Q. Why is vitamin K important? I have heard about it as injections for newborns, but now we are being told that adults should also be supplementing with it. Do we really need it, and if so, why?

A. The vitamin K commonly used for newborns as an oral supplement or injection is actually K1 (phylloquinone), which is the form that is involved in blood clotting. 

Vitamin K1 is typically found in leafy green vegetables and sprouts. It is unusual for adults to be deficient in this vitamin since it is recycled within the body.

Vitamin K2, however, is considered to be an important nutrient in a wide range of health issues — such as osteoporosis, artherosclerosis, arthritis, kidney disease, fertility problems, diabetes, cancer (especially that of the breast), and neurodegenerative disease. 

Vitamin K2 is not able to be recycled, so it is important to get it through the diet. Chlorophyll is one of the most abundant sources of vitamin K2, which is just one of the reasons why dairy products from grass-fed cows is considered to be better than that from grain-fed. 

Of course, this is not an issue in many countries outside of the US, since our cows are allowed to graze freely, resulting in milk that is rich in vitamin K2.

Vitamin D, specifically D3, is another important piece of this puzzle. 

Both of these nutrients are crucial for the metabolism of calcium, and when we have enough of both the calcium is deposited in the bones, where it is needed, instead of into soft tissue. 

Vitamin D3 is also linked with mood balance, pain relief, and improved wound healing.

The combination of D3 and K2 is important for bone and heart health in particular — it keeps the calcium in the bones and out of the arteries. 

Vitamin K2 is found in trace amounts in egg yolks, butter, cheese, and other dairy products, but it can also be sourced from natto, pictured, which is suitable for vegans and those who are unable to consume dairy or eggs. 

Natto is a fermented soy food from Japan made using the enzyme nattokinase and is a far more abundant source of K2, providing around 1,100mcg per 100g serve (compared with around 8mcg per litre of milk). 

The recommended daily dose of vitamin K2 is 45-180mcg, although there is no known toxicity for this nutrient.

Q. I am looking for natural treatments for an ongoing cough. What would you suggest?

Natural health: Why vitamin K is important and how to treat an ongoing cough

A. There are two main types of cough - a dry hacking cough, or a wet productive cough. 

A dry cough is better for a soothing remedy, whereas a wet cough tends to improve as you assist the body to expel the mucous more effectively.

Slippery elm and marshmallow root are two of my favourite herbal solutions for a dry and irritating cough. You can often find lozenges based on slippery elm, the powdered inner bark of the Ulmus fulva tree.

Marshmallow root can be found in most health stores, and is best when brewed as a cold infusion. Use four teaspoons of the root in a litre of cold water and steep overnight, strain, then drink throughout the day.

For wet and productive coughing, the old lemon and honey remedy works remarkably well. You can add other beneficial ingredients, such as garlic, onion, cayenne pepper, thyme, and horehound.

Warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and cloves can be of benefit too, and it pays to simmer the brew until you have a concentrated decoction of whatever expectorant ingredients you choose, and take one to two tablespoons as needed. 

You may need to add honey to taste.

Coughing at night time not only disturbs your sleep, but tends to keep others in your household awake as well. Using a chest rub can help, as can a humidifier or essential oil diffuser in the bedroom.

I like the plug-in ionic diffusers rather than the candle based oil burners, both for safety reasons and because they tend to help disperse the beneficial oils more effectively.

NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.

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