Vitamin K

I have a nice, shiny bruise on my knee, from smacking it on the turnstile in the subway. I have always bruised fairly easily, but never quite like when I was deeply anorexic. From the knee down, my legs were simply mottled with black-and-blue marks, most of which I couldn't remember receiving.

During my last residential stay, I was given several theories:

I was a klutz. Okay, point taken. I AM a klutz. In fact, I was voted "Class Klutz" in high school, although I'm sure it didn't help that I lit my hand on fire in chemistry lab the day before the vote and got rushed to the ER. With nurses and specialists baffled at my bruising, I was told (jokingly) to "stop running into stuff so much!"

I was Vitamin C deficient. Now, one of the symptoms of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency is easy bruising, and in scurvy, the most severe form of deficiency, the most common cause of death is hemorrhage. Your capillaries leak uncontrollably, and your nose and gums bleed horribly. Not pretty. Supplements helped, but it didn't control things completely.

I didn't have enough fat on my body. This was fairly true. Fat is padding, and I basically didn't have any.

It turns out, though, that the lack of fat in my diet was as much to blame as the lack of fat on my body.

With the bruising not really abating, I finally asked my all-knowing psychiatrist about it. I pushed up my pant leg, and he took one look and said, "You're not getting enough Vitamin K." He went on to explain that Vitamin K is a clotting factor (which I knew), and that it is also a fat-soluble vitamin. Most Americans don't have Vitamin K deficiencies, because it is easily obtained from a variety of foods.

My problem, he said, wasn't a lack of Vitamin K in my diet. My problem was a lack of fat. Without fat in my diet, I couldn't absorb the Vitamin K that I was eating. Without fat on my body, I couldn't store the Vitamin K.

His advice? Not supplements, but fat. He jokingly (or maybe not so jokingly) calls lard the ultimate health food. "Eat more fat, Carrie."

When I stared refeeding at home, my bruises literally disappeared within a week or two. I had been in residential treatment, among ED experts, who had failed to crack this mystery. Amazing. It was all about making peace with butter.

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mary said...

I recall my midwife telling me that alfalfa sprouts were an excellent source of K. "Chomp chomp" Normally a newborn is/was given a shot for the K because it isn't there when they are born and it takes a week of mother's milk before it's there. If the mom has a healthy diet it helps both her and the baby. Same for all of us throughout life.
Anxiety is a stress disease so I imagine that C and B vitamins need to be boosted in individuals who suffer from this. I'm not sure, despite what the rats reveal, that anxiety can not be overcome. The way I figure it that "thought" is a large part of the process of anxiety and we can change that if we make an effort AND we can always slow down the caffeine intake and see if once we adjust we don't feel somewhat better. That stuff will deplete our vitamin store if we are tubed into it. I'm a 2 cup a day drinker. Too much and I'd be jittery and anxious.
Fat is essential! I'm with that Dr. and vote for butter any day! And for foods that contain the needed well as for treats.
I hope you are continuing to take good care of yourself Carrie.

Rachel said...

I've always bruised very easily, even when I was very obese. My doctor once prescribed iron tablets - you can get these from the pharmacy over the counter for very cheaply. I got horrible bruises when I got very thin from my disorder, but even now that I've gained weight, I still bruise. I wonder if my vegetarian diet is also to blame. I'm a bad veggie in that I don't keep track of protein, carbs, fat, etc... Not only is keeping track of such information tedious and boring, I also find that it triggers disordered behaviors. My thyroid deficiency also probably plays a role in my anemia. Multiple studies have shown a link to the two, so I would recommend anyone who is anemic to also get their thyroid levels - T4 AND T3 - checked.

And thanks for the tip about the vitamin K, Carrie.

Le Fleur said...

Oh wow, I wish I could have told this to my friend Ikeya as she always asked me about her bruises as if I knew everything. Maybe my sister will see her again at the hospital where she works and she can tell her.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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