Vitamin K deficiency is a very rare vitamin deficiency. Vitamin K is important in the body's use and uptake of certain types of proteins known as Gla-proteins that are responsible for the proper clotting of blood, the formation of bones, and maintaining blood vessels. The body extracts Vitamin K from food using the bacteria usually found in the intestines. If digestive processes are badly compromised, such as the death of the bacteria (from antibiotics, for example), the blockage of the bile duct, or massive intestinal damage, the body cannot use dietary Vitamin K and the symptoms appear:
- Stomach pain, generally from the underlying intestinal condition causing the deficiency rather than the deficiency itself;
- Bleeding, from the lack of proteins related to clotting;
- Cartilage turning to bone, from the lack of proteins to maintain the cartilage;
- Calcium salts forming in the arterial walls from the lack of proteins to prevent such formation.
More rarely, the disease is caused by a lack of Vitamin K in the diet. Vitamin K is found in many foods and anyone with a normally balanced diet will get sufficient Vitamin K. In The Socratic Method, the patient developed the disorder by eating only one narrow group of foods. As the vitamin is stored in fat, it usually only affects very malnourished people with low body fat.