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Surprising Vitamin K Benefits for Your Bones and Heart

The human body needs a lot of different vitamins and nutrients to function correctly. Roughly 42% of Americans are vitamin D deficient, but supplementing with this vitamin alone isn’t enough. Vitamin D helps increase the levels of calcium available in your body, but taken alone, it can end up depositing that calcium in places where it doesn't belong. Evidence shows you may need another vitamin, taken with vitamin D, to ensure proper calcium absorption. This is one of the most important vitamin K benefits. Here’s how to get more of this often-neglected vitamin.

What is Vitamin K?

An image of foods rich in vitamin KVitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins, often split into K1 and K2, found in leafy greens, some animal foods like liver and cheese, and in certain fermented legumes. It’s an essential nutrient on its own for blood clotting. It also helps your body use calcium properly by carrying it to your bones and teeth.

One of the most important vitamin K benefits is its effect on vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced in your body with sun exposure and is also found in fortified dairy, certain oils, and fish. It promotes calcium absorption and helps maintain appropriate blood calcium levels. This is important because, when your blood calcium levels aren’t high enough, your body will draw calcium from your bones. This can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis over time.

Vital Vitamin K Benefits for Calcium Levels

Vitamin D helps to maintain adequate blood calcium levels by improving calcium absorption from food or by taking calcium from bone. That’s why it’s so important that your diet contains plenty of calcium sources.

However, even if you’re eating enough calcium, it may not be getting where it needs to go. One of the most important vitamin K benefits is that it helps to regulate where the calcium ends up in your body. It does this by:

  • Activating osteocalcin, a protein that encourages calcium to accumulate in your teeth and bones.
  • Activating the matrix GLA protein, which stops the build-up of calcium in your body’s soft tissues.

This is important because calcium build-up in soft tissues, such as blood vessels, has been implicated in several chronic diseases and life-threatening conditions. This includes kidney disease, stroke, and heart disease. This suggests that a high vitamin D intake may be harmful to your body if you aren’t balancing it with vitamin K.

Is Vitamin D Harmful Without Vitamin K?

The research is split on the answer to this question. There is some evidence that high levels of vitamin D may be harmful if your vitamin K levels are low, but more research is needed to confirm the nature of the relationship between these two vitamins.

At this stage, studies show that:

Vitamin D is Linked with Hypercalcemia

Firstly, high vitamin D levels tend to cause hypercalcemia, which is extremely high blood calcium levels. This condition leads to the accumulation of calcium in the lining of blood vessels, a condition known as blood vessel calcification (BVC). And BVC is closely associated with heart disease.

Vitamin K Slows Calcification

Studies have shown that taking vitamin K2 and vitamin D leads to a slower rate of calcification, particularly cardiovascular calcification. This was compared to participants who took vitamin D alone.

Low Vitamin K Increases Calcification

Low vitamin K levels have been linked to an increased risk of blood vessel calcification in several observational studies.

BVC Prevention and Reduction

In animal studies, high doses of vitamin K prevented BVC in animals. And in human studies, the same vitamin taken for three years slowed the development of BVC.

How to Get More Vitamin K

An image of supplements and foods rich in vitamin KTo enjoy more of these vitamin K benefits, the first step is to try to get more of this nutrient through your diet.

There are many different forms of vitamin K and they’re usually divided into two groups:

  • Vitamin K1, otherwise known as phylloquinone
  • Vitamin K2 or menaquinone

At this stage, the recommended levels don't separate K1 and K2 vitamins. The recommended daily dose for vitamin K is 120 mcg for men and 90 mcg for women. And because this vitamin is fat-soluble, it can be helpful if you eat foods rich in vitamin K with fat. This will boost absorption. Luckily, many of the foods that contain vitamin K2 are already high in fat.

Here are some of the best foods to include in your diet to get more of both types of vitamin K:

Vitamin K1 Foods:

  • Parsley
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Brussel sprouts

Vitamin K2 Foods:

  • Natto (fermented soybeans)
  • Goose liver
  • Beef liver
  • Soft cheese

Supplements can also help you get enough vitamin K, but supplements can have downsides. When you take supplements, you can’t get the same balance of vitamins and nutrients that exist in food. Some supplements are not high quality or are difficult to absorb. And overdoses, side effects, or paradoxical reactions are possible, particularly if you have adrenal fatigue.

Vitamin K and Adrenal Fatigue

Vitamin deficiencies are very common in people who have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). AFS is caused by chronic stress, which requires a constant flood of hormones that depletes the body's nutrient reserves. Also, if you eat a diet high in processed foods, you are more vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin K deficiency. Correcting these underlying deficiencies is critical for AFS recovery.

How Your Body Responds to Stress

When you face any form of stress, it activates the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. Cortisol is then released from the adrenal glands, making changes in the six sets of organs and systems connected through the NEM stress response. These changes protect you from damage and prepare you to respond physically to the cause of the stress.

Typically, the NEM stress response is a short-term solution to stress. But when stress is ongoing and chronic, the NEM remains active. This ongoing high demand for cortisol stresses and fatigues the adrenal glands, which can start to malfunction. Related organs also begin to become unbalanced, leading to problems throughout the body and AFS.

Cortisol and other hormones also require vitamins to produce, so if your body is making more hormones, it needs more vitamins. This is one of the ways improving vitamin K intake may improve your overall health:

Improving Your Diet

An image of vegetables and fruits with vitamin KAFS is often connected to an inadequate diet and nutritional deficiencies often follow. This is why diet is so important for AFS recovery. Eating foods high in vitamin K may help you correct an underlying nutritional deficiency and provide other key nutrients as well.

Reduced Calcification In The Arteries

People with AFS often experience imbalances in the Cardionomic circuit, composed of the adrenals, cardiovascular system, and autonomic nervous system,  as well as cardiac symptoms such as palpitations. These types of symptoms can be a source of stress on their own, and they can also indicate serious health risks. By slowing or reducing calcification in the arteries, vitamin K may help to improve overall heart health over the long term and reduce some of these risks.

Bone Loss Prevention

AFS is an often-unacknowledged contributor to osteoporosis. This is due to a number of factors such as:

  • High cortisol levels having a demineralizing effect on bones.
  • A decrease in sex hormones due to the activation of the NEM stress response.
  • General fatigue, which can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle and to bone loss over time.

Ensuring that your body gets adequate amounts of vitamin K will encourage calcium to accumulate in your bones. This may help to at least partly prevent or even reverse the damage that AFS does to your bone density.

A Warning for Supplementing with AFS

When you have AFS, it’s important that you’re very careful when it comes to supplements. Even supplementing with vitamins that your body is deficient in can cause paradoxical reactions or sensitivities, both of which will add to stress and dysfunctions in the NEM stress response. Especially with more advanced AFS, your should always talk to your doctor about possible supplements.

Conclusion

Vitamin K is an often ignored but essential nutrient that helps with vitamin D absorption and helps ensure that your body gets the calcium it needs in the right places as well. Here are some ways to enjoy more of these common vitamin K benefits:

  1. Add more vitamin K foods into your diet, like natto, parsley, and kale.
  2. Remember to eat sources of vitamin K with fat to aid absorption.
  3. Talk to your doctor about supplements if you’re struggling to get the levels you need.

For more help with designing an eating plan that’s right for you, talk to our team at (626) 571-1234 or click here to use our Ask the Doctor system.

© Copyright 2022 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

One of the most important vitamin K benefits is the effect it has on calcium use and absorption. If you’re taking vitamin D, it’s essential that you make sure you’re getting enough vitamin K at the same time to avoid potential side effects.

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