Vitamin K Deficiency: Signs and Treatments

Vitamin K is an important lipid-soluble vitamin, so vitamin K deficiency can affect any age group, and is usually encountered in infants.

Vitamin K plays an important role in helping the blood clot, and preventing excessive bleeding. It also contributes greatly to maintaining healthy bones and healing fractures; in fact, it has now become a popular choice for people in Japan to treat osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is basically a group of compounds, including vitamin K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is easily available in the form of supplement in the United States. The problem comes when people suffer from vitamin K deficiency.

How Much Vitamin K to Take

There is an RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for vitamin K, which explains exactly how much of it a person should take each day. The total RDA for vitamins changes with your age and gender. Some other factors such as breast-feeding, pregnancy, and illness may alter the amount you should consume daily. For instance:

  • Men over age 19 should take 120mcg/day and women over 19 should take at least 90mcg/day – it is the same for nursing and pregnant women.
  • For girls under 18, the recommended dietary allowance is 75 mcg/day.
  • For teens between 14 and 18 years of age, it is important to take at least 75mcg/day.
  • The RDA is 55mcg/day for children 4-8 years, while the children between 9 and 13 years of age should take 60mcg/day.
  • Children usually need less amounts of vitamin K, and the RDA is 30mcg/day for children aged 1-3 years.
  • Children between 0-6 months should ingest 2 mcg/day, while those between 7-12 months 2.5 mcg/day

What Causes Vitamin K Deficiency?

Low levels of vitamin K can lead to excessive bleeding. Although vitamin K deficiencies are not that common in adults, it is a common issue for newborns. Doctors may recommend an injection of vitamin K to eliminate the problem in newborns.

Sometimes, even an adult can suffer from this kind of vitamin deficiency, which happens for many different reasons. It affects people who cannot absorb fats due to a health condition, like cirrhosis. A person may find it difficult to absorb fat if he/she is on an antibiotic therapy for an extended period or is taking medications, such as Dilantin, cholestyramine, and Phenobarbital. Excessive alcohol consumption may also reduce the level of vitamin K in the body.

What Are the Signs of Vitamin K Deficiency?

This deficiency is usually rare, mainly because vitamin K is available in large amounts in spices and leafy green vegetables. Some bacteria in your intestine can also make vitamin K, so it is usually quite rare to find someone with lower levels of vitamin K. Unfortunately, the excessive use of antibiotics can kill those good bacteria in your intestine, which may lead to a vitamin imbalance in your body.

If someone is vitamin-K deficient, he/she will manifest certain signs and symptoms. The most common sign is related to bleeding and blood clotting – it could be bleeding gums, serious menstrual bleeding, or bleeding in the digestive tract. Some other signs include cartilage calcification, excessive bleeding at puncture sites, easy bruising that leads to bleeding, and brain bleeding in newborns.

How Is Vitamin K Deficiency Diagnosed?

Excessive or unexpected bleeding is usually a sign of this vitamin deficiency, but sometimes, additional testing is required to get to a conclusion. A prothrombine time (PT) is the most frequently used lab test to find the root cause of bleeding. Vitamin K is usually given by injection if the patient is found to be vitamin-K deficient. If the bleeding continues even after an injection, vitamin-K deficiency is not to be blamed and the patient may have to go for further laboratory tests, such as thrombin time, PTT, platelet function tests, platelet count, fibrinogen, coagulation factor tests, d-dimer, and von Willebrand.

How Is Vitamin K Deficiency Treated?

If recognized early, a vitamin K deficient patient usually has a good prognosis. Just make sure to get in touch with your doctor as soon as you notice specific signs and symptoms.

Both injections and oral supplementation are available to treat this vitamin deficiency. Sometimes, a patient may already have an underlying chronic condition in which it becomes important to use vitamin K supplementations over an extended period. It usually takes 2 to 5 days to see any effects of vitamin K, whether given as supplements or injections. The PT should normalize after the use of supplementation and injections, but if that doesn't happen, the bleeding may well be due to some other condition, such a liver disease or DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation).

What Are the Foods High in Vitamin K?

Taking vitamin K through injections and oral supplementations is definitely an option, but adding specific foods in your diet will help maintain the desired levels of vitamin K in your body naturally.  Here are some of the foods with high amount of vitamin K:

1.   Green Leafy Veggies

Kale tops the leafy chart with 1147 μg a cup. Spinach is also a nice choice because it has 1027 μg of vitamin K and is high in iron content. Other options include beet greens, collards, Swiss chard, and more.

2.   Salad Veggies

Different salad vegetables such as Radicchio, green lettuce, garden cress, arugula, endive, and chicory greens contain vitamin K up to 207µg per cup.

3.   Brassica Veggies

A number of Brassica vegetables such as broccoli, frozen broccoli, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, Pak Choi, and cauliflower can provide you with 140 µg of Vitamin K in every cup of 156g.

4.   Hot Spices and Chili Powder

Introduce more of cayenne pepper, paprika and curry powder in your food to receive vitamin K. A 100g serving of these spices will contain up to 105.7 µg.

In addition to these foods, you can also add pickles (sour pickle, dill pickle, etc.), soybeans (roasted soybeans or raw), vegetable oils (canola, soybean, olive, and sesame oil), and dried fruits (pears, blueberries, etc.) in your diet to fulfill your vitamin K needs.

You can watch the vidoe below for top 10 foods high in vitamin K:

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