Vitamin K Deficiencies With IBD

People With IBD May Not Absorb Enough Vitamin K

Broccoli is one of the many green vegetables that contain vitamin K. Image © zirconicusso /

Vitamin K is used by the body to assist enzymes that are responsible for regulating blood clotting. A deficiency can result in bruising or, in rare cases, bleeding. The relationship between vitamin K deficiency and the onset of osteoporosis is an ongoing debate in the medical community. The National Institutes of Health maintain that currently, there is not enough information to either prove or disprove this theory.

Vitamin K deficiencies are uncommon, but people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are at risk for having low vitamin K levels because their intestines may have difficulty absorbing fat-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin K Is Made By The Body

Vitamin K is different than other vitamins because it is actually made inside the body by "good" bacteria within the colon. About 80% of vitamin K needed is made in this way. The other 20% must come from food sources. If the "good" bacteria in the intestine is wiped out by antibiotics or affected by diarrhea, vitamin K production may be decreased. Vitamin K can be toxic in large does, and supplements should be used with care. Those taking the prescription drug Coumadin (Warfarin sodium) should not take vitamin K from supplements or food sources.

Who May Lack Vitamin K?

People with IBD, especially Crohn's disease, may have low levels of vitamin K due to a low dietary intake as well as poor absorption of vitamin K by the small intestine.

Many of the foods that contain vitamin K are green, leafy vegetables, which people with IBD may avoid during a flare-up. This deficiency, along with a vitamin D deficiency, may contribute to the bone loss that is found in people with IBD.

Food Sources of Vitamin K

Vitamin K is found in various foods including:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cereals
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Soybean
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip greens


Duggan P, O'Brien M, Kiely M, McCarthy J, Shanahan F, Cashman KD. "Vitamin K status in patients with Crohn's disease and relationship to bone turnover." Am J Gastroenterol 2004 Nov;99:2178-2185. 26 Jan 2014.

Kuwabara A, Tanaka K, Tsugawa N, et al. "High prevalence of vitamin K and D deficiency and decreased BMD in inflammatory bowel disease." Osteoporos Int 2009 Jun;20:935-942. 26 Jan 2014

National Institutes of Health. "Important information to know when you are taking: Coumadin and Vitamin K." Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health Drug-Nutrient Interaction Task Force Dec 2003. 26 Jan 2014.

Natural Standard Research Collaboration. "Vitamin K." MedLine Plus. 26 Jan 2014.

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