Vitamin K keeps you safe after injuries and may help ward off osteoporosis. A lack of this nutrient makes it harder for blood to clot, putting vitamin K-deficient people at risk for excessive bleeding. It also play a role in bone health. Although severe deficiencies are rare, certain medical conditions and treatments can deplete your body of vitamin K, so it is important to get enough of it each day.
If you don't get enough vitamin K, your body's ability to clot blood becomes impaired, setting you up for some dangerous conditions. You may experience easy bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood in your urine or stool or very heavy bleeding during your period. A severe vitamin K deficiency can cause life-threatening hemorrhaging, according to Colorado State University Extension. Because vitamin K shortens the duration of bleeding after an injury occurs, a vitamin K deficiency can make a wound much more serious.
Newborn babies are particularly vulnerable to bleeding disorders due to vitamin K deficiency because vitamin K is not easily transported from the mother to fetus during pregnancy. After the baby is born, the mother's breast milk has very little vitamin K and the infant's intestines are not yet colonized with the bacteria that forms this nutrient. For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other established authorities recommend that all newborns receive vitamin K injections soon after birth to prevent hemorrhaging.
Without sufficient vitamin K your bones may lose density as you age. People diagnosed with osteoporosis often have low levels of vitamin K, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, suggesting that there may be a link between vitamin K deficiencies and low bone density. Vitamin K helps proteins in your blood make new bone and cartilage material. Even low-dose supplementation may benefit your bones, according to researchers who published a study in "Journal of Bone and Mineral Metabolism" in 2013. They gave just 1.5 milligrams a day to 24 Japanese women and found that after a year, the women had improved forearm bone density. Women in the control group, who did not take vitamin K supplements, had lower bone density after one year.
Severe vitamin K deficiencies are generally rare in healthy people. Bacteria in your intestines can produce vitamin K on their own, giving your body a protective store of this nutrient. However, people with serious burns or certain conditions, such as Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease or diseases of the gall bladder, bile duct or liver, may not be able to produce enough vitamin K. Additionally, some antibiotics and long-term hemodialysis can destroy the bacteria that makes vitamin K, putting people on these medications at risk for deficiencies.