Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Vitamin K Works


Vitamin K Deficiency
We've learned why vitamin K is important; but sometimes, no matter how many leafy green vegetables you eat, you can still become vitamin K deficient. Unfortunately, a vitamin K deficiency can sometimes be caused by other diseases, such as liver or gall bladder disease, or any disease of the intestinal tract that interferes with absorption of fats.

Long-term use of antibiotics kills off the bacteria in the intestines that manufacture the vitamin. This can lead to a deficiency, especially if coupled with a diet that doesn't provide enough vitamin K.
Use of mineral oil or medications such as cholestyramine to lower blood cholesterol can interfere with vitamin K absorption. With extended use, this can lead to a deficiency.

Newborn babies, especially those born prematurely, are born with little vitamin K. For the first couple of days after birth, the baby's intestinal tract has no bacteria to make the vitamin. Moreover, the primary source of a baby's nutrition -- milk -- is not a good source of vitamin K. Because the lack of vitamin K could lead to bleeding problems, babies are given a vitamin K supplement within the first couple of days after birth.

Newborn babies receive vitamin K.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Newborns are given vitamin K after birth, when their intestinal
tract has no bacteria to create the vitamin.

Rest assured there are ways to increase your vitamin K intake if you aren't getting enough in your diet. In the next section, we'll discuss vitamin K supplements.

Vitamin K deficiencies can be debiliating, but not getting enough of the following vitamins can also cause issues:
  • Vitamin A is the vitamin found in carrots that improves eyesight. Learn more about this key vitamin in How Vitamin A Works.
  • Vitamin B3, also called niacin, assists other substances in the conversion of protein, carbohydrate and fat into energy. Learn more in How Vitamin B3 Works.
  • How Vitamin C Works will show you how this vitamin can strengthen your immune system.
  • Discovered only about 60 years ago, Biotin assists in several metabolic reactions. Learn more about it in How Biotin Works.
  • Vitamin B12 has a a chemical structure much more complex than that of any other vitamin. Learn about this vitamin How Vitamin B12 Works.
  • To learn about the many vitamins in our diet, how much you should be eating, and where to find them, go to our general Vitamins page.
  • Find the best prices on vitamin K supplements.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

More to Explore