The Little-Known and Much-Neglected Essential Vitamin: K2

Posted on February 28, 2013

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I can’t say it enough:  get your vitamin K.  I’m not a doctor, so don’t listen to me.  But check out the links in this article and see what you think after hearing what the experts have to say.

Here’s the bottom line:  you need two forms of Vitamin K.  K1, which you can easily obtain from green leafy vegetables, is essential for normal blood clotting.  Yeah, yeah, boring, we knew that.  Well, here’s what most people, possibly even your doctor, don’t yet know:  you really, really need K2, which comes from certain animal products and fermented products, for vascular and bone health.  It turns out that K2 is essential to correctly manage calcium in the body, among other things.  And contrary to popular belief, humans don’t convert enough K1 to K2 to cover their requirements, nor do we absorb K2 from the activity of our digestive tracts as previously thought.  We need dietary sources of K2, and we’re not getting enough.

Dietary calcium should mainly be getting deposited into your bones, with a low level of circulating calcium ions in the blood.  A shortage of K2 could be what’s responsible for the all-too-common “calcium paradox,” in which our bones thin out even as our blood calcium levels rise and calcium gets deposited in bad places – like on our heart valves, vein valves, and in the walls of our blood vessels, leading to hardening and stiffening of the arteries.  What’s up with that, right?  Oh, we dutifully take our calcium supplements, suck down our milk, and make sure we get our Vitamin D3 and magnesium, but somehow, for too many of us, none of that seems to help, and in fact, calcium supplements are associated with increased risk of heart disease.  Why?  It’s the missing K2!!  Without it, all that other stuff isn’t going to help much!

This information is still not widely known because much of the work in determining the exact mechanisms and functions of Vitamin K – especially K2 – only started to bear fruit about 5 years ago, and is still ongoing.  See the work of Dr. Cees Vermeer, the acknowledged world expert on Vitamin K.  If reading a lot of biochemical gobbledygook isn’t your thing, try this one from Dr. Alan Peterson for a clear, readable explanation.

Or, you can check out Dr. Mercola’s YouTube interviews with Dr. Vermeer.

So how did Lila turn into a big Vitamin K2 advocate?  Well – without going into all the gory details, I was briefly put on a medication that interfered with the use of Vitamin K in the body.  After just ten days, two fingers were so swollen that I couldn’t wear my wedding rings.  There were… errr… digestive issues.  I had what felt like constant muscle soreness in my shoulders.  Then the joint pain started.  And got worse.  Meanwhile, being the nosy upstart that I am, I was reading and learning from the links I have posted here, and becoming more convinced that the medication was not only not helping in my case, but actually harming me.  I had a general sense that my body wasn’t maintaining itself as it normally must.

You know how on medication pamphlets, they list all the typical side effects and tell you, “Talk to your doctor if you experience…”?   Well, I was doing that, but the only response I was getting, week after week, was basically:  “Silly girl, it can’t be the medication.  Here, we need to increase your dose.” Unfortunately for me, my docs apparently had not read the recent work of Dr. Cees Vermeer and were just following a long-established protocol.  I can’t really fault them too much, though, since the FDA, vitamin manufacturers, and others whose jobs revolve around knowing these things haven’t changed their way of doing business, either.

But meanwhile, the problems were worsening.  When it got to the point that my left hand could barely fasten my seat belt or lift a glass, I called it quits, to the great horror of my docs, who insisted that I really, really should have another two to four months  of the medication.  “Screw this, I’m not about to die, and I want my Vitamin K back!” I said.  The treatment was worse than the medical problem at that point.

My GP backed my decision, but insisted on a blood test to check on the status of my original problem that had required the medication.  The reading showed some improvement, but was it because of the annoying medication?  After quitting, wouldn’t I get worse?  She recorded the reading – which was still slightly worrisome (to them, not me) – and asked me to be tested again in a week.

Over the course of that single week, I was gobbling down all the green leafy vegetables (K1) that my heart desired, and I added a daily K2 supplement (from the Asian food natto) and a daily D3 supplement.  Within just a few days, the joint pain and muscle soreness were gone.  By the end of the week, I could get my wedding rings on for the first time since starting the medication.  Then came the big blood test… and everything was completely normal.  Not what was expected.  Looking at the numbers, I had faster improvement in one week of good healthy eating than I had had in some six weeks of the medication.

Now, caution:  my experience is only an anecdote.  One Lila does not a scientific sample make, and my particular case was also a bit unusual for reasons I’m not going into here.  DO NOT just up and quit your meds on my account.  But DO check out the links and learn about Vitamin K1 and K2.  To hear the experts tell it, most of us are not getting nearly enough in our diets, and there are consequences to that.

As for me, K2, D3, and a sensible multivitamin are now a permanent part of my health routine, and I’m feeling pretty great right now.

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