Should You Be Taking K2?
Vitamin K is well-known for its role in healthy blood clotting. However, there’s more to the story. A LOT more. Vitamin K might be critical for many other processes and our overall health.
Before we get into all that, there are two different forms of vitamin K to be aware of. Of course, this can make things a bit confusing. This will clear it up.
- Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in leafy greens, vegetables, and some plant oils.
- Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is found in dairy, fermented foods, and animal products.
Today, we will focus on K2, sometimes called MK-7, because K2 is often ignored and holds several advantages over K1. Also, it has been estimated that deficiency or insufficiency may be as high as 97% in some populations. Ultimately, deficiency or insufficiency contributes to one of the biggest underlying factors of many chronic diseases, and I don’t want my readers to miss this important message.
It is important to know that recent studies have shown that vitamin K2 (specifically) may help treat inflammation in the body. That is big news. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food confirmed the role of vitamin K2 (as MK-7) in the modulation of inflammatory biomarkers. Many other studies are finding similar things. This is important to note for several reasons but especially because of inflammation’s role in chronic disease. And here is another really good paper regarding inflammation.
Unfortunately, we may not always know that we suffer from inflammation in the body. This is especially true when inflammation has been low-grade or systemic for long periods. We remain unaware of the inflammation in these instances because, sadly, we’ve just gotten used to it. Too many have sold themselves on the idea that digestive issues, fatigue and physical tiredness, rashes, and aches and pains were just a normal part of life.
That is a dangerous situation. Many do not understand that inflammation may have severely damaged their tissues over that long period (sometimes decades). That damaged tissue is a ticking timebomb that can result in many diseases. Guess what? Your doctor may not catch it, either. The damage usually goes unnoticed until symptoms of some disease begin to show. By then, it may be too late to fix everything you need to.
I want you to understand that long-term and uncontrolled inflammation is thought to play a role in almost every major chronic disease facing Americans today. This includes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and many others. According to Dr. Mercola, “Chronic inflammation is the source of many diseases, including cancer, obesity, and heart disease, which essentially makes it the leading cause of death in the U.S. (Mercola, 2012).” In other words, this is one of those topics you want to take seriously.
As you can imagine, keeping inflammation down is vital for long-term health and recovery. Thankfully, science has found that K2 (specifically) can help stop dangerous inflammation. So basically, vitamin K2 can oppose many of the leading causes of death in America, either directly or indirectly.
That may sound like great news but consider the recent trend away from animal products and the complete avoidance of fermented foods. Is it any wonder that so many are insufficient or deficient in this vital nutrient? Of course, not only is this a problem for those who avoid animal products and fermented foods, but it may also be a problem for those who suffer from a compromised intestinal lining.
Like B12, K2 is synthesized in the intestine by intestinal bacteria. Therein lies a problem for many Americans. Years of antibiotics, bacterial imbalances, candida infections, and a shredded intestine or otherwise compromised gut due to years of nutritional abuse (sugars, refined carbs, lectins, phytates, oxalates, mycotoxins, aflatoxins, GMOs, and pesticides, etc.) make the creation and absorption of this vitamin considerably more difficult. When our intestines are compromised, much of the K2 taken in or created may pass through us via our stool or urine.
So, what can we do? The first step is to try and heal the gut. That should always be step one. You will absorb more of what you need if you heal the gut. I will not get into all that in this article, but I will say that your diet is critical. However, I would suggest thinking twice about fad diets that push you away from vital nutrients such as K2, B12, glutamine, creatine, taurine, etc., and be wary of the diets that push you towards a diet rich in lectins, phytates, oxalates, mycotoxins, pesticides, and so on. I will also say that most of your immune system resides in the gut. Take care of it, and it will take care of you.
The second step, and continuing with my point, is to know which sources are highest in K2 and then consume those products often. Thankfully, there are several abundant sources in the food supply. My favorite sources are animal products such as cheese, chicken, butter, egg yolk, and pork chops. I’m also a big fan of beef liver and other organ meats.
K2 is also rather high in the Japanese food called natto. I like this option because natto is fermented and extremely high in K2. Therefore, it is a double benefit for the gut because you get the K2 boost and a probiotic that can help nourish your intestine and help to heal some of the damage. Granted, natto is not exactly a staple in the American diet, but this might be another clue as to why the people of Japan have such a long life expectancy.
Of course, if your gut is already shredded or otherwise compromised, we need to understand that food sources may not be enough. At least not at first. If this is your situation, you can always supplement MK-7 (consult with your doctor). You can explore various options on that front, but I will tell you that I prefer softgels. Just choose a trusted and respected brand, and you should be alright. I will provide a product link below.
Indeed, vitamin K2 can help address existing inflammation. However, the news on K2 gets better. A fairly recent study on vitamin K2 presented at the 13th International Nutrition and Diagnostics Conference (INDC 2013) in the Czech Republic revealed that K2 (as MK-7) might help prevent inflammation from occurring in the first place. This means that if you have not experienced an inflammatory disease yet, K2 might help keep inflammation in check and help you avoid having or getting one. Basically, K2 becomes a preventative of sorts by simply consuming a diet rich in K2. Of course, we have had hints of that for some time now.
Years ago, Dr. Bruce Ames published research indicating that optimum intake of vitamin K plays an important role in longevity. The Czech study merely confirms Dr. Ames’ work. To clarify, the study followed over 7,000 people at high risk for cardiovascular disease. The study found that people who consumed the most vitamin K were 36% less likely to die from any cause than those who took little to none (Ramirez, 2014). That’s rather impressive.
Something else to know is that K2 also works synergistically with other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. As Dr. Mercola has said, “Its biological role is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, such as your bones and teeth. It also removes calcium from areas where it shouldn’t be, such as in your arteries and soft tissues (Mercola, 2012).” Again, quite impressive!
So, let me boil this down for simplicity. K2 or MK-7 may be a huge plus if you are looking to address or prevent inflammation in the body or a specific inflammation-related disease (which is most chronic disease). K2 is synthesized in the gut by bacteria and is mostly found in animal products and foods such as natto, so it may not be a bad idea to ensure that you are consuming enough of those foods. However, K2 is a must if you take vitamin D3 in higher doses, and you may need to supplement to ensure you’re getting enough.
Let me close with some clarity on that final note. You may have heard by now that higher doses of D3 can do wonders for the body. That’s true, but if you overdo it on the D3 and don’t take any K2, you can do a lot of damage. A lot of doctors pushing D3 don’t seem to know that. Now you will. For every 5,000–10,000 units of D3, doctors recommend at least 100 mcg of K2 (as MK7) to prevent the inappropriate calcification that higher doses of D3 alone could cause. Here’s a hint: be aware that many D3 supplements include appropriate K2/MK7 doses. Two birds with one stone.
I usually take this when I feel the need to supplement NOW Supplements, Mega D-3 & MK-7.
Here’s to your health!
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Parts of this article were originally published as a chapter in the book Natural Health Made Easy: The Briobiotic Protocol (2016)
This article was written from a Health Science perspective. Dr. Robertson is a health researcher and educator, not a physician. The information provided here is not medical advice, a professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or service to you or any other individual. The information provided is for educational and anecdotal purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation, or the advice of your physician or other healthcare providers. Dr. Robertson is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or additional information, services, or product you obtain or utilize. IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CALL 911 OR YOUR PHYSICIAN.