Explore the critical aspects of Vitamin K Deficiency, uncovering signs, symptoms, causes, and effective prevention and treatment measures.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin made out of two compounds, which are separately known as vitamin K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 plays a role in keeping bones strong by helping to deposit calcium into the bone matrix where it belongs. It also plays a role in cell growth and differentiation, particularly in the developing brain where it helps form the myelin sheath around nerve cells.
Vitamin K2 also activates osteocalcin, which binds calcium to the bone matrix and promotes bone mineralization. It also helps to promote protein synthesis in the form of blood clotting to help stop bleeding during an injury. Vitamin K is a necessary set of vitamins to consume in your diet, and it is arguably just as important as Vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium for optimal health.
Many foods are rich in vitamin K1, while K2 is more rare to find. Some vitamin K gets made by the good bacteria in the intestines, so optimal gut health is also helpful for your body to produce this vitamin naturally. Vitamin K deficiency can occur when there is less vitamin K than required for normal blood clotting. This may be due to a poor diet or malabsorption of nutrients. If you have a low amount of vitamin K in your body, you may develop certain symptoms.
1. Slow Wound Healing and Easy Bruising
A person who bruises easily could have an underlying vitamin K deficiency. Your body needs vitamin K to make a substance called prothrombin, which is essential for blood clotting. A deficiency of vitamin K can lead to low levels of prothrombin and therefore cause easy bruising or bleeding. Vitamin K also helps form a protein that aids blood clotting, preventing excessive bleeding.
In one study by the National Institute of Health, the topical application of vitamin K significantly improved wound healing effects on the people tested. Topical vitamin K can also be beneficial in reducing bruising, and more dietary vitamin K can prevent bruising from happening.
Bruising can even occur when blood vessels are weak from medications, diseases, or other nutrient deficiencies.
2. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
A condition called menorahaja causes heavy menstrual bleeding in women and can be caused by a lack of vitamin K in the body. Although rare, there is some research to support the occurrence. Menorahaja is a common condition among women in their reproductive years. It can often be an initial indicator of a bleeding disorder. Menorahaja can be defined as heavy menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than seven days or has more than 800 milliliters of blood loss throughout a single menstrual period.
Menstrual flow should be evaluated by a doctor if it is heavy enough to cause anemia, frequent infections, or pain during intercourse or exercise. A small amount of dietary vitamin K might be necessary to prevent menorahaja. However, many other factors go into developing menorahaja, such as uterine fibroids, hormone imbalances, polyps, and even cancerous tumors.
3. Gastrointestinal Tract Bleeding
Vitamin K deficiency leads to impaired blood clotting, which may result in gastrointestinal tract bleeding. The symptoms include blood in the stool or black tarry stools. This condition is referred to as hemobilia. Bleeding from the nose, gums, or other mucous membranes may also be present due to decreased blood clotting ability caused by low levels of vitamin K.
The most common sources of vitamin K are leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale. Other vitamin sources include broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. You can also find vitamin K present in fortified cereal and milk. Vitamin K is also available as a dietary supplement in pill form or as an injection for people who cannot absorb sufficient vitamin K from food.
4. Poor Gum Health
Inflammation in the gums can lead to excess bleeding, oozing, and even gingivitis. Vitamin K is essential for maintaining the health of the gums. As mentioned above, this vitamin is important for proper blood clotting, necessary to heal wounds in the mouth and elsewhere on the body. Without adequate amounts of this vitamin, there will be insufficient levels of enzymes that help form blood clots and stop bleeding. This can lead to bleeding gums or internal bleeding, which can be dangerous.
In addition, a lack of vitamin K1 may cause poor gum health because it prevents calcium from being deposited into teeth. That’s why people with poor dental health usually have low levels of vitamin K1. In extreme cases, people who have vitamin K deficiency may experience tooth loss, but this can be easily prevented. This is because as little as 10 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin K can prevent gum disease and tooth decay.
5. Small Blood Clots Under Nails
Small blood clots under the nails are a clear symptom of a vitamin K deficiency. They occur when the walls of tiny blood vessels break down, and these small pools of blood leak out into surrounding tissues. This creates red spots on the skin or gums that can usually be seen with the naked eye. These small blood clots are called subungual hematomas, and they are usually caused by trauma to the finger or thumb.
Subungual hematomas can also occur when there is not enough vitamin K in your body to form proper blood clots. The most common symptom of subungual hematoma is a small pinkish bump under the nail that looks like a bruise or something stuck under the nail. Small blood clots under the nails can also cause pain, tenderness, and swelling at the base of the nail bed where it meets your finger or thumb.
6. Bleeding in Mucous Membranes
Mucous membranes are epithelial tissue that produces mucus, lining the cavities and organs in the body, specifically the gut and respiratory system. Vitamin K deficiency can cause bleeding in mucous membranes and skin. The vitamin is involved in the production of prothrombin, which is essential for blood clotting. If there is not enough prothrombin, it results in excessive bleeding from cuts or wounds that do not stop after a few minutes.
In addition to bleeding into the skin and mucous membranes, this condition may also lead to nosebleeds or excessive bleeding during childbirth. A person with this condition may be pale due to anemia from prolonged bleeding or bruising easily from minor bumps or falls. Bleeding from the stomach or intestines may also occur due to vitamin K deficiency, so anyone who experiences these symptoms should see their doctor immediately for testing.
7. Blood in the Urine or Stool
Blood in the stool and urine is the most common symptom of vitamin K deficiency. This condition can cause bleeding into the digestive tract, joints, muscles, or brain. Some people with this condition also experience hair loss, weight loss, and swollen glands in their neck area. Vitamin K deficiency is rare in healthy adults who eat a balanced diet.
Causes of Vitamin K Deficiency
Vitamin K is one of the few vitamins that is not made by your body naturally, so it must be obtained from foods or tablets. Vitamin K deficiency can be caused by certain medications, including oral contraceptives and antibiotics. Some types of liver disease and some digestive problems that affect how food moves through the digestive system can prevent your body from absorbing enough vitamin K from food sources.
Certain diseases that affect the intestines or stomach lining, such as short bowel syndrome, can prevent your body from absorbing vitamins normally made by these organs. In rare cases, it has been found that people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis need higher amounts than normal of certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K-containing foods. The reason for this is for their bodies to produce adequate amounts of blood clotting factors needed for proper blood clotting function.
Foods that Contain Vitamin K
The recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin K is 90 micrograms per day for women and 120 micrograms per day for men aged 19 years or older. Pregnant women should get 90 micrograms per day from week 4 of pregnancy through the first six months after delivery. While breastfeeding, mothers should get 120 micrograms per day until their baby reaches 6 months old.
Kale is one of the best sources of vitamin K, with about 90 micrograms in half a cup. Other good sources include spinach, turnip greens, cabbage, and collard greens. If you prefer other types of greens like Swiss chard or beet greens, they’re still good sources but not as rich as kale or spinach. Vitamin K deficiency is rare, and bleeding problems are a particularly concerning, often life-threatening symptom. For this reason, it’s very important to know how to spot the signs and symptoms of vitamin K deficiency. The earlier you notice these symptoms, the easier it will be to treat them effectively.
So, don’t let a vitamin K deficiency stand between you and the healthiest life you can lead. By paying attention to your vitamin intake, making smart food choices, and being aware of common symptoms, you can take steps to make sure that your body has all the vitamin K it needs.