Do you know someone who experiences digestive problems like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease? Or perhaps osteoporosis, blood clot problems, excessive bruising, or period pain? With all the hype in recent years to consume more calcium and vitamin D, keep an eye out for more research and recommendations for consuming more vitamin K.
What does vitamin K help? Vitamin K is a fat-soluble anti-inflammatory vitamin that has many health benefits, including blood clotting, calcium absorption, digestive health, menstrual pain relief, bone and artery strength and integrity and brain function. It can help digestive diseases like ulcerative colitis by increasing blood flow and oxygenation of tissues and cells. It helps with heavy menstrual cycles and nosebleeds by helping the blood to clot. It helps prevent the formation of calcifications (arteriosclerosis) and fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) on the walls of blood vessels, which helps reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes. Vitamin K can also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis by reducing osteoclastic activity, which breaks down bones. Increasing your calcium intake is great for bone strength, but it is a problem for your arteries, which can calcify. Taking vitamin K protects the integrity of the blood vessel walls from calcification when too much calcium is produced in the body and can also help with varicose veins.
What is the difference between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2? Of the two vitamin derivatives, vitamin K1 is available over the counter in the United States and vitamin K2 is only available by prescription. Vitamin K1 is used in babies in many hospitals to prevent bleeding, help prevent calcification of arteries and veins, and help strengthen bones. Vitamin K2 is produced by bacteria in the digestive tract and is often excreted through the body with very little absorption. The human body has the innate ability to convert vitamin K1 to K2.
Where is it located? Vitamin K is available in many foods, especially green leafy and cruciferous vegetables. In order from highest to lowest concentration: kale, spinach, mustard and collard greens, chard, turnips, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and romaine lettuce. Vitamin K2 is found in fermented foods and in a popular Japanese breakfast made from fermented soybeans.
How much should you take? There are different opinions on the proper dosage in case you choose to take a vitamin K supplement. It is important to take vitamin K with a fat soluble food and together with vitamin D for the most optimal effect. Taking between 50-180 mcg of vitamin K1 daily is recommended for adults, and sometimes more if dark green leafy and cruciferous vegetables are not eaten regularly. In general, the Institute of Medicine recommends that men need at least 120 mcg per day and women need at least 90 mcg per day. If you are taking prescription blood-thinning and blood-thinning medications, such as Warfarin gold Coumadin, or have any other health concerns, check with your doctor first before considering vitamin K supplementation.
Vitamin K has many health benefits and its importance to health is little publicized, compared to bigger names like vitamin D and calcium. It is readily available and easy to consume, and should be part of any nutritious diet.