is found in plant foods such as leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, olives, wheat and other grains and tea. It’s processed rapidly by the liver and doesn’t generally stick around too long in the body. Gut bacteria have the ability to convert vitamin K1 into K2.
→ Vitamin K2 or menaquinone is carried around by LDL cholesterol, remaining longer in circulation and requiring no conversion. It’s found in animal foods such as liver (especially goose, so foie gras can go back on the shopping list!), soft cheeses, butter, prawns, herring and egg yolks.
The one exception (and an amazing one at that!) is natto, a Japanese fermented soybean product which provides an exceptional source of K2, thanks to the action of a special bacteria called Bacillus subtilis.
The consumption of natto in Northern Japan is credited with their low rates of osteoporosis in comparison to the rest of the country and, although extremely ‘stinky’, it’s usually consumed before breakfast with rice.
Why You Need To Avoid A Vitamin K Deficiency
A vitamin K deficiency can lead to some pretty serious side effects. Life threatening ones. This is because vitamin K plays some crucial roles in the body:
✔ Essential for blood clotting (coagulation)
Healthy coagulation is essential for the human body - to heal wounds, prevent excess bleeding and maintain the perfect viscosity (thinness or thickness) of the blood.
Vitamin K is intricately involved in the tiny cellular processes that allow this to happen, activating enzymes, regulating proteins and controlling how calcium is used.
✔ Builds bone, prevents bone loss and helps calcium go where it’s needed
Vitamin K is well-supported as a key player in bone growth and maintenance. It appears to regulate the deposition of calcium, which when built up in any area can cause pain.
How and why vitamin K assists in strengthening bones, while at the same time preventing the buildup of calcium in other places like tissue and arteries, is extremely complex and not yet fully understood.
It may have to do with enzyme activity, gene expression and intricate chemical relationships inside the cell.
✔ Helps cells function correctly
Cells throughout the nervous system, as well as in the heart, lungs, stomach, kidneys and cartilage, all require vitamin K for proper functioning.
It’s supposed that vitamin K helps with a wide range of crucial cellular functions, like signalling to other cells, cleaning up waste and debris, making new cells and preventing apoptosis (programmed cell death). Wow vitamin K, you have an impressive resume.
Conditions Vitamin K May Be Useful for:
Preventing a vitamin K deficiency means helping to prevent conditions like:
- The prevention of fractures
→ Cardiovascular disease
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced calcification of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- It’s been suggested that vitamin K may slow cancer growth, however there are no current studies to support this.
→ Acute bleeding and blood thinning
- Vitamin K2 can work quite fast as evidenced above, by the fact that newborn babies are given a shot of it to help with proper blood clotting and to prevent excess bleeding.
- Recent studies have found the supplementation of Menaquinone-7 (K2) has been linked to improvements in both of these areas.
How Much Should You Take To Avoid Vitamin K Deficiency?
Vitamin K2 has been included in Athletic Greens because most people do not get enough from their everyday diet and, as we now know, it is a very important vitamin.
It’s also quite unusual in that it is a fat soluble vitamin. This means the risk for toxicity is non-existent as it does not accumulate in the liver.
There is no known toxic dose for vitamin K. A generally accepted daily amount is between 100 and 500 micrograms.
It is important to note that because vitamin K is involved in healthy coagulation, people taking blood-thinning medications such as Warfarin should be cautious when supplementing with or even consuming high dietary doses of vitamin K.
This is extra problematic, because those same blood-thinning medications also reduce bone density in the long term - meaning more vitamin K would be helpful to maintain bone health. So it’s best to leave it up to the medical professionals if this issue affects you.
Vitamin K plays a complex and important role in the body, and is well-studied for improved bone and cardiovascular health. Thanks to these benefits, it may represent a helpful supplement for the ageing body, in addition to the many benefits listed above.