Vitamin K Deficiency 101: 22 Causes, Treatment and Foods to Eat

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Vitamin K Deficiency 101 | This post is a great guide to all things Vitamin K! We've included a list of Vitamin K deficiency symptoms, common causes, and treatment options. We're also curated a list of foods that are high in Vitamin K, which you can each alone or use to create Vitamin K rich snacks and meals the whole family will love. Click to read the benefits of adding Vitamin K to your daily diet, and which foods are the best natural sources of Vitamin K!

Vitamin K is essential for our bodies to function properly. Understanding the benefits and knowing which foods to add to your daily diet can help keep you healthy and help avoid a Vitamin K deficiency.

What Are the Health Benefits of Vitamin K?

When it comes to Vitamin K, there are two different types: Vitamin K1 and Vitamin K2.

  • Vitamin K1, also known as phylloquinone, comes from plants. The best sources are green, leafy plants such as kale or spinach.
  • Vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone, is found in animal-based foods such as egg yolks, butter, and fermented foods like kefir. It also occurs naturally in our intestinal tract.

Vitamin K has one big health benefit. It helps our bodies with coagulation, which is also known as blood clotting. Without blood clotting, we are at risk of excessive bleeding, not only on the outside of our bodies, but inside as well.

Vitamin K helps our bodies produce the proteins it needs to coagulate our blood. When you don’t have enough Vitamin K, you are more likely to experience heavy bleeding that is not easy to stop.

In addition to helping our bodies coagulate blood, Vitamin K also contributes to overall bone and heart health. Low levels of Vitamin K can be a factor in osteoporosis as well as cardiovascular symptoms.

8 Vitamin K Deficiency Symptoms

Beyond excessive bleeding, there are symptoms of a Vitamin K deficiency for children and adults as well as infants.

For Children and Adults:

    1. Bruising easily
  1. Small blood clots beneath the nails
  2. Bleeding in the mucous membranes lining the inside of the body
  3. Dark black, almost tar-like stool, that contains blood

For Infants:

  1. Bleeding in areas such as nose, skin, or gastrointestinal tract
  2. Bleeding at the circumcision site
  3. Bleeding from where the umbilical cord was removed
  4. Sudden bleeding in the brain

12 Vitamin K Deficiency Causes and Risk Factors

Having a Vitamin K deficiency is rare, since most people get enough Vitamin K from their diet. For others, there are risk factors or medical conditions where a person will already have or develop a deficiency.

Risk Factors of Vitamin K Deficiency

  1. Not getting a sufficient amount of Vitamin K from your diet
  2. Taking antibiotics that interfere with how well your body produces and absorbs Vitamin K
  3. Taking anticoagulants or blood thinners which can interfere with how Vitamin K works in your body
  4. Taking high doses of either Vitamin E or Vitamin A

Causes of Vitamin K Deficiency

Some causes of Vitamin K deficiency are related to conditions where the body is unable to absorb fat, otherwise known as fat absorption. Those conditions include:

    1. Cystic fibrosis
  1. Celiac disease
  2. Removal of part of the intestine, such as during bariatric surgery
  3. Disorders of the biliary or intestinal tract

Newborns tend to be more at risk of having a Vitamin K deficiency. Conditions which lead to this include:

  1. Their liver is unable to use Vitamin K effectively
  2. Breast milk does not contain sufficient levels of Vitamin K
  3. While in the womb, Vitamin K doesn’t transfer well from the placenta to the baby
  4. A baby is unable to produce enough Vitamin K2 in their gut

Treatment for a Vitamin K Deficiency 

When it comes to treating a Vitamin K deficiency, a doctor will prescribe a Vitamin K supplement known as phytonadione. Patients can take it orally or through an injection if they are unable to absorb it by mouth.

How much phytonadione is prescribed depends on a person’s age and overall health. Before prescribing it, your doctor will check to see if you’re taking anticoagulants, since they may interfere with Vitamin K absorption.

10 Foods High in Vitamin K 

These 10 foods are a great choice if you’re looking to add more Vitamin K to your diet.

    1. Kale – Raw or cooked, kale is a great source of Vitamin K. Cooking it however allows you to consume more of this superfood in a single serving. Kale is a low-carb, low-calorie food high in vitamins and minerals.
    2. Spinach – Like kale, cooking spinach can help you eat more of this leafy green high in Vitamin K. Spinach is one of the best sources with a whopping 1,020 mcg per one cup cooked serving. It’s also a great choice if you’re looking for plant-based protein.
    1. Broccoli – Broccoli is not only low in calories, it also has many health benefits. It’s high in Vitamin K, promotes heart health, and can reduce your risk of cancer.
    2. Kiwi – Kiwi is a sweet, healthy way to get your daily dose of Vitamin K. With 72.5 mcg per serving, kiwi has more of this must-have vitamin than most other fruits. It’s also a great source of Vitamins E and C, folate, and potassium.
    3. Asparagus – Not only is cooked asparagus delicious, it’s also high in Vitamin K. It contains protein, folate, and can help you reach your daily value of fiber.
    4. Brussels sprouts – Whether you slice them and add them to a dish or roast them in the oven, you can’t go wrong with brussels sprouts. High in Vitamin K and antioxidants, they are filling and full of flavor.
    5. Green snap beans – Full of nutrients, including Vitamin K, green snap beans are a healthy choice. You can enjoy them raw or cooked and still receive all of their benefits, including 60 mcg of Vitamin K per one serving of cooked beans.
    6. Cabbage – One serving of cooked cabbage can cover your daily need for Vitamin K. Dense in a variety of nutrients, cabbage is low in carbohydrates, calories, as well as fat.
    7. Collard Greens – Rich in Vitamin K, this leafy green is best served cooked to get all the benefits. High in antioxidants, it’s also a good source of carotenoids such as beta carotene and lutein.
    8. Turnip Greens – Another leafy green high in Vitamin K, turnip greens should be cooked to avoid their bitter taste. One cup of cooked turnip greens gives you twice your daily recommended value of Vitamin K, as well as calcium, potassium, and Vitamin C.

Although it’s rare, if you do develop a Vitamin K deficiency, it’s important to seek treatment from your doctor.

By learning the symptoms to look out for and choosing a diet high in Vitamin K-rich foods, you can help prevent Vitamin K deficiency.

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