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  Common Conditions That May Result from a Vitamin K Deficiency

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Many of the features of common chronic disorders, especially connective tissue disorders, are identical to the symptoms of vitamin K deficiencies. Is this a coincidence, or could vitamin K deficiencies be an often overlooked factor in many disorders currently attributed to genes or other causes?

I've been diagnosed with a variety of overlapping inherited connective tissue disorders that all have bleeding problems as symptoms, yet all of my bleeding problems stopped when I changed my diet to get more vitamin K. I've been to many doctors throughout my life, including a hematologist, for my bleeding problems, yet I was never tested for a vitamin K deficiency. I learned about vitamin K from nutrition books and doing my own research on the Internet. It does make me wonder how many other people there are who have bleeding problems caused by an undiagnosed vitamin K deficiency, an easily correctable condition.

Note: High vitamin K intake can interfere with anticoagulant medication. Remember to check with your doctor before making any diet or supplement modifications, especially if you are on anticoagulants.


Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiencies

Vitamin K is known to be needed to coagulate blood and to maintain proper bone density. It plays a key role in proper development of the fetus. Deficiencies of vitamin K have been linked to:

Heavy menstrual bleeding*
Gastrointestinal bleeding
Hematuria (blood in the urine)
Eye hemorrhages
Gum bleeding
Prolonged clotting times

Ovarian Hemorrhaging
Easy bruising
Liver Cancer
Calcification of soft tissue, especially heart valves (See my section on Calcium Deposits for more on this topic).

Birth defects linked directly to vitamin K deficiencies include:

Underdevelopment of the nose, mouth and mid face
Shortened fingers
Cupped ears
Flat nasal bridges

The following birth defects have been linked to anticonvulsant drugs, which block vitamin K:

Epicanthal folds
Flat nasal bridge
Short noses
Variety of craniofacial abnormalities
Neural tube defects
Mental retardation
Learning disabilities
Long, thin overlapping fingers
Upslanting palpebral fissures
Cardiac abnormalities
Distal digit hypoplasia (shortened pinkie fingers)
Growth deficiency

Also see my sections on:

Menorrhagia: Overlooked Causes of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding for more information on this topic.

Nose bleeds: Overlooked Causes and Remedies for Epistaxis

Ovarian Pain from Vitamin K Deficiency


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How Vitamin K Deficiencies Occur

Human intake of vitamin K comes from two main sources - our diets and synthesis from intestinal bacteria. Vitamin K deficiencies can be caused by a variety of factors. These include:

  • Not consuming enough vitamin K from one's diet can contribute to a deficiency. Dietary vitamin K is highest in leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, kale, broccoli and collard greens.These are foods that many people don't eat frequently.

  • A diet with high intakes of salicylates can block vitamin K. Salicylates are found in foods such as nuts, fruits, spices and mints. Aspirin is a salicylate. Blocking vitamin K is why aspirin can "thin" the blood - it basically keeps blood from coagulating. This is why too much aspirin may be a factor in bleding related health issues such as epistaxis (nose bleeds), as well as brain and intestinal bleeding. A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that aspirin increased brain and stomach bleeding by 55%.

    Regular aspirin use may raise the risk of bleeding strokes in healthy people. A study from Oxford University found that large numbers of older people suffered from bleeding in the brain when they took aspirin or other antithrombotic drugs. Another study from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London found that aspirin use caused a risk of serious bleeding in men with high blood pressure

    Click here for more information on salicylates and other foods that may naturally thin the blood.
  • Antibiotics can cause bleeding problems from vitamin K deficiencies. Antibiotics destroy not only harmful digestive tract bacteria, but also the beneficial intestinal bacteria that is needed to create vitamin K. In order to replace the beneficial intestinal bacteria after a course of antibiotics it is often recommended to eat yogurt with active cultures or have to take probiotic supplements containing acidophilus. In the U.S. You can usually get the supplements at most drug stores or health food stores. The refrigerated kind is often best because the cultures last the longest when they have been kept cold.

    Replacing beneficial bacteria after antibiotics is standard conventional medical advice in many European countries, but does not seem to be common medical advice in the United States.

    "It is important for the production of many nutrients that we keep our "friendly" colon bacteria active and doing their job; to aid this process we should minimize our use of oral antibiotics, avoid excess sugars and processed foods, and occasionally evaluate and treat any abnormal organisms interfering in our colon, such as yeasts or parasites."

    "Yogurt, kefir, and acidophilus milk may help to increase the functioning of the intestinal bacterial flora and therefore contribute to vitamin K production."

    from "Vitamin K", by Elson M. Haas M.D.

    Click here to read Dr. Hass' complete article.

  • Candida (systemic yeast) infections have been linked to vitamin K deficiencies. An overgrowth of candida albicans or other kinds of yeast can crowd out the helpful bacteria in the digestive tract that make vitamin K. People who eat a lot of sugary foods, an unusually high proportion of alkaline foods and/or take antibiotics tend to be at high risk for Candida infections.

  • Malabsorption syndromes that prevent the proper absorption of nutrients can cause vitamin K deficiencies. Celiac disease, an intolerance to gluten, can cause deficiencies of a wide variety of nutrients, especially vitamin K. Crohn's disease can also cause vitamin K and other deficiencies.

  • Anticoagulants like Warfarin block the action of vitamin K. In turn, vitamin K blocks the action of anticoagulants. This is why people taking these types of medications have to limit how much vitamin K they get in their diet.

