What is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is an antihaemorrhagic vitamin that is fat-soluble, meaning that it is stored in the body’s fatty tissues and the liver. It is essential in blood coagulation and proper bone density. Vitamin K can be found in several forms. Vitamin K1 is found in certain foods, K2 is produced naturally in the body’s intestinal tract and K3 and up is a water-soluble supplement.
What is a Vitamin K Deficiency?
A vitamin K deficiency is caused when the body either does not absorb the vitamin K properly for future use or the body has stopped producing the amount that is needed. The Recommended Daily Allowance is 10-20 micrograms for infants, 15–100 micrograms for adolescents, 90 micrograms for adult females and 120 micrograms for adult males.
What Diseases Can Cause Deficiency?
1) Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, strict diets or malnutrition not only limit the intake of vitamin K but it also interferes with the level of K2 in the body.
2) Intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s, disease, Celiac and Irritable Bowel Syndrome affect the bacteria growth in the intestinal tract.
3) Diseases of the liver such as hepatitis or cirrhosis interfere with the body’s ability to store and vitamin K.
4) Gallbladder or biliary diseases interferes with the body’s ability to distribute vitamin K.
5) Insufficient diet lacking in leafy greens.
What Medications Can Cause Deficiency?
1) Antacids that are designed to neutralize heartburn and stomach acids will slow down the production of vitamin k2.
2) Bile acid sequestrates which are used to lower cholesterol limit the amount of fatty tissue available for vitamin K to be stored in.
3) Certain antibiotics known as cephalosporins will stop the production of the bacteria needed for vitamin K2.
4) Anticonvulsant medications that contain Phenytoin will inhibit distribution.
5) Orlistat, a medication designed for weight loss, and olestra, a popular food additive, limits the fatty tissue needed for storage.
6) High amounts of vitamin K can block the effects of blood-thinning medications that contain Warfarin, such as Coumadin.
What are Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency?
1) Not every nosebleed is a sign of a vitamin K deficiency, but a nosebleed that appears to start without any reason or when just slightly blowing the nose is commonly one of the first signs.
2) Gums that bleed often and very easily when chewing food or brushing teeth is also very common.
3) Due to the blood’s inability to clot correctly, deep puncture wounds, severe cuts or surgical sites will bleed excessively and take longer to scar over and heal.
4) Bruising that appears when just slightly bumping the skin or bruises that appear without the memory of the injury that caused it will occur very frequently.
5) Broken blood vessels which are sometimes referred to as “spiders” or “petechia.” Usually they occur on the face, but they can appear anywhere on the body.
6) Re-occurring heavy menstrual cycles or menstrual cycles that constantly last longer than the average cycle is also a common symptom.
7) Frequent bone fractures and breaks can occur due to the loss of bone density and weakening of the bones.
8) A vitamin K deficiency can cause physical abnormalities in an unborn child such as a cleft palate, underdeveloped fingers and flattened nose bridges.
Treatment for Vitamin K Deficiency?
Depending on the severity, there are five different treatment options that are available.
1) A topical cream is applied to bruises and petechia to help speed up the healing process.
2) A vitamin K supplement can be taken daily.
3) A dietary change by adding foods that are rich in vitamin K can help sustain a healthy level of vitamin K.
Common foods that include substantial levels of vitamin K are green tea, beef liver, eggs, wheat bran, leafy green vegetables, avocados and soy beans.
4) To restore a vitamin K level quickly, a dose of vitamin K can be given either intravenously or through an intramuscular injection.
5) In severe and chronic cases of vitamin K deficiency, a blood plasma transfusion is sometimes administered to help restore the blood’s ability to clot quickly.