The ‘K’ in Vitamin K is derived from the German term, koagulation. It is a fat-soluble enzyme that plays an important role in blood coagulation, or clotting. There are five forms of Vitamin K. Vitamin K1 and K2 are the natural forms of Vitamin K. There are also three synthetic forms of Vitamin K, which are Vitamin K3, K4, and K5.
As mentioned above, Vitamin K1 must be present in the body in order for blood to coagulate, or clot. And obviously, if blood is unable to clot, a small cut or injury can cause a person to bleed out. So it is clear that Vitamin K1 is an extremely important enzyme for the body to carry.
Vitamin K2, also known as phylloquinone or phytomenadione, is normally produced by the large intestine. Unless the intestines are extremely damaged, a deficiency of Vitamin K1 in the human body is extremely rare. Occasionally, damaged intestines are unable to absorb Vitamin K2, although it is present in the body. However, under the use of certain broad spectrum antibiotics, the presence of Vitamin K2 can be massively decreased due to the effects of the natural flora contained in the antibiotic in the body.
The three synthetic forms of Vitamin K, vitamins K3, K4 and K5, are used in many things, including the production of pet food.
Functions of Vitamin K
Vitamin K is an essential amino acid that plays an important role in blood clotting. It is involved in the formulation of certain proteins, which are found in the liver, that are known as coagulation factors. These coagulation factors, when circulating in our blood, help to form clots and reduce the risk of hemorrhaging. Therefore, it is clear that a deficiency of Vitamin K in the body causes bleeding disorders, such as hemorrhaging.
Hemorrhaging is defined as uncontrolled bleeding. The purpose of blood coagulation is to form a scab on a wound to prevent the veins from continuing to bleed, causing severe blood loss and even death. Without Vitamin K, the smallest cut can cause death. A deficiency of Vitamin K may also cause other hemorrhaging without injury, such as nose bleeds, blood in the urine, unusually heavy menstrual bleeding, among other serious health problems. Furthermore, a Vitamin K deficiency in infants can cause severe hemorrhaging in the skull, often resulting in death.
While a Vitamin K defecate is incredibly uncommon in healthy adults, because the small intestines contain bacteria that synthesize, or create, the vitamin. However, there are certain medicinal antagonists to Vitamin K, which prevent the intestines from synthesizing it as normal. Some of these medicinal antagonists include broad spectrum antibiotics.
Vitamin K In Food
While Vitamin K is synthesized by certain bacterium that are present in the stomach and intestines, it is still necessary for Vitamin K to be obtained through food intake. It is probable that about half of our necessary Vitamin K must be obtained through food.
Infants require 10-20 micrograms of Vitamin K daily, which is present in both breast milk and infant formula. Children and adolescents require 15-100 micrograms of Vitamin K daily, which is synthesized in the body but also available through an intake of certain foods. Healthy adults require 70-140 micrograms of Vitamin K daily. Another way of expressing Vitamin K requirements is to say that 2 micrograms per kilogram of body weight is necessary daily. However, because half of this is produced by the intestines, a healthy person must intake 1 microgram of Vitamin K per kilogram of body weight. This can be achieved through the intake of certain foods.
Vitamin K is present in certain foods. It is most prevalent in foods such as cauliflower, soy beans, cottonseed, canola oil, olives, spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, potatoes, meat such as beef liver, green leafy vegetables such as collard greens or lettuce, and green tea. If you are told that you have a Vitamin K deficiency and are looking for a natural method to increase your supply, you can consume these foods, which contain high amounts of the vitamin. Vitamin K is also present in smaller amounts in many other foods, including but not limited to apples, asparagus, green beans, mincemeat, carrots, cow’s milk, oranges, peas, potatoes, strawberries, wheat bran, and wheat germ. Vitamin K is most prevalent in spinach, at 240 micrograms per 100 grams of food weight.
However, Vitamin K is also available in supplement form. Newborns are often Vitamin K deficit, which as was stated above, is highly dangerous due to a heightened possibility of cranial hemorrhaging, or hemorrhaging within the skull. Vitamin K is available in a supplement, which comes either in pill form or the form of a shot. Taking a supplement shot is most common for infants. The lack of Vitamin K in an infant is very common, because infants do not have the bacteria that are necessary to produce Vitamin K in the intestines upon birth. The decrease of Vitamin K in an infant is even more common when the mother takes anti-seizure medication often prescribed for epilepsy.
