Low bone density? Plaque build-up in your arteries? History of kidney stones? Vitamin K2 may be a beneficial addition to your daily diet.
In the 1930s, American dentist Dr. Weston Price traveled the world and noticed indigenous people who ate their own ethnic foods displayed excellent overall health, including minimal tooth decay and high immunity. He also witnessed that within 1 generation of being introduced to processed foods, these benefits were no longer present. He named the dietary compound found in these foods Activator X, and in later research noted that this nutrient plays an important role in protection against heart disease, supports brain function and the body's mineral utilization. Activator X is now known as Vitamin K.
It has been shown to affect the health of your cardiovascular system, bones, immune system, and hormonal system, as well as fetal growth and development. It may also help prevent kidney stones.
The 2 most common types of this vitamin are K1 and K2, each of which is from different food sources. K1 is present mostly in leafy green plants, while K2 is found in animal-derived products (particularly fatty organs), and they each have different functions in the body.
K1 is known for helping your blood clot, while K2 helps with mineral distribution, which is beneficial for blood vessels by preventing mineral build-up and atherosclerosis, and contributes to good bone health.
Ever wonder why butter from grass-fed cows is promoted as being rich in K2? The vitamin is produced by the animals' gut bacteria when feeding upon K1-rich leafy greens! The faster growing the greens, the higher the content of K1.
While animal source is the most commonly ingested, the richest food source is actually natto, a fermented soy product, whose odour unfortunately makes it a deterrent for the average North American palate.
You can begin to improve your K2 status by eating more whole foods, or supplementing. However, before doing so, it's important to consider the medications you are taking. If you are using a blood thinner called a 'vitamin K antagonist' (e.g., warfarin/Coumadin) then you need to be very cautious with increasing your vitamin K intake. Consider speaking with your prescribing physician about switching to a medication that does not impact vitamin K (Eg. dabigatran/Pradaxa), or to order weekly blood tests to monitor your clotting time (INR) while you find the consistent amount of leafy green foods to ingest daily.
Vitamin K deficiency in humans can be caused by:
- bowel health issues impacting absorption
- no longer having a gallbladder
- gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease
- pharmaceuticals such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, blood thinners, and long term antibiotic use
- a diet lacking in nutrient-rich whole foods
If you have any of the above listed causes for deficiency be sure to discuss them with your naturopathic doctor, there are solutions for optimizing your absorption.