Vitamin K occurs in a compound form of vitamin K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 or phylloquinone is a plant vitamin and is found in green leafy vegetables such as ponnaganni and drumstick leaves, garden cress, red and green amaranth leaves, red and green gogu leaves, methi or fenugreek leaves, spinach, to mention a few. In the K2 form or menaquinones , it is present in animal based food like meat, cheese, and eggs and in fermented foods such as fermented soybeans.
Vitamin K is present in most multivitamin or multi mineral supplements either as stand-alone or combined with others such as calcium, magnesium, and or vitamin D.
Around 31% of global adults suffer from vitamin K deficiency. If a pregnant mother suffers from vitamin K deficiency, new born children may have this deficiency as well. On an average, an adult woman above 19 years requires about 90 micrograms (mcgs) and a man older than 19 years requires about 120 mcgs of vitamin K daily.
Dangers of Vitamin K Deficiency
Vitamin K is an essential vitamin for blood clotting and for absorption of calcium by bones. So a deficiency results in difficulty in blood clotting while injured and gives rise to coagulopathy. On the other hand, since vitamin K helps in binding calcium to the bones, its deficiency results in osteopenia or osteoporosis. Osteopenia or osteoporosis, caused by lack of calcium absorption by the bone results in frequent fractures and bone related ailments.
Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency
The main symptom of deficiency of vitamin K is bleeding not stopping even from a small wound. Other symptoms include bruising easily leaving purple marks on the skin, black stools, blood in stools, bleeding gums, heavy menstrual bleeding, etc,.
Benefits of Vitamin K
Vitamin K helps in bones absorbing calcium from the diet and therefore prevents extra calcium in the blood. Calcium excess in the blood leads to serious complications such as heart disease due to the calcification of arteries and kidney damage. Vitamin K helps to manage this condition.
Overusage of Vitamin K
Vitamin K in excess causes jaundice, hyperbilirubinemia, hemolytic anemia, and kernicterus in infants. This is because vitamin K is fat soluble.
People taking Vitamin K supplements must consume enough fats to help the body to absorb the vitamin, because of its fat soluble nature. For example, a natural way to ensure adequate intake of vitamin K is to consume a salad of green leaves with a liberal dose of olive oil on top of it.
Another important point to remember is that people who are on blood thinning medications must consult their doctors before taking vitamin K supplements. Vitamin K has the opposite effect of blood thinners and clots the blood and this may be adverse for people who are on blood thinners.
If you are expecting a child, check the vitamin K levels in your blood and consult with your doctor to find out if after birth, your child may need a shot of vitamin K to avoid any risk of internal bleeding in the head.