Symptoms Linked to Deficiency of Vitamin K
Many of the symptoms of certain common chronic disorders, especially certain connective tissue disorders, are exactly identical to the symptoms of Vitamin K deficiency. This could be a coincidence, but it is thought that Vitamin K deficiency is linked to the presence of these disorders.
Symptoms of Vitamin K deficiency include heavy menstrual bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, hematuria (the presence of blood in the urine), nosebleeds, eye hemorrhages, anemia, gum bleeding, prolonged clotting times, hematomas, hemorrhaging, ovarian hemorrhaging, easy bruising, pupura, osteopenia, osteoporosis, fractures, hypercalciuria, liver cancer, and calcification of soft tissue, especially of heart valves.
If a woman is pregnant and has a Vitamin K deficiency, she may take Vitamin K supplements. However, some birth defects that are linked directly Vitamin K deficiencies are underdevelopment of the nose, mouth, and mid-face, shortened fingers, cupped ears, and flat nasal bridges.
Futhermore, an epileptic woman, or a woman who is prone to seizures, who is also pregnant, will most likely be taking anticonvulsant drugs in order to prevent the seizures. These drugs block Vitamin K absorption. Because of their tendency to block Vitamin K absorption, anticonvulsants have been linked to the following birth defects, which include epicanthal folds, flat nasal bridge, short noses, a variety of craniofacial abnormalities, neural tube defects, mental retardation, learning disabilities, long, thin overlapping fingers, various cardiac abnormalities, and growth deficiencies.
This is a small list of birth defects that are contributed to a use of anticonvulsants. These birth defects are caused because many of these medications cause a failure of Vitamin K absorption. Because of this, it is thought that these birth defects are directly related to a lack of Vitamin K in the body, and could be avoided by giving the mother a Vitamin K supplement while she is pregnant.
While not much is known about Vitamin K, it is thought that it plays an important role in bone development by interacting with Vitamin D. While this has not been researched extensively, it leads to the belief that Vitamin K supplements may lead to a decreased risk of developing age-related osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition which causes decay of the bones, causing bone loss and porous-ness of the skeleton. This is a dangerous condition because it leads to easily breaking and fracturing bones, particularly as a person ages. While it is thought that Vitamin K can slow down or even reverse the effects of osteoporosis, this has not been researched enough to determine whether or not the effects of Vitamin K supplementation are truly effective.
Vitamin K also interacts with other vitamins in a way that may be harmful to a patient. For example, large doses of Vitamin A and Vitamin E have been proven to affect the efficiency of Vitamin K in the body. While Vitamin A has been shown to prevent proper absorption of Vitamin K, Vitamin E has been shown to inhibit the production of Vitamin K in the intestines. Some medicines may also inhibit the production and absorption of Vitamin K in the body, particularly in pregnant women.
The use of these medications while pregnant can cause the fetus to be unable to produce or absorb Vitamin K properly en utero, which can cause a Vitamin K deficiency upon birth of the infant. A lack of Vitamin K in an infant is also contributed to the inability of an infant to absorb fat, and, is also present in people who cannot absorb fat normally. Those with liver disease may also require supplemental Vitamin K because the proteins in the liver are inactive and unable to produce Vitamin K as is usual with a healthy adult.
The Importance of Vitamin K
Vitamin K is commonly referred to as the “forgotten vitamin”. It is not often paid attention to, and little is known about it, scientifically. What we do know, however, is that Vitamin K is vitally important to have. Vitamin K is the enzyme that causes blood clotting, so without it being present in our bodies, it is easy for us to become injured and die from injuries that would not normally be life threatening. This is because without clotting, you will hemorrhage.
Clearly, it is important for you to retain high levels of Vitamin K in order to be healthy. About half of the necessary Vitamin K can be obtained through the foods that we eat, while the rest is synthesized by the bacteria in our intestines.
BBC Health and the Linus Pauling Institute