Tag Archives: vitamin K

My experience with the Perfect Health Diet’s supplement plan

by guest blogger Steph

Steph is maharani at Midlife Makeover Year, where she’s exploring new approaches to her health, diet, attitude, family life, and shoes, among other things. She is also one of my few commenters to refrain from mentioning w-bcam s-x, for which I will be eternally grateful. — mr

When I went on the Perfect Health Diet plan, I hoped to clean up my eating habits and address some of my thyroid issues through food choices. As it happens, the PHD plan is not just about food; there is actually a pretty aggressive recommended supplement plan. (Aggressive, that is, for me, as I’ve traditionally been a “multi-plus-maybe-some-vitamin-D” person.) Since the supplement plan didn’t involve drastically cutting sugar or giving up the fresh, hot gluten-filled rolls I was habitually baking for my family (as the food plan does, sigh), I did the pills first.

Because I was not expecting to get any bang for my vitamin and mineral buck, I didn’t watch for any reactions, good or bad, that I might have to this or that supplement. I didn’t take a scientific approach to starting on a new pill or capsule. I included each recommended supplement in my morning cocktail as it arrived in the mail. Pretty quickly (thanks to Amazon Prime), I had added the following to my multi-vitamin and 1000 IUs of vitamin D3: vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin K2 (100 mcg), copper (2 mg), chromium (200 mcg), iodine (500 mcg), magnesium (400 mg), and selenium (200 mcg).

Within a few days after I was on everything, I noticed a major change, not physically, but mentally — a major reduction in OCD symptoms and general anxiety. I was first struck while I was driving to the food store. I had a feeling of competence and ease. I was not gripping the steering wheel. I was, in fact, steering with one hand. This is not something I do. Generally, I drive waiting for an accident, acutely aware of my killing potential. But now I felt…not indifferent to others’ wellbeing, by any means, but as capable as the other drivers on the road.

This was strange! And it took a little mental work for me to accept that perhaps I felt like a competent driver because I am one, not because I was suddenly drugged and delusional.

A few days later, I began to feel that I was perhaps a bit too mellow. In poking around a little, I learned that the recommended dose for magnesium for women is 200 mg (400 mg is the recommended dose for men). Also, I have low blood pressure, and I was concerned that too much magnesium would lower it even more. So I bumped my dose down. That felt more natural.

Then, the real test: I had an upset in my personal life, the sort of thing that generally sets me off in a spiral of obsessing, “phoning in” my obligations to my sons, driving my husband crazy, clenching my jaw, eating obsessively, and just generally getting sucked into a vortex of negativity and pulling my family and friends down with me. Only I didn’t. I was upset for a bit, processed the situation, and moved on. This was major, and completely unexpected.

With minimal research (laziness being central to my character), I learned that many folks with OCD find symptom relief with selenium supplementation, so I’ve decided that this was likely key to my newfound mental health improvement. I’ve taken magnesium in the past with no reduction in OCD symptoms.

I may in the near future try eliminating selenium for a bit to see if my OCD symptoms ramp up. The trick will be finding a “good” time to invite that lovely obsessing back into my psyche.

If you grapple with OCD, you might want to give selenium a try. Note that too much selenium is toxic, so monitor your intake. And if you regularly eat Brazil nuts, you are already getting a big hit of selenium, so be careful.

I have since stopped taking the copper, iodine, and vitamin K2. My multi-vitamin already included the recommended amount of copper and I became concerned about taking too much. The iodine was making my thyroid feel “wonky.” I have since switched from sea salt to regular, supermarket iodized salt, and this is working better for me. I stopped the K2 after I developed a superficial blood clot on my leg. So far as I know, K2 assists the body’s clotting mechanism, but doesn’t cause blood clots. Nevertheless, I figure I probably clot OK on my own.

A list of supplements that don’t work very well in the versions sold in the US

This past year I’ve learned that some of the nutrient supplements on the shelves in the US don’t work very well, either because a significant part of the population can’t process them, or because the version used is poorly absorbed by the body, or because they are so cheaply formulated that the filler would make you sick before you could get enough of the active ingredient to resolve your deficiency.

Here’s everything I know so far. Needless to say, the better versions are more expensive and harder to find.

Folic acid: Processing this synthetic vitamin into its active form requires methyl groups and those of us who are methyl-challenged (low methylators) need to use the methylfolate version. Some sources say that the folic acid formulation is pointlessly inefficient for anyone. Using methylfolate instead certainly can’t hurt.

Calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate requires stomach acid to work, and is hard on the stomach for some people. Calcium citrate absorption doesn’t require stomach acid. (This issue isn’t as big a concern as the others listed here.)

Magnesium oxide: This is not as bioavailable as other options, such as magnesium citrate. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, magnesium lactate and magnesium chloride are even better options, but they are harder to find in pill form. You can also absorb magnesium through the skin in the form of epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and magnesium chloride, which can be found in a spray oil.

Vitamin B1 – thiamine hydrochloride. This is poorly absorbed by the body. If you are only mildly deficient, it might be all you need, but I needed a fairly large dose and couldn’t stomach it at all. When I switched to the more efficient benfotiamine, I had no trouble and noticed results much faster. Another version is thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD), which is what I use.

Vitamin B2 – riboflavin. This is also poorly absorbed. Riboflavin phosphate AKA riboflavin-5′-phosphate AKA flavin mononucleotide (FMN) is a better formulation.

Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine. Some people have trouble converting pyridoxine to its active form, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). You can buy the active version in supplement form, usually referred to as P5P. Some experts say you just have to use a part of your dose in that form; the rest can be pyridoxine.

Vitamin B12 – cobalamin or cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin (used in injections).
Like folic acid, it requires a methyl group to convert to its active form. I’ve followed a discussion group on B12 whose members are adamant that these types are pathetically inefficient and that methylcobalamin should be used. (There is also adenosylcobalamin AKA dibencozide AKA coenzyme B12, but I was never clear what the difference is.) If you are having injections, you might have to search a bit to find a compounding pharmacy that can prepare the methylcobalamin shots, which is less stable than the other versions and has to be carefully shipped and stored.

The reason B12 tablets come in doses with such large numbers — 1,000 mcg., 5,000 mcg. — is because the body can only absorb about 1% of it at a time.

Vitamin D2 – ergocalciferol. Depending on what you read, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is either three or five times more bioavailable than vitamin D2.

Vitamin K1 – phylloquinone. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is the preferred version, but I don’t know a lot about it. Vitamin K3 (menadione) has been banned so you shouldn’t have to worry about that one.

Diagram of how various deficiencies can egg each other on

Soon after I discovered that typical guidelines about iodine are outdated and wrong (1), I came across information about vitamin K that made me realize the amounts I had been experimenting with were pathetically small. Also, it is possible that vitamin D supplements affect vitamin K, which for me would explain a lot (2). This is yet another example of how difficult it is to find reliable info about all the nutrients and how they work in the body and interact with each other.

Here’s a diagram of how I suspect my iodine, vitamin K, vitamin D, zinc, and iron deficiencies have been interacting.

1: You can find a list of iodine references at the bottom of this Breast Cancer Choices’ iodine investigation page.

2: From the World’s Healthiest Foods vitamin D page:

“Vitamin D helps to regulate the production of certain calcium-binding proteins that function in the bones and kidneys. Because these binding proteins are also dependent on vitamin K, interrelationships between vitamin D and vitamin K have become the subject of active research investigation.”

Back to the ’70s for asthma treatment

About six years ago I realized I was getting very tired every time I visited a home with a resident cat. It was annoying but easy enough to avoid. Then, after a round of weekly 50,000 IU vitamin D doses, I got a day-long burning-lung, wheezing, iron-vise-on-the-ribs reaction that made me wonder if my appointment with my maker had been moved up.

Off I was sent to yet another fancy-ass specialist for blood tests and breathing into a bellows thing and x-rays, which had to be taken twice because I apparently have “really long lungs” that did not fit on the x-ray plate. The diagnosis was a one-off asthmatic allergic reaction.

Thinking the big vitamin D dose was just too big, I tried smaller doses of 1,000 IU, but the effects were similar. I then considered the possibility that it had overwhelmed my levels of the competing fat-soluble vitamins A and E. Vitamin A did help slightly, but not enough.

It finally occurred to me that I had forgotten about vitamin K, another fat-soluble vitamin. According to PubMed, a 1970s Japanese study treating asthma with vitamin K was quite successful.

I took 1,000 IU of vitamin K2 (menaquinone 7) for two weeks before my next attempt at vitamin D again, this time working up to 6,000 IU. Voila! Almost no reaction, and iron got rid of that. Eventually I could do without the iron entirely. I guess that since both vitamin K and iron are involved in oxygen transport, they can back each other up to a point. It just took a while for the vitamin K to build up to needed levels.

I have yet to test this on feline exposure. Since that seems to be an immune system issue, I’m guessing that something else is involved.

Niagarrhagia

Update December 24, 2013: See also the post on methionine.

