Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vitamin K

Have you ever wondered how wounds heal? How our bodies have the ability to stop bleeding through clotting? The main function of Vitamin K, a fat soluble vitamin, is to aid in the synthesis of essential proteins for healthy blood clotting. The clotting of blood is an important part of the wound healing process as it functions to separate infected areas from other areas of the body. Through this, the spread of infection is prevented.
Studies show that people with adequate amounts of Vitamin K in their bodies are less prone to fracture incidence. This is because Vitamin K also helps maintain protein synthesis that is important for bone mineralization. Together with the bone vitamin, also called Vitamin D, Vitamin K ensures that the bone binds with the minerals they need to aid in the formation of cartilage and maintenance of bone mass.

Only a few individuals experience Vitamin K deficiency because this vitamin can be obtained from a non food source- the bacteria that synthesize Vitamin K in the gut. Individuals who are most likely to be Vitamin K deficient are premature babies whose guts are not yet inhabited by intestinal bacteria or adults who have taken or are taking antibiotics for a prolonged period of time, killing both good and bad bacteria in their intestinal tracts. Individuals who are also taking anticoagulant medications for heart disease reduce the amounts of Vitamin K in the body to decrease blood clotting. Likewise, people who have conditions such as liver disease, impaired kidneys and pancreatitis are prone to Vitamin K deficiency as well. Individuals who are Vitamin K deficient are likely to experience poor blood coagulation resulting in hemorrhagic symptoms and then to anemia. Severe deficiency can also cause impairment of bone mineralization that can hinder bone formation and growth and can eventually lead to osteoporosis.

There is no set intake level for Vitamin K since toxicity from natural sources is rare. However, taking synthetic forms of Vitamin K in high doses may result in the release of the red blood cell pigment bilirubin into the blood, causing jaundice. Jaundice in infants may lead to brain damage or death. Vitamin K’s riches food sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as collard greens, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, spinach, cauliflower and cabbage. Canola oil and soybeans are also excellent sources of Vitamin K.

Dr. James E. Carlson B.S.,D.O.,M.B.A.,J.D.

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