Vitamins are organic substances that cannot be made by humans that must be ingested in the diet in small quantities, they facilitate normal metabolism. Of the vitamins required by the body, vitamins A,D,K, and E are called the “fat soluble vitamins” because they absorbed by the intestines in the presence of fat.
Vitamin K is found in green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, and gut micro-flora also synthesize a form of vitamin K that humans absorb. The absorption of vitamin K requires pancreatic digestive enzymes and bile salts, therefore pancreatic disease or liver disease can cause a deficiency. Bowl disease such as Crohn’s may affect absorption and create deficiencies. Secondary deficiencies may occur through long term antibiotic use or prolonged fasting or starvation. Newborns tend to have low vitamin K levels due to low vitamin K in breast milk and the time it takes for the intestines to be colonized with vitamin K producing flora. Because of this, infants are given vitamin K injections shortly after birth to protect them from potential bleeding issues.
Vitamin K is an essential component of several enzymes that are involved in creating clotting factors and is utilized in the liver. A deficiency in vitamin K, or liver disease, can create bleeding issues. Vitamin K is also involved in enzymes that mineralize bone and studies of its significance are ongoing. Symptoms of vitamin K deficiency include: easy bruising, mucosal bleeding, splinter hemorrhages under the nails, and blood in the urine or stool. The normal daily recommended intake of vitamin K is 120 micrograms in men, and 90 micrograms in women.
Several anticoagulants, such as Coumadin, inactivate the Vitamin K dependent enzymes and by that mechanism prevent clotting from occurring. The administration of vitamin K can be used to reverse the effects of Coumadin.