Vitamins are essential nutrients that help the body function. Some vitamins are ingested organically — such as from the sun or leafy vegetables. Others can be found in capsule format at your local pharmacy. Similarly, the benefits of vitamin K and others are already in some of your favorite foods.
You’re probably familiar with vitamins C and D. Vitamin C is helpful in fighting heart disease and vitamin D is important for bone strength. But Vitamin K is a vitamin you might not have heard too much about in health class.
Vitamin K is nicknamed the “blood-clotting vitamin” for its essential role in healing wound and clotting blood. It can also assist in bone health, much like vitamin D. After you’ve been injured, the body automatically creates blood clots, a thickened mass of blood, to stop the bleeding. This is a good thing, but excessive blood clots can be dangerous and even fatal.
Leafy vegetables, such as kale, parsley and spinach, are natural sources of vitamin K. It can also be found to a lesser extent in meats, fish, eggs and many other foods.
Bruising easily and painfully is the main symptom of a vitamin K deficiency in adults. It is a problem much more common in infants because their bodies don’t produce any vitamin K until they are a few months old and breast milk doesn’t contain enough of the essential vitamin. Jaundice skin is one side effect in infants, but is easily remedied with supplements and shouldn’t result in lifelong issues.
If you don’t think you can increase your vegetable intake for a sufficient amount of vitamin K intake, you can ask your doctor about supplements. However, it’s important to seek professional advice beforehand, as some medications can have adverse reactions with vitamin K supplements.
What Does Vitamin K do to Your Body?
Vitamin K plays an essential part in your body’s wound healing and overall bone health. Your body requires 13 proteins for blood clotting. Vitamin K helps produce four of those proteins. The vitamin has a helpful effect on bone density and helps reduce the risk of fractures, particularly in women.
We know that vitamin D helps the body build calcium, which is fundamental to bone health. Vitamin K assists vitamin D with navigating to the bones to help development and strength. Low bone density can increase your risk for hip and other fractures. Vitamin K helps prevent that by strengthening bone density.
Vitamin K produced the protein prothrombin, a necessary factor for blood clotting and bone metabolism. Blood clotting is how the body heals wounds, bruises and other injuries.
Suffering from vitamin K deficiency is quite rare and mostly affects infants. Some people have a rare disorder called hemophilia where their body doesn’t produce prothrombin for normal blood clotting.
Aside from blood clotting assistance, vitamin K can help in many other areas.
Heart Health – Vitamin K helps reduce strokes and other conditions caused by high blood pressure. It helps the heart prevent mineralization build-up in the arteries, which can lead to strokes, heart attacks and other heart problems.
Bone Health – Vitamin K can help prevent osteoporosis (low bone density) by working with vitamin D to produce calcium to increase bone density. Osteoporosis mainly affects women and increased calcium can reduce fractures in hips and other bones that are common among older people.
Cognitive Health – Vitamin K is shown to increase blood flow to the brain. This increase in blood flow helps memory and other cognitive functions. The blood flow can also be tied back to heart health, as blood need clear arteries to travel through.
Aside from the multitude of health benefits, vitamin K is also great for the skin.
Vitamin K Benefits for Skin
Vitamin K’s basic function is to strengthen bones and assist in blood clotting. However, when applied to the skin, it can reduce many skin blemishes and skin conditions by strengthening the skin. Stretch marks, spider veins and scars are some of the skin issues that are helped by applying vitamin K to the skin.
If you’re looking for healthy, younger skin, look at the ingredients list of skincare products and use one with high amounts of vitamin K. It can help make stretch marks fade and minimize scars, as well as spider veins. Vitamin E is usually considered the best vitamin for skin conditions, but vitamin K can be effective, as well.
Dark circles under the eyes are another area where vitamin K can reduce or lighten the circles for a younger appearance. Applied directly to the skin, vitamin K can alleviate symptoms from skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis.
Here are a few of the best skin care products containing vitamin K:
A great topical eye cream to add to your skincare routine, Organys Rejuvenating Eye Formula contains powerful ingredients such as vitamin K and aloe as well as potent fruit extracts like pineapple, passion fruit, and lemon.