  • High amounts of vitamin A and/or vitamin E can also block vitamin K. I get nosebleeds whenever I take a multivitamin or eat one of the popular nutrition bars, even if I choose one with vitamin K. I think it may be at least in part because the multivitamins and nutrition bars always contain high amounts of vitamin A and E--probably too much for someone like me who bleeds easily.

  • The bacteria that synthesize vitamin K thrive in an acidic digestive environment. Antacids, if taken in sufficient quantity, may cause a vitamin K deficiency, as well as irritable bowel syndrome and various nutritional deficiencies, because they neutralize the hydrochloric acid in a person's stomach. Hydrochloric acid is needed to digest food and create the acidic environment in which the beneficial bacteria thrive.

    (For more information on this topic, see my section on Acidic Foods - Alkaline Foods.

  • One study found vitamin K deficiencies to be common in male alcoholics. (Perhaps not coincidentally, children born with fetal alcohol syndrome share many overlapping borth defects linked to vitamin K deficiencies.)

  • In rats, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), a food preservative, was shown in tests to induce vitamin K deficiencies. BHT is a common preservative. Many commercial cereal boxes are sprayed with BHT to extend the shelf life of the product.

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Vitamin K Deficiencies - A Common Link in Connective Tissue Disorders?

The primary symptoms associated with vitamin K deficiencies are osteoporosis and prolonged bleeding times. Other symptoms that occur frequently in conjunction with osteoporosis and prolonged bleeding times in connective tissue disorders are mitral valve prolapse, scoliosis and hypermobility.


Different studies show all that each of these conditions occur in association with the other two, and each has been found to occur in association with prolonged bleeding times.


If you look at nutrition as a causative factor, then there are highly logical possibilities to consider as reasons for these associations.

Mitral valve prolapse, scoliosis and hypermobility tend to occur in conjunction with each other whether they occur as an "isolated" conditions or together as features of defined genetic disorders. In fact, most connective tissue disorders have scoliosis, mitral valve prolapse and hypermobility as primary features. But isn't it interesting that these disorders occur together even without the existence of a "genetic" disorder like Marfan or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome? It is noteworthy that independent, unrelated studies have found each of the three conditions to be linked to prolonged bleeding times, a symptom of vitamin K deficiency. Scoliosis has been linked in many studies to fractures and osteoporosis, which are also features that can be associated with vitamin K deficiencies. Interestingly, flat nasal bridges and underdeveloped mid faces are also signs of many connective tissue disorders, and they are also known to be caused by prenatal vitamin K deficiencies.

A study in Russia found that MVP frequently occurred in combination with elastic skin, joint hypermobility, dislocations and occasional bleedings. Common findings of patients with MVP included hematuria (blood in the urine), nosebleeds, profuse menstrual bleeding, poor wound healing and gastrointestinal bleeding. Many patients had more than one of these problems. Investigations revealed the patients also had platelet aggregation dysfunction, von Willebrand syndrome, end coagulation disturbances or lack or anomalies of factors VII, X and II.

Basically, these symptoms linked to MVP are identical to the symptoms of vitamin K deficiencies. It is also interesting to note that vitamin K is a cofactor for the synthesis of blood coagulation factors II, VII, IX and X, three of the four coagulation factors found to be lacking or having anomalies in people with MVP. I doubt this is all a coincidence. I suspect a lack of vitamin K is a factor in some at least some cases of MVP, and that both conditions are often linked to nutritional deficiencies that may have an inherited component.

Body: A thing of shreds and patches, borrowed unequally from good and bad ancestors and a misfit from the start.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have, or have had, MVP, hematuria, joint hypermobility, nosebleeds, wounds that took forever to stop bleeding and menorrhagia. A lot of my relatives, on both sides of my family, have had many of these same problems. My maternal grandmother had to have a hysterectomy due to uncontrollable menstrual bleeding, and my paternal grandmother also had uncontrollable menstrual bleeding. I think I was doomed from the start to ever have blood that coagulated normally. However, if I eat enough vitamin K and avoid eating too many foods that block vitamin K, I'm fine these days. I've been diagnosed with a variety of incurable genetic disorders in the past, but I wonder if I really didn't just have a genetic predisposition to be low in vitamin K and related nutrients.

I find it highly unlikely that the many overlaps between vitamin K deficiency symptoms and connective tissue disorders are due to random coincidence. I do wonder how many other people there are who have either had a hysterectomy due to uncontrollable bleeding, or have been diagnosed with an incurable genetic disorder with bleeding as a symptom, who really just had a vitamin K deficiency. It seems like it would be pretty easy to develop a vitamin K deficiency on a standard American diet, especially considering how commonly antibiotics and anticoagulants are prescribed these days. I suspect that a vitamin K deficiency is a common underlying link in many conditions now attributed solely to genes and other factors.

See my recommended book list list for other books I found helpful.


Related sections of interest:

Foods That May Thin the Blood - Vitamin E, salicylates, garlic, olive oil, onions and more

Health Conditions Linked to Vitamin K Deficiency

Foods and Environmental Factors That Cause the Blood to Clot

Frequently Asked Questions: Is there a link between nose bleeds and eating Chinese food?

Nose bleeds: Overlooked Causes of Epistaxis

Menorrhagia: Often Overlooked Causes of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

Ovarian Pain from Vitamin K Deficiency

Natural treatment for ovarian cysts






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