There is no doubt that the foods you eat every day affect your colon health. Vitamin-rich foods that are whole foods are your gut’s intended fuel! Some vitamins for colon health like vitamin K2 in whole foods and supplements are getting a lot of research to support their roles in protecting your colon from harm.
Colon health problems are common these days. For example, irritable bowel syndrome affects over 10 percent of Americans and accounts for a large majority of visits to GI specialists. And colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer out there and colon cancer risk is growing.
This is yet another reason to make every bite count and to consider important nutrients like vitamin K2 when it comes to colon health.
In this post, I will review for you the specific roles of vitamin K2 related to colon health, food sources, and how to interpret the studies we have so far.
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Table of Contents
Overview of Vitamin K2 and Colon Health
Vitamin K2 is an important nutrient for the health of your digestive tract. There are 9 important discussion points about vitamin K2.
In this post, learn how vitamin K2 is impacted by your gut health and how factors surrounding vitamin K2 may help or hurt your gut lining.
Here are those 9 points:
- Vitamin K2 may reduce inflammation in the gut, which in turn helps improve your overall health
- You likely benefit from vitamin K2 because it can reduce leaky gut and toxins
- Your microbiome can form vitamin K2 from vitamin K1 to a lesser or greater degree based on your gut health
- Digestive enzymes require vitamin K2 to be made
- Vitamin K2 helps balance out immune responses in the gut and otherwise
- It is hard to maintain adequate vitamin K2 levels due to rare food sources
- Losses of vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 are greater when you have gut inflammation or bowel disorders
- Early research shows that vitamin K2 may help reduce the risk of colon cancer and liver cancer
- Some medications can rob your body of vitamin K1 and K2
Now that you know how important vitamin K2 is to protect your digestion, let’s review the food sources and why it is such a challenging nutrient to get.
Foods with Vitamin K2 are good for colon health
Keep in mind, of the food sources here, only natto contains a high amount of vitamin K2.
- Natto (has lots of MK7 vitamin K2)
- Goose Liver
- Grass-fed Hard Cheese
- Grass-fed Soft Cheese
- Egg Yolk
- Grass-fed Butter
- Chicken Liver
Does this sound like a list of foods that you have been told to avoid in the past? It may be time to rethink all of that!
After all, liver is like nature’s multivitamin.
So far, it has been very challenging to determine amounts of vitamin K2 in foods because the diets that these animals live on dramatically can change their vitamin K2 content.
For example, grass-fed cows will have a lot more vitamin K2 in their milk content than grain-fed cows.
Keep in mind, natto k2 content is over three times higher than any of the other foods with over 1000 mcg per serving, so you would need to eat a LOT of chicken liver to get enough vitamin K2 into your diet.
Vitamin K2 Deficiency is Rampant
Vitamin K2 deficiency is a global health problem and affects all ages and this is because people rarely eat these vitamin K2-rich foods. This critical vitamin even affects kids’ health by helping to support healthy bones and normal gut function.
Is Vitamin K2 Made in the Gut?
As I mentioned above, vitamin K2 primarily comes from fermented foods, which are rich in probiotics, also known as gut-healthy bacteria. Probiotics for gut health get a lot of attention and there is little doubt today that probiotics and our microbiome dictate a lot about our health.
Here is where the loop gets interesting: probiotics in the gut and your microbiome also can make vitamin K2 from vitamin K1.
Your microbiome can form vitamin K2 from vitamin K1
Researchers still don’t know how much vitamin K2 is made in your gut every day and the truth is, it probably varies greatly from person to person.
What we do know is that most healthy people still have low levels of vitamin K2 in their blood so you likely have low levels too unless you focus on eating vitamin-K2-rich foods or take a vitamin K2 supplement.
Vitamin K2 and Colon Health Connections
Your colon is the part of the body where most of your healthy microbiome lives. Vitamin K2 is made in this section of your intestines.
The lining of your digestive tract is also made of a specific type of cell called epithelial cells. This layer of cells makes up your gut lining. By being only one cell thick, this lining is fragile, but vitamin K2 may help protect it.
