Vitamin K – important for healthy blood, bones and cancer prevention

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, therefore it is stored in our bodies. This vitamin is well known for the role it plays in blood clotting.

Research shows that vitamin K is critical for the calcium-binding function of some proteins and therefore contributes significantly to bone building and maintenance.

Vitamin K has powerful anti-cancer effects by trapping abnormal cells and slowing down cell death. These findings stem from the discovery that several vitamin K-dependent receptors exist in cells and these regulate cell survival, transformation and reproduction.

How to get your vitamin K

  • Nature supplies us with vitamin K through green leafy vegetables and some vegetable oils (soybean, cottonseed, canola, and olive).

  • Some vitamin K2 is synthesized by bacteria that normally inhabit the large intestine.

  • Vitamin K2 can also be taken as part of a multivitamin supplement.
  • Who is at risk

  • If you are taking prescribed blood thinning medication (Coumadin or warfarin) you might be at risk, as these drugs inhibit or block the absorption of vitamin K. Doctors used to ask patients to not eat green leafy vegetables but these days the importance of vitamin K is better understood and patients are encouraged to include these vegetables in their diets as long as they keep their intake constant and go for regular blood tests. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about your vitamin K levels or intake.

  • Diet – if you do not eat enough green leafy vegetables (lettuce, kale, broccoli and spinach) you are starving your body from vitamin K.

  • Supplements - Large doses of vitamin A and vitamin E have been found to interfere with vitamin K absorption.

  • Regular aspirin use may block the uptake of vitamin K.

  • Antibiotics destroy the bacteria in the intestines necessary for vitamin K absorption. Always take a pro- biotic supplement or include yogurt, some types soft cheeses, or sour cream in your diet when you are on antibiotics.

  • Newborn babies who are exclusively breast-fed are at increased risk of vitamin K deficiency, because human milk is relatively low in vitamin K compared to formula.
  • What are the symptoms of vitamin K deficiency?

    Symptoms include

    easy bruising and bleeding
    bleeding gums
    blood in the urine
    blood in the stool
    tarry black stools
    extremely heavy menstrual bleeding

    Always consult your doctor before you take any supplementation.

    Though the dietary intake of vitamin K required for optimal function of all vitamin K dependent proteins is not yet known, the Linus Pauling Institute recommends taking a multivitamin-mineral supplement and eating at least 1 cup of dark green leafy vegetables daily. Replacing dietary saturated fats like butter and cheese with monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and canola oil will also increase dietary vitamin K intake and may also decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

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