Simple Yet Vital Role of Vitamin K

Vitamin K is an important nutrition for our body because they help in the production of blood clotting. Without vitamin K in our blood, even a slight wound can be life-threatening due to the constant flow of blood, which can cause blood haemorrhage if left untended. Excessive haemorrhage, or "bleeding" rarely happens through the lack of vitamin K. This is because synthetic, or artificial vitamin K can be easily introduced into our body through injections or tablet digestions. Such prescriptions can be provided by a physician after proper diagnosis.

Two Types of Vitamin K

There are two main types of vitamin K, that is vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. The first one, vitamin K1 is primarily obtained through the consumption of green vegetables, such as cabbages and spinach. Other food types like tomatoes and meat also contain vitamin K. However, the amount of vitamin K inside aforementioned foods are vastly lower than green vegetables.

The next one is vitamin K2. They are different than K1 because it is produced by bacterias living inside our small intestines. Alright, the word 'bacteria' may carry negative connotations, but rest assured that bacterias inside the intestines are harmless. They take some nutrients inside the intestines and in return they release vitamin K2 to be absorbed into the bloodstream. These relation is referred by biologists as symbiosis, that is, the mutual cooperation established between two different species. In this case, it happens between our intestines and the vitamin-producing bacterias. There are countless bacterias as well that helps produce other nutritions inside our body, scattered on various areas.

Now, that is the reason why physicians rarely prescribe antibiotics for more than 5 days. This is because prolonged doses of antibiotics can be harmful to the good bacterias inside our intestines. Therefore constant maintenance of antibiotics dosage is needed, thus we have to abide to the physician's advice and consume antibiotics as prescribed.

Function of Vitamin K

Vitamin K is used by our liver to produce blood clotting factors. This factor is called prothrombin. These are turned into thrombin, which will then change protein fibrenogen into fibrin. The protein fibrin makes a 'net' of sorts whenever it is exposed to foreign atmosphere, for example from a wound caused by a scissor cut. This 'net' then traps blood cells into a concentrated globules, masses of cells which will then stick together and dehydrates, causing an impenetrable closure which will seal open cuts, thus preventing more blood loss. It is these globules that turn into scabs moments after a sharp object breached our skin surface.

Without sufficient vitamin K, blood clotting cannot happen, thus blood losses can be fatal, due to large amount of blood loss, or due to foreign invaders such as viruses that can get through into the body because the protective barrier that is the skin has been breached.

Picture of the liver and identifying labels.Credit:

Vitamin K on Newlyborns

Without proper care, a newlyborn may lack the proper amount of vitamin K needed to patch up any wounds and scratches on their fragile skin. Babies have a low amount of vitamin K at first because bacterias have not yet established a proper presence inside their intestines. Furthermore, babies are also unable to consume vitamin-rich products such as vegetables and fruits. Their only early source of vitamin K is through injections or liquids.

Therefore proper introduction of mother's breast milk is essential to ensure the safety of the baby.

Diseases Interrupting Vitamin K's Amount

Several diseases affecting the liver can interfere with the normal production of vitamin K. One of these is cirrhosis, a condition where the liver slowly 'hardens', the same way as blood clot, forming a hard scab on the surface of the liver. Various problems will arise due to cirrhosis, mostly because the hard scab blocks blood vessels that transfer nutrients to the liver. Patients with cirrhosis needs sufficient amount of vitamin K to survive and maintain healthy blood quantities, so large amounts of it will have to be artificially introduced. Such a large amount can only be introduced using injections, especially if the patient is late to be diagnosed and is in critical condition. A qualified physician is required to ensure the correct dose is received.

Overdose of Vitamin K

Vitamin K is non-toxic. As such there are no dangers arising from an overdose of vitamin K. A normal liver will be able to process and remove excessive amount of vitamin K in the bloodstream and remove them through urine. On rare cases, especially due to the decreased efficiency of the liver caused by cirrhosis, unintended blood clottening called thrombosis may take form. This is when blood clots happen inside the bloodstream itself. Thrombosis is caused by improper intake of pills such as aspirin, that may interfere with the heart's ability to properly process vitamin K.

Effect of Thrombosis

This thrombosis clot slowly build up as it travels the bloodstream, where it will reach critical size and consequently blocks blood vessel preventing normal delivery of nutrients. This is a highly damaging condition because a decrease in blood flow prevents oxygen and many other vital fluids from reaching and supplying important organs and bodyparts.

For example, a thrombosis that blocks major blood vessel towards the lower part of the body like the legs may cause it to 'shrink'. This means a reduced blood pressure that causes pain and aching muscle. Furthermore, if the legs haven't received enough blood for a lenghty period of time it will have to be amputated because it has been reduced to mere 'dead weight'. This is a sorry state where the legs no longer function and consequently rot away. Affected parts will have to be removed quickly because they attract dangerous amounts of bacteria and viruses that reside on the dead tissues. If they are not removed in time then infections will start to spread from these areas into other bodyparts not damaged by the thrombosis blockage.

Ways to Proper Vitamin K Management

Well, vitamin K itself is a non-toxic nutrient, therefore there's no need to give too much attention on vitamin K's intake. Steps that can be taken is:

  • Proper Liver Care - No smoking or alcohol abuse
  • Healthy Lifestyle - Constant exercise and proper dietary measures
  • Adequate Safety Measures - Always handle sharp objects carefully