Vitamin K Deficiency, Foods & Health Benefits

June 21, 2017
Vitamin K Deficiency Foods and Benefits Title

Vitamin K Deficiency?

Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in bone and heart health. It is one of the main vitamins involved in bone mineralization and blood clotting, but also helps to maintain brain function, a healthy metabolism, and to protect against cancer.

heart and cardiogram virtual illustration Vitamin K is most well known for being responsible for bone building and blood clotting. Blood would not clot without vitamin K because the vitamin activates the protein that is responsible for forming clots within the blood.

The vitamin K that we are able to absorb from our diet is related to the intestinal bacteria that we have, so your current vitamin K levels can depend greatly on the gut or digestive health. Vitamin K ia also one of the most crucial vitamins for preventing heart disease. Studies have shown that individuals who increase their intake of dietary Vitamin K have a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality. This is why vitamin K deficiency can be so dangerous. However, before supplementing vitamin K there are a few things you should know.

Vitamin K Types

There are two main types of vitamin K that we acquire from our diets: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is found in vegetables, while vitamin K2 is found in dairy products and is produced by the bacteria in your gut. The best way to get the daily requirement of vitamin K is by eating foods that are rich in the vitamin, like green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, fish and eggs.

There is also a synthetic version of vitamin K which is called vitamin K3, but I do not recommend getting your required vitamin K this way. Instead, eat plenty of whole foods that are high in vitamin K and other important nutrients too.

Vitamin K Deficiency Symptoms

When the body lacks enough vitamin K, it goes into emergency mode, keeping up only the critical functions needed for immediate survival. The result is that the other vital processes break down and leave the body vulnerable to weak bones, cancer development, and heart problems.

Human Digestive system

Poor diet is one of the factors that greatly plays into a vitamin K deficiency. Some other common contributors are taking antibiotics for an extended period of time, suffering from intestinal problems such as chronic irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease, and taking cholesterol lowering medications.

Because vitamin K is produced by healthy bacteria in the gut, any disruption in the intestines- like leaky gut syndrome for example- can result in a decreased ability of the body to absorb or produce enough vitamin K.

A vitamin K deficiency occurs when the body can’t properly absorb the vitamin from the intestinal tract. A deficiency can commonly be a result of taking antibiotics long term because the bacteria in your intestines make vitamin K, and antibiotics can kill the helpful bacteria.Some other health problems that can prevent your body from absorbing vitamin K are gallbladder or biliary disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease. Taking blood thinners, dealing with long term hemodialysis, and suffering from a serious burn can also lead to a vitamin K deficiency.

Vitamin K deficiency is somewhat rare and is not known to be one the most common deficiencies, however when someone is deficient in vitamin K, it is very serious. A vitamin K deficiency in adults can lead to heart disease, weakened bones, tooth decay and cancer. A warning sign of a vitamin K deficiency is bleeding and bruising easily. This bleeding can begin as an oozing from the gums or nose (1).

Vitamin K in Infants

Researchers have known for years that newborn babies are born with a vitamin K deficiency, having lower levels of vitamin K present in their bodies than adults do. This deficiency if it is severe enough can cause disease in newborn babies, such as a hemorrhagic disease, known as HDN (2). Severe vitamin K deficiency is more common in babies that are born pre-term than who are breastfed.

Studies have shown that because babies are born with lower levels of bacteria in their intestines, they Baby And Milk Bottlesometimes do not convert enough vitamin K from the food or break milk. The lower level of vitamin K in newborns is attributed to both lower levels of bacteria within their intestines and also to the poor ability of the placenta to transport the vitamin from the mother to the baby. Aside from this, vitamin K is known to exist in lower concentrations in breast milk (perhaps due to the medications often given to mothers that inhibit vitamin K uptake). This is why babies who are breastfed may be more inclined to have a vitamin K deficiency (3).

It is usually protocol to give newborns a vitamin K injection upon birth to prevent bleeding and HDN development. (4) While Vitamin K injections are widely accepted, there are many chemical components in the shots that can affect an infants development, and I would not recommend using them. I would recommend instead using naturally sourced oral vitamin K drops without the synthesized vitamin K or added chemicals.


