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7 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin with two compounds, vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinones).

This vitamin helps to promote protein synthesis in the form of blood clotting (to stop bleeding) and bone metabolism. Because it handles blood clotting, it can easily interfere with common anticoagulant prescription drugs such as Warfarin (Coumadin) (1).

Vitamin K is a necessary set of vitamins to consume through your diet, and it is arguably just as important as vitamin D, calcium, magnesium for optimal bone health (2).

A deficiency in vitamin K is rare among adults, but optimal levels can promote better health as opposed to suboptimal, on the low end of the reference range.

Many foods are rich in vitamin K1, while K2 has only a few. Some vitamin K gets made by the good bacteria in the intestines, so optimal gut health is also helpful. Do you know if you are eating enough vitamin K in your daily diet?

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency

Find out more about some common symptoms of vitamin BK deficiency, causes, and the best foods to eat to boost your levels and promote further healing throughout the body.

1. Slow Wound Healing and Easy Bruising

Vitamin K is necessary to promote bone metabolism, wound healing, and prevent bruising from occurring as often. Topical vitamin K can be especially helpful for wound healing.

In one study by the National Institutes of Health, the topical application of vitamin K significantly improved wound healing effects better than the Eucerin alternative (3).

Topical vitamin K can also be beneficial at reducing bruising, and more dietary vitamin K can prevent bruising from happening. Bruising occurs when blood vessels are weak from medications, diseases, or nutrient deficiencies like vitamin K.

2. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

A condition called Menorrhagia causes heavy menstrual bleeding in women and can be the cause of vitamin K deficiency. Although it is rare, there is some research to support the occurrence (4).

 

Menorrhagia is a common condition among women in their reproductive years. It can often be the initial indicator of a bleeding disorder.

A small amount of dietary vitamin K is necessary to prevent this, making it unusual but possible. Many other factors go into developing Menorrhagia, such as uterine fibroids, hormone imbalances, polyps, cancer, and more.

3. Gastrointestinal Tract Bleeding (GI Bleeding)

A variety of factors can cause bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, like ulcers, diverticulosis, inflammation, Crohn’s disease, and even vitamin K deficiency.

Many epidemiological studies show that gastrointestinal tract bleeding can be a symptom of vitamin K deficiency (5).

When you do not have enough vitamin K, the synthesis of blood clotting necessary to avoid bleeding, cannot take place. That can be due to a diet lacking vitamin K, malabsorption issues, or even bacterial disruption in the intestines.

4. Poor Gum Health

Inflammation in the gums can lead to excess bleeding, oozing, and even gingivitis. One vitamin that you may not think about when it comes to your gums is vitamin K.

It turns out vitamin K plays a critical role in ensuring that the gums stay healthy.

Many factors can contribute to poor gum health, such as a lack of dental hygiene, poor diet with too much sugar, and even medication side effects. But vitamin K is a crucial vitamin to think about if you are having recurring issues with your gums and are not sure why (6).

5. Small Blood Clots Under Nails

Small amounts of vitamin K distribute in the blood, compared to other fat-soluble vitamins.

Because of that, vitamin K gets quickly absorbed and expelled. Small blood clots can build up under the nails if you are not ingesting and excreting enough vitamin K.

Look out for this symptom if you think you may be low in vitamin K.

6. Bleeding in Mucous Membranes

Mucous membranes are epithelial tissue that produces mucous, lining the cavities and organs in the body, specifically the gut and the respiratory system.

Bleeding within the respiratory system and the gut can cause severe downstream effects in the body.

Several studies even show a direct link between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular disease, and vitamin K deficiency (7).

7. Blood in the Urine or Stool

Since vitamin K gets easily excreted, small amounts of blood can appear in the stool or urine if you do not get enough vitamin K.

Bleeding disorders or issues are common in those with vitamin K deficiency. Although vitamin K deficiency is rare in adults, some may have insufficient levels, which can also lead to many of these symptoms.

Always be an advocate for your health by paying attention to symptoms and acting on them by speaking to a healthcare professional. Symptoms are the body’s way of telling us something is wrong.

Causes of Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K deficiency is typically rare but can be present in infants if they are not meeting all the requirements from the mother’s breastmilk.

Factors that can affect your chance of becoming deficient in vitamin K include:

  • Malnutrition or fat maldigestion
  • Liver disease
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Antibiotic or anticoagulant medication use (like Warfarin that thins the blood)
  • High intake of processed foods (can drain nutrients)
  • Low stomach acid (can lead to malabsorption)

If any of these factors ring true to you, you are more likely to be deficient in vitamin K.

Be sure to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional if you suspect you may be low in vitamin K to get rid of these common symptoms and promote healing.

Foods that Contain Vitamin K

Many common foods are high in vitamin K, mainly vitamin K1. Vitamin K2 can be a bit harder to attain through a typical diet, but it is possible with careful monitoring.

Some people, especially vegans, can benefit from a vitamin K2 supplement in combination with their vitamin D3 for optimal absorption and to help enhance bone metabolism. That is why you will see some vitamin D supplements include vitamin K2 as well.

Vitamin K1 is mostly present in leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. Vitamin K2 is present in animal-based foods, except for the Japanese fermented soybean called natto, which contains the most vitamin K2.

Foods that contain vitamin K include the following:

  • Natto
  • Leafy greens, such as turnip greens, spinach, collards, kale, broccoli
  • Soybeans
  • Carrots
  • Pomegranate
  • Pumpkin
  • Blueberries
  • Pine nuts
  • Okra
  • Chicken
  • Olive oil
  • Cashews
  • Figs
  • Chicken liver
  • Some cheese
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Grass-fed butter (Ghee)

If you are not a strict vegetarian or vegan, you may already get an adequate amount of vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.

It can be a great idea to include more natto into your diet for anyone, especially vegans and vegetarians. That way, you can be sure you are getting all the vitamin K from both compounds into your daily diet.

Is there somewhere you can start adding more vitamin K to your diet?

If you suspect you are low in vitamin K, be sure to speak with your doctor about testing as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Vitamin K deficiency is typically rare, but it is possible among certain groups. If you do not eat a balanced diet, you can likely benefit from more vitamin K in your routine.

However, if you eat well, and still suffer from any of the above symptoms, see if a supplement can help support you.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about using vitamin K to promote optimal bone health, normal blood clotting, quicker wound healing, and more.

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, and written, fact-checked & medically reviewed by health experts.

Throughout this article, you'll find scientific references (clickable links to highly trusted peer-reviewed scientific papers, links denoted by the numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3)).