Vitamin K

Vitamin K deficiency is a rare condition in which the body does not produce the necessary proteins that enable blood to clot properly. This condition is more likely to affect newborns than adults, although many adults consume a diet deficient in vitamin K.

8. How Vitamin K Functions in the Body

Vitamin K Functions

There are two types of vitamin K. Phylloquinone, or vitamin K1, is found in leafy green plants. Menaquinone, or vitamin K2, can be found in certain meats. Vitamin K2 may also be produced by bacteria in your gut or intestinal tract. According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin K is critical for proper blood clotting and maintaining strong bones. When your body lacks the necessary amount of vitamin K, you may be at risk for excessive bleeding.

7. Risk Factors for Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K

You may be at risk for vitamin K deficiency if you do not consume leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, or broccoli. A diet extremely low in fat can also cause vitamin K deficiency, as this vitamin requires fat for proper absorption. The Merck Manual reports that certain anti-seizure medications and antibiotics can trigger vitamin K deficiency. Furthermore, individuals who consume extensive amounts of mineral oil may not be able to properly absorb dietary vitamin K. Lastly, diseases such as celiac disease or cystic fibrosis can place an individual at risk for vitamin K deficiency.

6. Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency

Bruises

In adults, symptoms of vitamin K deficiency may include excessive bleeding. Frequent bruising may occur as blood pools beneath the skin. In some cases, individuals deficient in vitamin K may vomit blood. Bloody urine or black, tarry stools can be an indication of vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

5. Newborns and Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K Newborns

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborn babies receive a vitamin K shot. Newborns are typically born with low levels of vitamin K. Babies may be at risk for vitamin K deficiency if they do not receive this shot, especially if they are breastfed. Mothers who take certain seizure medications or anticoagulants during pregnancy may give birth to babies deficient in this critical vitamin. Signs of vitamin K deficiency bleeding in newborns include blood in the infant’s stool or urine, bruising, and excessive fussiness.

4. Diagnosis of Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K Prothrombin Time Test

If your physician suspects a vitamin K deficiency, he or she may order a blood test to determine your blood’s ability to clot. This test, called a prothrombin time test (PT), measures the amount of time your blood requires for clotting. Prothrombin is a protein necessary for the coagulation of blood. A prolonged prothrombin time, greater than 13.5 seconds, may indicate a vitamin K deficiency. Other conditions that cause a prolonged PT include liver disease, low clotting factor VII, or the use of blood-thinning agents.

Related: 12 Signs of Vitamin Deficiency and How to Combat Them

3. Treatment of Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K Supplements

If your doctor determines you are deficient in vitamin K, he or she will likely prescribe an oral vitamin K supplement. Phytonadione is a vitamin K supplement that comes in tablet form. Your physician will take into consideration any other medications you are taking, such as blood thinners, vitamins, and aspirin-containing drugs. Infants are generally treated with vitamin K injections.

2. Food Sources of Vitamin K

Vitamin K Food Sources

Several foods are rich sources of vitamin K. Leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, and spinach are high in vitamin K. Animal sources of vitamin K include beef, pork, and chicken. Prunes, kiwi, berries, and avocado also contain dietary vitamin K. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts are good sources of this vitamin. Consuming these foods along with healthy fats improves their absorption.

1. Interactions with Vitamin K

Vitamin K Letter

Several medications may interact with vitamin K. Avoid consuming large amounts of vitamin K-rich foods if you are taking blood thinners. Furthermore, mineral oil, certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, weight loss medications, and phosphate binders can interact with vitamin K. If you are taking any of these medications, talk with your doctor about any precautions you need to take regarding vitamin K consumption.

Related: Toss Your Multivitamins and Eat These 9 Foods Instead
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