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyMy ob/gyn has only two treatment suggestions for menorrhagia, or heavy menstrual bleeding. Or, as I call it, Niagarrhagia. The first treatment is a prescription NSAID that can reduce output by 40%. Since my body freaks out at every Rx besides antibiotics, it not an option for me.

The second treatment, ablation, was probably thought up by Torquemada and involves cauterizing the lining of the uterus. The resulting scar tissue prevents or at least severely hinders the accumulation of blood. In theory, I’d then have a pleasant, light period, instead of having to trot off to the loo every 20 minutes for three days a month.

My particular brand of Niagarrhagia started 20 years ago. It was neither painful nor prolonged but was still a PIA. Three years ago it developed a nails-on-a-chalkboard quality that sent my insomnia to near-total levels. Dr. Ob/gyn explained that if the flow gets to a certain point, you can actually feel the pressure on the cervix, which makes you want to hiss and grind your teeth. There was also an increase in pain, but I’m assuming that was just a subset of the lovely abdominal pain that started three years ago.

Once again, multiple tests say I’m perfectly healthy in the affected regions and the usual culprits have been ruled out: endometriosis, thyroid or hormone wackiness, etc.

Over the years I have found three things to help considerably and reliably. First of all, getting my calcium and magnesium levels up to what I assume is normal helped by about 30 percent for a while. But it eventually crept back.

From Sandy Simmons’ site I got the idea of increasing my vitamin K intake. She recommended lots of leafy greens, but most of them are goitrogenic (affecting the thyroid, usually by lowering iodine levels) so I went for alfalfa tablets instead. After six weeks of 9 tablets a day, (3, 3x day) I had a normal, manageable cycle and continued to as long as I took them, about 18 months. Eventually I got tired of the flipping things and quit, and after six weeks the old status reigned again.

I was about one month away from scheduling the ablation when for other reasons I decided to go crazy with the vitamin B12. I read Sally M. Pacholok’s book Could it Be B12? An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses and discovered that a newer form worked better for some people and that the old recommended dosages weren’t really very helpful for repleting deficiency.

After one month taking 25,000 mcg of methylcobalamin a day (that’s 5 5,000 mcg lozenges a day), I had what for most people would be a light period. Then I had another one 13 days later. The two together were still only 20 percent of the usual, but you see the problem. After three months of the B12 it started lowering my iron levels (everything lowers my iron levels), so I quit it. (The B12 also ended the headaches that niacin, iron, and B6 used to cause, and they still haven’t returned.)

Not only does Niagarrhagia cause low iron, it can also be caused by low iron. But since I couldn’t raise my iron levels if I ground up a cast-iron pan and free-based it, there is no point in speculating.

I finally learned that vitamin K comes in supplement form and that the amount in the alfalfa tablets was smaller than in a serving of kale, so I probably wasn’t repleting vitamin K so much as just barely getting by. How I missed the supplements before, I don’t know. I started experimenting with much larger dosages. At first I was confused by all the choices — K1, K2 M-4, K2 M-7 — but finally just went with whatever K2 was on the shelf at the health food store.

Anyway, I started at 500 mcg, which might be the equivalent of one large serving of kale, depending on who you ask, and saw a definite difference the next cycle. I went up to 700 and there was even more improvement. When I realized that some people take 15 mg a day to prevent osteoporosis (vitamin D needs vitamin K to move calcium into bones, I think), I became emboldened, ordered the liquid stuff, which gives you 1 mg (milligram) in a tiny drop, and started at 2 mg/day. Much better than swallowing 20 flipping capsules and all that magnesium stearate. (Update 12/24/13: I’ve found that taking 15 mg once a week is just as effective.)

My cycles since then have been like a normal person’s, finally, although I’m still sick of the whole damn thing. Those health class teachers in junior high who tell girls that menstruation is a beautiful thing and a sign of nature’s power, yada yada, can go #$@!& themselves. Or as my Ob/gyn put it, “They’re full of shit.”

(Here are two lists of the vitamin K content in foods which differ quite a bit: Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and The World’s Healthiest Foods site.)

If this turns out not to resolve the issue permanently, I will seriously consider ablation. I have hesitated to resort to that because I don’t like the idea of concealing a symptom without actually solving the problem that created the symptom. The cause of this particular symptom undoubtedly has other symptoms, too, that I just haven’t connected yet. To put it another way, if wasps keep getting in the parlor, I want to know where the nest is.
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Illustration: 1940s American Airlines travel poster by E. McKnight Kauffer. Remix by MRhea.