Everyone knows that getting enough vitamins is essential if you want to stay healthy—that’s old news, right? You’re likely already making sure your diet includes plenty of vitamins A, C, E, D, and B, and perhaps you’re even taking a daily vitamin supplement to ensure all your bases are covered. But what about vitamin K?
Even though it doesn’t get all that much press, recent science indicates that vitamin K is every bit as important for maintaining wellness as all the more buzzworthy vitamins. But the even more exciting discovery is that your friendly gut flora have a surprising impact on your vitamin K levels.
Discover how this often unsung vitamin hero helps keep you well, and how to work the gut-vitamin K connection to your advantage.
What Is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is the umbrella name for a family of fat soluble vitamin compounds, which include phylloquinone (vitamin K-1) and menaquinones (vitamin K-2). These K vitamins work to encourage wellness by helping with:
• Healthy wound healing. Four of the 12 proteins required for blood clotting are vitamin K dependent, and people with vitamin K deficiency take longer for their blood to clot than those with healthy K levels.1
• Maintaining strong bones. Vitamin K supports calcium balance and bone mineralization, even in postmenopausal women.2,3
• Cardiovascular wellness support. Vitamin K helps keep the heart and blood vessels strong and flexible.4
• Cognitive function. Proper vitamin K levels correlate with better verbal memory function, and a recent study found that vitamin K supplementation in older adults was associated with improved cognition and behavior.5,6
Dietary Vitamin K Sources
One easy way to get your vitamin K is through the healthy foods you eat. But remember, there are two types of vitamin K, so foods rich in the first type differ from those rich in the second type.
Green vegetables are a great source of vitamin K-1, especially kale, cabbage, broccoli, dandelion greens, chard, collards, and spinach. Herbs like oregano, marjoram, parsley, basil, sage, and thyme are also good K-1 sources.
Vitamin K-2 (the type that seems to be more beneficial) is found mainly in animal foods like egg yolks, grass-fed dairy, and organ meats—but natto (a fermented soybean dish) is an excellent vegan source.
Thankfully you really don’t have to stress much about which type of vitamin K is in your diet. That’s because your body can convert vitamin K-1 into vitamin K-2, so ultimately all vitamin K rich foods provide you with at least some vitamin K-2.7
It turns out diet isn’t our only source of vitamin K—and here’s where things get really interesting. Certain types of beneficial gut bacteria, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can produce vitamin K for you all by themselves! And this postbiotic vitamin K is the more beneficial menaquinones type (K-2).
The fact that your microbiome can make its own vitamin K is exciting enough, but that’s not the only nutrient your amazing microbes can conjure up. Health-supporting B vitamins like cobalamin, biotin, nicotinic acid, folate, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, thiamine, and riboflavin can all be synthesized by friendly microbes as well!8
To keep all this internal vitamin production going strong, it’s vital to maintain a robust microbiome. If gut flora becomes depleted, there may not be enough good guys on board to manufacture the vitamin goodness your body craves.
These gut-healthy tips will keep your microbiome happy:
• Eat lots of fresh, prebiotic fiber-rich whole plant foods. And because it’s challenging to get enough prebiotic fiber from diet alone, try mixing some organic prebiotic powder into your smoothies and soft foods.
• Avoid processed foods, artificial additives, and GMOs.
• Spend time in nature.
• Stay active in fun ways like running, dancing, or hiking.
Regular gut TLC is like getting a free extra multivitamin for life as your microbiome returns the love you give it with a steady stream of vitamin K and other valuable nutrients. What an easy way to keep living your healthiest days ever!
1. Vitamin K. (2018, September 26). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/
2. Weber, P. (2001). Vitamin K and bone health. Nutrition, 17(10), 880-887. doi:10.1016/s0899-9007(01)00709-2
3. Adams, J., & Pepping, J. (2005). Vitamin K in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis and arterial calcification. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 62(15), 1574-1581. doi:10.2146/ajhp040357
4. DiNicolantonio, J. J., Bhutani, J., & O'Keefe, J. H. (2015). The health benefits of vitamin K. Open Heart, 2(1), e000300. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2015-000300
5. Presse, N., Belleville, S., Gaudreau, P., Greenwood, C. E., Kergoat, M., Morais, J. A., … Ferland, G. (2013). Vitamin K status and cognitive function in healthy older adults. Neurobiology of Aging, >34(12), 2777-2783. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2013.05.031
6. Chouet, J., Ferland, G., Féart, C., Rolland, Y., Presse, N., Boucher, K., … Annweiler, C. (2015). Dietary Vitamin K Intake Is Associated with Cognition and Behaviour among Geriatric Patients: The CLIP Study. Nutrients, 7(8), 6739-6750. doi:10.3390/nu7085306
7. Ronden, J. (1998). Intestinal flora is not an intermediate in the phylloquinone-menaquinone-4 conversion in the rat. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects, 1379(1), 69-75. doi:10.1016/s0304-4165(97)00089-5
8. Gu, Q., & Li, P. (2016). Biosynthesis of Vitamins by Probiotic Bacteria. Probiotics and Prebiotics in Human Nutrition and Health. doi:10.5772/63117
Roberta Pescow is a writer at Hyperbiotics and proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. Natural wellness is a subject she’s passionate about, so she loves sharing information that helps others discover all the ways probiotics support glowing health and well-being. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.