For a stronger formula, you may like Koxiderm OP Cream, which contains 2% vitamin K1 oxide of medical grade quality; that's a purity rating of over 98%.
If you'd like to help bruising heal fast or naturally improve blood circulation while reducing varicose veins and dark circles under the eyes, this cream by Miracle Plus may be for you.
What Foods Should You Eat for Vitamin K Benefits?
Green leafy vegetables are the most effective source of vitamin K. Other green vegetables also have fair amounts of the vitamin. Some meats and fish have minimal vitamin K that can be consumed to boost your overall vitamin intake.
Examples of foods rich in vitamin K include:
- Green Beans
- Collard Greens
- Hard-boiled Eggs
Studies have found that most adults get enough vitamin K intake with a well-balanced diet. However, if you’re not sure, the recommended intake is 90 micrograms per day for women and 120 micrograms for men.
If you’re at a loss on how to increase your vitamin K intake, here are some recipes made by a professional dietitian:
- Spinach Pesto Salad with Farro
- Spinach Lasagna
- Baked Halibut with Garlic Kale and Roasted Cashews
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Pecans and Avocado
If you’re looking for a faster way to get an intake of vitamin K without eating leafy vegetables, you can purchase a juicer. Juicing is a healthy way to get the required nutrients in a short amount of time. You can drink your leafy greens instead of trying to fit them into meal times.
How Do You Know if You Have a Vitamin K Deficiency?
A vitamin K deficiency is rare in adults. Some infants are affected by it due to a lack of vitamin K in breastmilk. Adults who have vitamin K deficiency usually also have a gastrointestinal disorder, such as cystic fibrosis, celiac or Crohn’s disease. These diseases are unable to absorb the required vitamin K.
Blood thinners and antibiotics can also increase the chance of a vitamin K deficiency. People who are susceptible to the deficiency are given a vitamin K supplement called phytonadione.
Vitamin K deficiencies can cause excessive bleeding from the nose and gums. Other symptoms include:
- Bruising easily
- Blood clots under the nails
- Bleeds in mucous membranes (nose, mouth, etc.)
- Dark black stools or bloody stools
The body naturally produces vitamin K in the large intestine and for most people, that is more than enough vitamin K. However, there isn’t any harm in supplementing that natural vitamin K with leafy vegetables or even over-the-counter pills.
Infants can develop jaundice as a result of a vitamin K deficiency, but very few adults are affected.
If you suspect you have a vitamin K deficiency, see a doctor before trying to increase your intake on your own.
Can Too Much Vitamin K be Harmful?
Vitamin K toxicity is very rare, but it can happen from taking too many supplements. Eating too many vitamin K-rich vegetables is not likely to cause any harmful reactions. For reasonably healthy adults, getting as much vitamin K benefits from natural foods is no risk.
However, the interaction between vitamin K and common medications can result in harmful toxicity. Some of the medications can include blood thinners, antibiotics, cholesterol pills and weight loss drugs.
If you suffer from kidney or liver diseases, too much vitamin K can be harmful to your blood sugar levels. Since reactions to vitamin K are quite rare, there isn’t a lot of information available on the symptoms of the toxicity. In infants, jaundice can be a symptom, but it is extremely rare in adults without other medical problems that contribute to the vitamin K toxicity.
If you suspect that you aren’t getting enough vitamin K, it is best to see a doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you are on any other medications.
What This All Means For You
Your body relies on vitamins to grow and develop normally. While vitamins D and C get the most attention, vitamin K is equally important. The blood clotting after an injury is something most of us take for granted and don’t give a second thought. Increasing your vitamin K intake can help your body in this essential function.
Eating leafy green vegetables can benefit your overall health, not just your vitamin K intake. Spinach, especially, can make you “strong to the finish.” Vitamin K can also be used in skincare products for smoother, blemish-free skin!
Do you have a favorite vitamin K food or product? Feel free to share your best kept vitamin K benefits secret down below!