Vitamin K2 may reduce inflammation in the gut
Vitamin K2 may play a role in keeping the gut lining intact. This is because it helps to increase a compound called alkaline phosphatase activity in the epithelial lining [R].
This increase in alkaline phosphatase helps to reduce inflammation in the gut and reduces toxins known as lipopolysaccharides [R].
May reduce leaky gut and toxins
It does this by increasing a compound called pregnane X receptor which may prevent harmful bacteria from getting into the bloodstream [R].
Digestive factors may require vitamin K2
The first line of evidence for this is that the pancreas contains a lot of vitamin K2 [R]. These enzymes made by the pancreas are required to help you digest your foods properly.
Bile helps to absorb fats and vitamins. While we don’t know the exact role of vitamin K2 plays in bile production, it does influence the genes that control it.
Vitamin K2 plays a role in both innate and immune function. By the way, almost all of the innate immunity starts in the gut.
Research shows that vitamin K2 helps to modulate T-cell proliferation, which may allow for a more balanced immune response [R].
Using vitamin K2 in kidney transplant patients helped to increase IL-4 levels from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) according to the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics [R]. An increase in IL-4 may help protect bone tissues and reduce an overactive immune response.
Other emerging evidence suggests that vitamin K2 may help prevent severe COVID-19, although much more research is needed to confirm this role [R].
Vitamin K2 is linked to lower rates of digestive cancers
Vitamin K2 has many roles in the body, and yet another may be that it helps reduce the risk of cancer. A few research papers show that intake of vitamin K2 may reduce cancer risk but also help improve cancer treatment. Here are the results of those studies:
- Clinical trials show that VK2 may improve the prognosis of patients with cancer [R]
- Higher vitamin K2 intake from cheese is linked to lower all-cause mortality in the Rotterdam Study [R]
- Vitamin K2 promotes healthy intestinal bacteria balance and reduces colon cancer tumors in mice
- This intestinal bacteria balance is important in reducing colon cancer risk [R]
Colon Conditions that Increase Your Vitamin K Losses
When your gut isn’t absorbing foods well due to digestive conditions like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease, your body can’t absorb vitamin K well either.
Inflammatory bowel diseases also make it so your microbiome isn’t as robust as it could be, making any chances that your own body is going to make vitamin K2 very low.
In other words, if you struggle with digestive issues, you should focus on eating vitamin K2-rich foods and consider adding supplements too.
Some medications can rob your body of vitamin K2
Certain medications will decrease your ability to make vitamin K2 or will make it absorb poorly. These medications include:
- Cholesterol medications
- Phosphorus binders
It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about vitamin K if you take any of these medications.
More benefits of vitamin K2
Vitamins for colon health undoubtedly include vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is also now identified as a critical nutrient for many aspects of health. For example:
- Children’s health is improved with vitamin K2 by increasing bone density and kids’ bone health
- Atherosclerosis risk is decreased by vitamin K2 and it even may help improve heart health in general
- Bone health is improved with vitamin K2 as MK7
There are plenty of clinical trials that show that vitamin K2 is safe and effective for these health considerations.
Vitamin K2 Supplements
Vitamin k2 mk7 variety is an ideal form of vitamin K2 supplement because it absorbs well and is a form found naturally in foods.
It is best to find K2 MK7 as MenaQ7® because this form is the ones used in many clinical trials. A brand I like is Now MK7.
Other Vitamins for Colon Health
Along with vitamin K2, other vitamins and natural supplements are helpful for protecting the colon. The top vitamins for colon health include:
I like a combination of vitamin D3/MK7 called Now Mega D3 & MK7 because it contains the dose of vitamin K2 used in clinical studies and it gives you two beneficial whole-body supplements. It’s also naturally sourced.
*Be sure to routinely check your vitamin D levels and discuss with your doctor before adding any new supplements.
Vitamin K2 Cautions
Vitamin K2 is safe for all ages with no toxic effects and no upper limit for doses.
However, if you are on blood thinners, you should avoid taking vitamin K2 without specific advice from your doctor.
The information on this website is not intended as medical advice. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.