Vitamin K got its name form the German word “koagulation,” which is translated to "coagulation" in English and refers to the process of blood clot formation. Coagulation is considered to be the most important role of vitamin K in your body; however, it does play other essential roles. Despite its important functions, a deficiency in vitamin K is considered rare, and you should only supplement with this vitamin under the supervision of a health care practitioner.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. The majority of vitamin K in your body comes from the bacteria in your large intestine, while the rest comes from the foods you eat. Dietary sources of vitamin K include leafy greens, alfalfa, cauliflower, tomatoes, strawberries, liver, yogurt and egg yolks.
Phyllis Balch says in her book “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” that vitamin K is required for the production of prothrombin and other important proteins involved in blood coagulation. Because of this, the vitamin is vital for normal blood clotting -- it helps prevent hemorrhaging and other bleeding problems. A deficiency of vitamin K can result in easy bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood in the stool or urine, tarry black stools or very heavy menstrual bleeding. A deficiency in infants may cause life-threatening bleeding within the skull, and because of this, infants are commonly injected with vitamin K at birth to prevent vitamin K deficiency.
Vitamin K also plays as essential role in the production of the bone protein "osteocalcin." As such, it is essential for proper bone formation and repair, and a deficiency of vitamin K can result in reduced bone density and an increased risk of fractures. In fact, several clinical studies have shown that vitamin K can enhance the integrity of your bones, and Balch says that it may therefore be useful for the prevention of osteoporosis. Elson Haas, M.D, adds in his book “Staying Healthy With Nutrition” that vitamin K is likely also beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers due to its ability to reduce inflammation of the synovial lining of the joints.
According to The Linus Pauling Institute, vitamin K is essential to the production of a protein known as “Gas6.” Gas6 is found throughout the nervous system, heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach and bone cartilage, and it appears to be required for proper cellular growth and regulation. More research needs to be done to determine the precise function of Gas6, but it likely plays a central role in the development and aging of the nervous system.
Although vitamin K deficiency is considered rare, Haas says that people with certain genetic or liver disorders, those who take antibiotics frequently or have a reduced ability to produce vitamin K in their intestines and individuals with colitis, celiac disease and other intestinal malabsorption problems may all become deficient. Haas adds that a vitamin K deficiency also occurs occasionally in the elderly due to a poor diet and reduced intestinal flora. If you suspect that you are vitamin K deficient, Haas recommends increasing your consumption of vitamin K rich foods before considering supplementation.
- “Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Third Edition”; Phyllis Balch; 2003
- "Staying Healthy With Nutrition”; Elson Haas, M.D.; 2006
- Colorado State University: Vitamin K
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Vitamin K
- spinach salad image by Trevor Allen from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.