Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient important for bone health, blood clotting, and now shows promise in preventing heart disease.
Vitamin K and heart health
Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium, but once absorbed, it must go to the correct place to have health benefits. Without enough vitamin K2, calcium can end up in your arteries (this helps explain why doctors find calcium deposits in the arterial plaques of people with atherosclerosis).
Think of vitamin K as a conductor at an orchestra. Instead of cueing musical instruments, vitamin K directs calcium into your bones. Vitamin K2 directs calcium to your skeletal system (and away from your arteries) by activating a protein hormone called osteacalcin.
Vitamin K2 (along with vitamin D) also helps produce Matrix GLA Protein, a protein responsible for keeping calcium out of our arteries.
Why our gut is so important for vitamin K
Vitamin K1, which is found in green vegetables, does not appear to direct calcium. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) does. Vitamin K2 is made in our gut by bacteria. We also get some K2 from fermented foods such as natto (click here for Bay Area’s Cultured Pickle Shop offering many fermented food options). Many people are deficient in vitamin K2. Many people also suffer from poor gastrointestinal health. Coincidence? I think not.
Steps for building a healthy gut & vitamin K2 levels
We need around 45-185 mcg of vitamin K2/day. Currently, there aren’t any reliable tests for measuring levels, so your best bet is to make sure your gut is healthy (and there are tests for that), get plenty of the right foods, and possibly take a high quality K2 supplement (with fat so you can absorb it!).
- Find out which foods you are intolerant to and avoid them!
- Rotate your foods. Eating the same foods every single day or multiple times every day increases your chances of inflaming your gut, increasing gut permeability, increasing food intolerance and causing dysbiosis. All of these spell trouble for healthy gut flora and making vitamin K2.
- Eat a clean diet full of foods that are right for your unique biochemistry. Testing is a surefire way to know when you are eating the right diet. Other clues are having 1-3 bowel movements daily, having balanced energy and weight, clear skin, and an absence of bloating/gas. Work with a local nutritionist who specializes in functional diagnostic nutrition if you need help.
- Drink plenty of filtered water daily (half your body weight in ounces).
- Get adequate sleep nightly. Sleep is necessary for tissue repair and that includes gut tissue! Aim for 6-8 hours/night.
- Extra support from probiotics will help ensure the beneficial bacteria aren’t overrun by harmful bacteria.
- Eat fermented foods and limit foods/drinks that tax the adrenal glands such as alcohol and sugar. Without healthy adrenals, your gut cannot be healthy.
- Move your body every day. Exercise helps encourage blood flow and peristalsis (movement of the intestines that allow digestion to occur).
- Aloe vera juice, bone broth, and the amino acid L-glutamine may be necessary to heal a damaged gut. Drinking bone broth or eating soup made from bone broth weekly is a good idea.
- Include vitamin K2-rich foods in your diet. Vitamin K2 is only found in animal products: butter from grass-fed cows, other grass-fed dairy products such as milk, cream, and cheese, organ meats, foie gras, shellfish, fish eggs, and egg yolks from free ranging, insect eating chickens or ducks. Click the links for local sources.
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