Vitamin K deficiency is rarely seen on its own, it is usually the result of another problem within the body. Not only is Vitamin K found in a large variety of easily obtainable foods such as vegetables and dairy products, it is also synthesized by bacteria in the small intestines where it is absorbed into the body. The body is also very efficient at recycling Vitamin K; each molecule can be used multiple times before degrading.
The symptoms of a Vitamin K deficiency include inadequate blood clotting which leads to excessive hemorrhaging and improper calcium utilization which leads to weak bones and osteoporosis as well as problems with calcium deposits in organs. Despite being fat soluble, Vitamin K is not stored in the body for long periods of time. For this reason, even short periods of time without Vitamin K consumption can result in deficiency symptoms.
The most frequent cause of Vitamin K deficiency is the long term use of antibiotics. Since about half of the Vitamin K in the body is produced by bacteria in the small intestines, the use of antibiotics, which kill that bacteria will lead to a drastic decrease in the amount of Vitamin K available for absorption. For this reason, individuals taking antibiotics are often given Vitamin K supplements. Related to this, often times newborn infants will have a Vitamin K deficiency, not because of antibiotics destroying the beneficial bacteria, but because the bacteria has not had time to properly populate the small intestines. Vitamin K injections are sometimes given to newborn children for this reason.
Another reason an individual might develop a Vitamin K deficiency is because of an illness, injury or disease that affects the small intestines and prevents the absorption of the nutrient. Inflammatory bowel disease or other chronic diseases of the intestines often result in deficiencies of many different vitamins and minerals because the cells lining the intestines are unable to extract the nutrients before they pass through the body.
The final reason for the appearance of many symptoms of Vitamin K deficiency is because of liver damage or disease. After being absorbed by the small intestines, Vitamin K is processed into it’s functioning forms in the liver. When there is damage to the liver, like is seen in cases of alcoholism or Hepatitis, sometimes the processing of the Vitamin K is diminished to the extent that it cannot perform its functions.
The most common symptoms of Vitamin K deficiency are excessive bruising and bleeding. This results in not only wounds closing slowly, but also bleeding to occur where it normally shouldn’t. Frequent nosebleeds that occur with no trauma is a frequent sign of a problem with Vitamin K. Other problems will be bruising from minor contact and even excessive bleeding during menstruation.
The other important role of Vitamin K involves the proper usage of Calcium. When an individual has a Vitamin K deficiency, the body does not mineralize bones properly, resulting in weak bones and osteoporosis. Along with this, calcium will also be deposited in undesirable places, including around organs like the heart and kidney. This calcification of organs can lead to organ failure and very dangerous problems.
Vitamin K deficiency is usually only seen in individuals with other health problems, including those taking antibiotics. Antibiotics, along with chronic or frequent intestinal diseases will result in low amounts of Vitamin K making it into the body. Liver disease can produce the same symptoms because the Vitamin K is not processed into it’s active forms. The most common symptoms of Vitamin K deficiency involved bleeding and calcium. Frequent nose bleeds, slow wound closing and easy bruising can result from a Vitamin K deficiency along with osteoporosis.