Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health. This week we’re going to talk about Vitamin K.
Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin. As you may know, Vitamin A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble vitamins. This means they work better with fats. Vitamin K is not to be confused with Potassium. Potassium is actually KCI (potassium chloride), a mineral. Vitamin K is a vitamin.
However, Vitamin K is different from some of the other vitamins. It is a coenzyme which means that it is required for other actions to take place in the body. It comes from the German word Koagulation meaning “the stopping of bleeding”. Vitamin K does in fact affect your clotting factors.
Your body can’t store a lot of Vitamin K, but it does recycle in the body. You need to get Vitamin K from your diet or supplementation, preferably both.
Why You Should Take Vitamin K
The most important reason to take Vitamin K is to help Vitamin D bring the calcium into your bones and not your arteries (think plaque). We recommend everybody take Vitamin D, but for adults over 30 (and certainly over 40) you need Vitamin D with K.
Vitamin K also has a direct effect in (a) protecting your endothelial lining, and (b) bringing the calcium out of the joints and into the matrix of the bone. There are a lot of beneficial effects of Vitamin K for the heart, as well.
Other benefits include:
- Stops bleeding
- Helps bone formation
- Prevention of vessel mineralization (like calcium deposits in your vessels)
Note: Vitamin K is required in every newborn to prevent bleeding. When a child is born they give the baby a shot of Vitamin K1 intramuscularly. Vitamin K is not well transported across the placenta and there’s none in breast milk.
Symptoms of Low Vitamin K
- Bleeding gums
- Easy bruising
- Nose bleeds
- Blood in urine or dark tarry stools
- Heavy menses
Other places you might see Low Vitamin K:
- People on low fat diets (I never recommend a low fat diet to anyone)
- If you have fat malabsorption
- If you have liver problems
- If you have inflammatory bowel diseases
- Cystic fibrosis
- Newborns (as mentioned above)
If you find yourself bruising or bleeding too easily, think about taking Vitamin K.
Forms Of Vitamin K
Vitamin K has many different forms. The one that works the best is Vitamin MK7. Let me explain further.
There are three basic forms of Vitamin K.
- Vitamin K1 – This comes from plants and green leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin K2 – This is the important one that does all of the work. It mostly comes from animal sources, especially fermented products and liver products. Intestinal bacteria also makes K2, so gut balance is important.
- Vitamin K3 – This is the synthetic form and water soluble. It’s not used in the United States, and you really don’t need to worry about this one.
Note: There is actually Vitamin K2-K14. This has to do with the number of carbon units on the molecule.
I want you to think mostly about Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is the workhorse vitamin. It has a long half life and works better for your bones. It’s the one you need to supplement with.
There are different forms of Vitamin K2. The main ones are MK4 and MK7. MK7 is long acting and preferable. The purists out there will use green leafy vegetables to get their K1 and take their K2 in the form of MK7, because that’s where all the money’s at.
Note: There’s probably not as many studies done on MK7 as there are on MK4, but in all the research I’ve done, MK7 is the best form.
I don’t mind a combination. What I currently take is a LifeExtension form that has Vitamin K1, K2 in the form of both MK4 and MK7, but I might switch to pure MK7 at some point. You have to look at the quality of the supplement and what else might be in it, including fillers. Purists just eat green leafy vegetables and take MK7 in a dose of 180mg.
Note: MK7 comes from Japanese fermented soybeans called natto.
What To Consider When Taking Vitamin K
Vitamin K acts on your platelets. It attaches to your platelets to form Thrombin. This helps to stop bleeding, which is why it’s called coagulation.
There are certain medications that block the action of Vitamin K like Coumadin (Warfarin). These medications thin your blood because of a condition you might have like atrial fibrillation, or an artificial heart valve.
There are other factors to consider when taking Vitamin K. Abnormal clotting is not related to excess Vitamin K intake. There is no known toxicity to Vitamin K1 or Vitamin K2, however, large amounts of K can overcome the anticoagulant effect of Vitamin K antagonists like Coumadin.
Take that into account, and also check your Prothrombin Time levels if you’re on Coumadin.
Large doses of Vitamin A or Vitamin E could interfere with Vitamin K. Omega 3’s can also thin your blood but will not interfere with Vitamin K.
Drug interactions besides Coumadin or Warfarin:
- Antituberculosis drugs
- Amiodarone (Cardiac arrhythmia drug)
- Cholesterol lowering drugs like colestipol.
- Fat substitutes like Olestra
Note: We have gotten away from using a lot of Coumadin because there are new blood thinning medications like Eliquis and Xarelto that won’t interfere with Vitamin K.
If you’re an adult and not taking Vitamin K, think about adding it to your regimen. It protects your heart and your bones, helps Vitamin D make calcium work better, and also protects vessels from calcification.