 The daily value (DV) for vitamin K is 90 mcg for adults. Keep in mind that your recommended daily allowance depends on your age and gender, and the exact RDA that’s best for you can be found listed below.  Here are some of the top vitamin K foods:

1) Dandelion Greens

1 cup raw: 428 (535%)

2) Mustard Greens

1 cup raw: 278 mcg (348%)

3) Swiss Chard

1 cup raw: 298 mcg (over 100% DV)

4) Spring onions (Scallions)

1 cup: 207 mcg (249% DV)

5) Brussel Sprouts

1 cup raw: 156 mcg  (195%)

6) Turnip Greens

1 cup: 138 mcg (173% DV)

7) Spinach

1 cup: 145 mcg (181% DV)

8) Kale
1 cup raw: 112 mcg (over 100% DV)

9) Broccoli
1 cup: 92 mcg (116% DV)

10) Asparagus

1 cup uncooked: 55 mcg (70%)

11) Sea Vegetables (kelp)
1 cup: 52 mcg (64% DV)

12) Cabbage
1 cup raw: 31 mcg (40% DV)

13) Cucumbers
1 cup: 17 mcg (22% DV)

14) Cauliflower
1 cup raw: 16 mcg (20% DV)

Vitamin K Rich Foods sources Infographic Table

Vitamin K Health Benefits

Red Blood Cells Heart Circulation

1. Supports Heart Health

Vitamin K has been shown to help prevent calcification of arteries, one of the leading causes of heart attacks. It works by carrying calcium out of the arteries and not allowing it to form into hard, dangerous plaque deposits.

Vitamin K helps to prevent hardening of the arteries because it can keep calcium out of your artery linings and other body tissues, where it can cause damage. This is especially true for vitamin K2, which is the vitamin that is made naturally in the bacteria of your intestines.

Some studies show that vitamin K is a critical nutrient for reducing inflammation and protecting cells that line blood vessels, including both veins and arteries. Consuming proper levels of vitamin K is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure and decreasing the chances of cardiac arrest.

 2. Improves Bone DensityHip joint bone density cross section

Vitamin K increases the amount of a specific protein required to maintain bone calcium, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Some studies on vitamin K have even found that high intakes of vitamin K can stop bone loss in people with osteoporosis. Your body needs vitamin K to use calcium to build bones.

There is increasing evidence that vitamin K can improve bone health and reduce the risk of bone fractures, especially in postmenopausal women who are at risk for osteoporosis (6).

According to recent research, men and women with the highest intake of vitamin K2 (which is found in dairy products and is produced naturally in your intestines) are 65% less likely to suffer a debilitating hip fracture as compared to those with the lowest intake of vitamin K2.

These studies have demonstrated that vitamin K can not only increase bone mineral density in osteoporotic people, but it can reduce fracture rates as well (7).

There is also strong evidence that vitamins K and Vitamin D, a classic in bone metabolism, work together to improve bone density.  There is increasing evidence that vitamin K positively affects calcium balance in the body, and calcium is a key mineral in bone metabolism. Studies of male and female athletes have also found that vitamin K helps with bone health (8). For people who are already injured, consuming enough Vitamin K foods can help prevent sprained ankles and to help heal broken bones.

3. Helps with Menstrual Pain and Bleeding

Vitamin K can help to reduce PMS cramps and other menstrual pains by regulating the function of your hormones. Because vitamin K is a blood clotting vitamin, it can also help with excessive bleeding during the menstrual cycle and offer pain relief  for PMS symptoms.

Excessive bleeding leads to more cramps and pain during your menstrual cycle. Many studies show that since vitamin K can help with the symptoms of PMS, the opposite is also true- a vitamin K deficiency will only make these symptoms worse.

Cancer cell attacked by lymphocytes

4. Fights Cancer

Vitamin K has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of prostate, colon, stomach, nasal, and oral cancers. One study even found that high doses of vitamin K helped patients with liver cancer stabilize and even improve their liver function. One study showed that an increase in dietary intake of vitamin K is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular, cancer, or all-cause mortality in a Mediterranean population at high cardiovascular disease risk (9).

