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Lucinda's Pearls: Vitamin K

Lucinda Harms is the director of pharmacy at CarePro Advance Health and CarePro Compounding.

One thing you may not know about vitamin K is that much of our vitamin K comes from the bacteria in our gut. Vitamin K deficiency can occur in seriously ill patients who are receiving antibiotics and have relatively little oral intake. This is because the antibiotics wipe out the normal gut flora and with no food coming into the gut, there is relatively little substrate for the bacteria to produce vitamin K. A lack of food intake may be sufficient to cause bleeding episodes as a result of a vitamin K deficiency. Milder forms of vitamin K deficiency may be relatively common in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, celiac and other conditions that lead to malabsorption of fat soluble vitamins. Newborns are at a high risk of having or developing a deficiency of vitamin K as a result of low body stores at birth, a relative lack of vitamin K in breast milk, and an absence of vitamin K synthesizing bacteria in the gut. Vitamin K is essential for bone formation and remodeling. Several studies have found that vitamin K levels were significantly lower in patients with osteoporosis than in controls without osteoporosis. Observational studies have found that lower dietary vitamin K intake was associated with an increased incidence of hip fractures in both men and women. To provide the benefit of decreased risk of hip fracture, you would need to consume at least 109 mcg/day. For bone health, take 100-1000 mcg/day of vitamin K1 (phytonadione) and be sure to take it with a meal that contains fat for best absorption. Some calcium supplements contain other bone health nutrients, one of which may be vitamin K. Phytonadione (vitamin K1) exhibits no adverse effects, even when administered to animals in massive doses, so toxicity is highly unlikely with this vitamin.