Vitamin K: This Information Could Save Your Life
If you are currently taking Coumadin, an anticoagulant, then you will want to pay attention to this information and learn all you can about vitamin K.
Your Blood Depends on Vitamin-K
Vitamin K is necessary for the formation of prothrombin, a protein required for blood clotting. Other clotting factors are also created by the aid of vitamin K: factor VII, factor IX, factor X, protein C, protein S and protein Z. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that when vitamin K is taken along with fatty foods, it is absorbed. The vitamin also is stored in fat tissues in the body, but only in small amounts; that's why daily intake is needed.
Vitamin K is important for the liver to function properly and is a key factor for a reaction in the body called phosphorylation where phosphate combines with glucose and converts to glycogen. The glycogen is then stored in the liver and muscles for energy when you need it the most.
Recently researchers have discovered that bone metabolism depends on vitamin K, as the vitamin is incorporated into bone Gla-protein and matrix Gla protein.
There are two primary forms of vitamin K: vitamin K1 called phylloquinone, vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7), hydroquinone and menaquinone-4. Vitamin K and its derivatives are based on the chemical 2-methyl-1,4-naphthoquinone.
Coumadin and Vitamin K Interact
It is relatively rare to have a vitamin K deficiency, say some experts, because the vitamin is actually manufactured in the intestinal tract in the presence of certain intestinal flora (bacteria). However, this belief is being challenged.
If your body cannot produce bile because you do not have a gall bladder or your liver is not working properly, it's possible that your vitamin K levels will be low. If you're on Coumadin or a Coumadin derivative, this drug reduces the activity of prothrombin produced by vitamin K, practically creating a vitamin K deficiency. However, physicians limit the amount of vitamin K their patients on Coumadin can take, rationalizing that it will interfere with the effects of the drug.
Patients on Coumadin should have their levels of Vitamin K checked regularly. Physicians may give small doses of Vitamin K to their patients with the purpose of raising the prothrombin levels slightly without counteracting the effect of the Coumadin. However, the drug warning sheet specifically states that Coumadin patients should not suddenly start eating more liver, kale, green vegetables or other foods high in vitamin K.
Radiation, rancid fats, x-rays, aspirin and air pollution destroy vitamin K, as do antibiotics. The use of mineral oil will flush out the vitamin K in the intestinal tract.
However, there are ways you can still increase the level of vitamin K without creating havoc in the body. A low carbohydrate diet that is also low in fat increases the amount of vitamin K your body produces. Also, adding yogurt and kefir milk to your diet will help increase the bacteria in the intestinal tract to a level sufficient for the small amounts of vitamin K needed. Kefir milk is now widely available at health food stores, and even major food chain stores such as Trader Joe's produce a great product.
Uncontrolled bleeding, cartilage calcification,and calcification of the arteries leading to the heart are signs of a deficiency.
Food Sources of Vitamin-K
Yogurt, kefir milk and acidophilus milk are good sources simply because of the good bacteria that they contain, bacteria that the intestinal tract needs. Other sources are kelp, green plants, leafy green vegetables, alfalfa, egg yolks, blackstrap molasses, cow's milk, fish liver oils and polyunsaturated oils such as corn, soy, safflower and pumpkin seed oil. Liver contains a high amount of vitamin K as well. According to experts, the most dependable source is getting your vitamin K from the intestinal bacteria.
How Much Vitamin K Do You Need?
Years ago, the average daily intake needed was set at 300 to 500 mcg vitamin K for adults. Now, the U.S. Dietary Reference Intake is 120 mcg. High doses are sometimes given to people before and after operations to prevent blood loss. Injections may be given to women before labor to prevent excessive hemorrhaging during the birthing process.
If someone has suffered from hemorrhages in the eye, sometimes vitamin K along with vitamin C is given to prevent further occurrences.
Toxicity of Vitamin-K
Supplements of synthetic vitamin K can build up in the body because the vitamin is fat soluble. Flushing, chest constriction and sweating can occur from this; however, no known toxic effects from natural vitamin K have been found.
Abnormal blood clotting can occur from high levels of vitamin K along with anemia.
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1. Dunne, Lavon. Nutrition Almanac, McGraw-Hill Publishing, 2002.
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