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The principle function for vitamin k is the production of blood clotting factors, particularly prothrombin. This vitamin can be produced in the intestines and is classified as a fat-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin K is available from both natural and synthetic sources. The list of foods high in vitamin K include alfalfa, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cheddar cheese, green leafy lettuce, liver, seaweed, spinach and turnip greens.
Vitamin K promotes normal growth and development and prevents hemorrhagic disease in newborn babies. It is also used to treat bleeding disorders due to vitamin K deficiency. It regulates normal blood clotting, and promotes healthy bones.
People who can benefit from additional amounts of vitamin K are those who have had surgery on their gastrointestinal tract, newborn babies, anyone taking long term antibiotics known to destroy normal bacteria in the intestinal tract, and people taking mineral oil for constipation.
Infants a vitamin K deficiency can experience failure to grow and develop normally. Hemorrhagic disease in newborns characterised by vomiting blood and bleeding from the intestine or umbilical cord can also occur. Symptoms do not begin to show until two to three days after birth.
In adults, a shortage of vitamin K results in abnormal blood clothing and can lead to nosebleeds, blood in the urine, stomach bleeding and bleeding from the capillaries or skin causing black and blue marks.
Very little vitamin K is lost from processing or cooking foods. People who are required to take vitamin K supplements can generally consume it effectively via tablet form. These tablets must not be chewed or crushed, and should be swallowed whole with a full glass of fluid. Injectable forms are also available but must be administered by a doctor or nurse.
In infants, possible side effects of vitamin K overdose (toxicity) include haemolytic anaemia. If this occurs, emergency treatment should be sought. There is alsoa condition called hyperbilirubinaemia, in which too much bilirubin in present in the blood. This is marked by the appearance of jaundice.
In adults, allergic/toxic reactions can include face flushing, gastrointestinal upset, and rashes.
Vitamin K is also known to interact with other medicines, vitamins or minerals. Mineral oil used in the treatment of constipation can cause vitamin K deficiency. Long term use of antacids may interfere with the effect of vitamin K also.
Vitamin K should not be taken if you suffer from liver disease. Excessive amounts of this vitamin can lead to impaired liver function. Overdosing in infants can cause brain damage.
A small note to remember, vitamin K is not usually included in most multivitamin preparations.