Vitamin K plays a key role in helping the blood clot, preventing excessive bleeding and helping wounds to heal.
Vitamin K uses
Low levels of vitamin K can increase the risk of uncontrolled bleeding. While vitamin K deficiencies are rare in adults, they are very common in newborn infants. A single dose of vitamin K given to newborns is standard. Vitamin K is also used to counteract an overdose of the anticoagulant ('blood thinner') warfarin.
While vitamin K deficiencies are uncommon, you may be at higher risk if you:
- Have a disease that affects absorption in the digestive tract, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- Take medications that interfere with vitamin K absorption
- Are severely malnourished
- Drink large amounts of alcohol
In these cases, your GP may suggest vitamin K supplements.
Some studies suggest vitamin K may help stop bone loss from osteoporosis. However, it's not clear that supplements will help people with osteoporosis who don't also have a vitamin K deficiency and more research is needed. Other traditional uses of vitamin K, such as for cancer sufferers, for the symptoms of morning sickness, for the removal of spider veins and for other conditions, are unproven.
Vitamin K dose and instructions for use
The NHS says adults need approximately 0.001mg a day of vitamin K for each kilo of body weight.
Vitamin K food sources
Good natural food sources of vitamin K include:
- Vegetables like spinach and broccoli
- Vegetable oils
Vitamin K supplement information
Vitamin K is available in oral and topical forms. Injectable vitamin K is only available by prescription.
Like any supplement, keep vitamin K supplements in a cool, dry place, away from humidity and direct sunlight.
Vitamin K warnings
- Side effects of vitamin K include upset stomach. At higher doses, vitamin K may trigger allergic reactions.
- Interactions. Many medications can interfere with the effects of vitamin K. They include antacids, blood thinners, antibiotics, aspirin and drugs for cancer, seizures, high cholesterol and other conditions.
- Risks. People using warfarin for heart problems, clotting disorders or other conditions may need to change their diets to control the amount of vitamin K they take in.