5. Helps Blood Clotting

Vitamin K clots blood and stops your body from bleeding or bruising easily. The blood clotting process is very complex, as it requires at least 12 proteins to function before the process can be completed. Four of these protein clotting factors require vitamin K for their activity; therefore, vitamin K is essential. Because vitamin k helps to facilitate in blood clotting, it plays an important role in helping to heal bruises fast and also to heal cuts.

Haemorrhagic disease of newborns (known as HDN) is a disease where blood clotting does not properly take place. This is  developed by a newborn babies because of a vitamin K deficiency. One study found that it is necessary to give newborns a vitamin K injection at birth in order to safely eradicate HDN; this practice has been proven to be harmless for newborns (10).

Brain MRI cross section

6. Improves Brain Function

A study found that vitamin K dependent proteins are particularly important for the brain. Vitamin K participates in the nervous system through its involvement in sphingolipid metabolism, which is a class of naturally occurring molecules that are widely present in brain cell membranes.

Sphingolipids are biologically potent molecules involved in a wide range of cellular actions, and they are known for their structural role in building and supporting the brain.

There is also growing evidence that vitamin K has anti-inflammatory activity and can protect your brain against oxidative stress caused by free radical damage. Oxidative stress can damage your cells and is thought to be involved in the development of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and heart failure (11).

7. Helps Maintain Health of Gums & Teeth

A diet low in fat soluble vitamins including vitamin A, C, D, and vitamin K has been linked to having more cavities and symptoms related to gum disease. Beating tooth decay and gum disease requires you to increase your fat soluble vitamins that play a role in bone and teeth mineralization.

A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals helps to kill harmful bacteria that live in the mouth and produce teeth damaging acids. Vitamin K is one nutrient that works with other minerals and vitamins to kill bacteria that destroy tooth enamel resulting in tooth decay, and also provides teeth with the proper minerals they need to remain strong.

Vitamin K Health Benefits Infographic

 Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin K

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin K depends on your gender and age; other factors, such as breastfeeding, pregnancy, and illness, will also alter your RDA.

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommend the following as adequate intake of vitamin K:


  • 0 – 6 months: 2.0 micrograms per day (mcg/day)
  • 7 – 12 months: 2.5 mcg/day


  • 1 – 3 years: 30 mcg/day
  • 4 – 8 years: 55 mcg/day
  • 9 – 13 years: 60 mcg/day

Adolescents and Adults

  • Males and females age 14 – 18: 75 mcg/day
  • Males and females age 19 and older: 90 mcg/day

Vitamin K Side Effects & Interactionschemical molecular formula of Vitamin K

If you are pregnant or nursing, you should avoid vitamin K supplements that have a higher dose than the recommended daily allowance. If you have experienced stroke, cardiac arrest, or are prone to blood clotting, you should not take vitamin K without first consulting your physician.

If you take blood thinning drugs, you may need to limit vitamin K foods. You should know that vitamin K, or foods containing vitamin K, can affect how these drugs work.

If you take antibiotics for more than ten days, you may need to increase your intake of vitamin K because antibiotics can kill the bacteria in your intestines, which is what allows your body to absorb vitamin K.

Orlistat, a medication that used for weight loss, and Olestra, a substance that is added to some foods, can lower the amount of fat that your body can absorb; because vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, this can minimize your vitamin K levels. Doctors who prescribe Orlistat will typically suggest that you take a multivitamin as well, and The Food and Drug Administration now requires that all food containing olestra must add in fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E.

Medications that are used to reduce cholesterol will reduce how much fat your body absorbs, and may also reduce absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Speak to your health care provider in order to ensure that you are getting enough vitamin K if you take these kinds of medication.

Be careful if you take vitamin E supplements because vitamin E can interfere with how vitamin K works in your body.

 Relationship Between Vitamin K & Other Nutrients 

Vitamin K works with the other nutrients that are important to your bone health, such as calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium. These nutrients ensure that your bones stay strong.

If you are consuming too much vitamin K, then vitamins A and E may compete for absorption with vitamin K. But this is only if you are taking high doses of vitamin K, not if you are getting your vitamin K from foods or naturally in your intestines.

Acquiring More Vitamin K Naturally

In order to naturally add more vitamin K to your diet, try consuming whole food sources including plenty of leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, sea vegetables, and more. Try making some of these recipes rich in vitamin K:

From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

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