Category Archives: Vitamin K2 - Page 2

Bowel Disease, Part III: Healing Through Nutrition

[UPDATED August 2015 with updates in italic . – Paul]

Bowel diseases are characterized by chronic infection of the gut lining (and sometimes immune cells), wounded and inflamed gut tissue, and autoimmune attacks on the gut.

Malnutrition contributes to bowel disease by impairing immunity, impairing gut motility, and slowing intestinal healing.

Conversely, bowel diseases impair nutrient absorption along with the rest of digestion, exacerbating malnutrition.  To avoid a vicious spiral, bowel disease patients should be especially attentive to their nutritional needs.

The first step toward good nutrition is to eat the Perfect Health Diet, including all of our supplemental foods. For gut health, egg yolks are especially important. Also important are extracellular matrix components from bones and joints; vegetables, herbs, and spices; and healthy fats (which trigger bile production, bile being beneficial for the gut). See our Recommended Supplements page for more on the supplemental foods.

We no longer recommend taking a multivitamin. For various reasons multivitamin formulas are incomplete:

  • Some nutrients, such as magnesium and vitamin C, are too bulky to fit in a single pill.
  • Some, such as vitamin D and iodine, have no “one size fits all” dose that manufacturers can safely include.  They therefore include a low dose that is safe for all, meaning that most receive an insufficiency.
  • Others, like melatonin, may be unnecessary for the general population but are likely to benefit bowel disease patients.

Here, then, are a few supplements that bowel disease patients may find to be helpful additions to their multivitamin.

Vitamin D3 and Partners

Vitamin D has been called the “antibiotic vitamin” [1] because it triggers the body’s production of natural antibiotic compounds.

Vitamin D is needed for the production of the antimicrobial peptides cathelicidin and beta-defensin 2, which are produced mainly in immune cells and in epithelial cells lining the gut. [2, 3] These antimicrobial peptides normally saturate the mucosal barrier, where they kill most bacteria, enveloped viruses, fungi, and protozoa.

Evidence has accumulated that deficiencies in antimicrobial peptides are causal factors in bowel diseases:

  • In Crohn’s disease, a deficiency of antimicrobial peptides allows pathogens to invade. [4, 5, 6]
  • Reduced expression of intestinal defensins predicts diarrhea two months in advance. [7]
  • When antimicrobial peptides are induced therapeutically, intestinal infections are relieved. [8]
  • Mice with no vitamin D function due to knockout of the vitamin D receptor experience bacterial overgrowth of the intestine, and even mild injury to the colon results in the death of the mouse. [9]

There is increasing awareness that vitamin D is needed for defense against infections generally. [10]

Vitamin D has other benefits besides strengthening immunity. It also suppresses autoimmunity.  For instance, there is evidence for an inverse relationship between vitamin D levels and auto-antibody levels [11]. Some autoimmune patients have experienced a disappearance of auto-antibodies upon supplementation with vitamin D. [12]

Since bowel diseases are the result of infections and autoimmunity, normalization of vitamin D levels is probably extremely helpful.

Vitamin D is also associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer. [13] Bowel disease patients are at elevated risk for colorectal cancer.

Sunshine should be sought regularly, and supplements added to bring serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels to at least 40 ng/ml. In addition, vitamin D should be accompanied by supplementation of two key partners:

  • Vitamin K2 is needed for proper vitamin D function.  Most inflammatory bowel disease patients are severely deficient in vitamin K2. [14] A good daily supplement should include 100 mcg of the MK-7 form, perhaps combined with some synthetic MK-4 and plant-derived vitamin K1.
  • Magnesium is needed for proper vitamin D function and many people are deficient.  200 mg/day magnesium citrate (which is better absorbed than magnesium oxide) is appropriate.


Melatonin is a crucial hormone which is evolutionarily conserved across all nearly all animals, indicating that it is essential to health. Most know that it is produced in the pineal gland of the brain during sleep, but it is less well known that it is abundantly produced by the gut. Much of the body’s melatonin gathers in the gut, where melatonin concentrations are 100-fold greater than in blood and 400-fold greater than in the pineal gland. [15]

In the gut melatonin reduces inflammation, stimulates immune function, fosters tissue repair and helps regenerate the epithelium. [15] Melatonin also has antimicrobial effects. [16]

Clinical trials have found that melatonin can be beneficial in treating bowel conditions. [17, 18, 19] Melatonin seems to be especially effective at reducing abdominal pain. [20, 21]

To maximize night-time melatonin levels, it is best to sleep in a totally darkened room; avoid eating food at night; and avoid exercising at night. Melatonin can also be supplemented.  Supplemental melatonin should be taken immediately before bed. Time-release tablets are best, otherwise fluctuating melatonin levels may cause waking in the middle of the night. If early waking does occur, reduce the dose.

Thyroid and Immune Minerals:  Selenium and Iodine

Selenium and iodine are critical for thyroid and immune function. Adequate thyroid hormone and a well-functioning immune system, in turn, are essential for gut health.

The thyroid hormone T4 is 65% iodine by weight, and the active thyroid hormone T3 is 59% iodine by weight.  Selenium-containing deiodinase enzymes are required to convert inactive thyroid hormone to its active form. Either iodine or selenium deficiency can cause hypothyroidism, or a deficiency of thyroid hormone.

Gut problems, especially constipation, are among the primary symptoms of hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone is important for proper wound healing – and therefore for recovery from bowel disease.

Selenium and iodine are also essential for immune function.  Iodine along with the enzyme myeloperoxidase is needed to produce respiratory bursts – the burst of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that white blood cells use to kill pathogens.  Selenium is necessary both to strip iodine from thyroid hormone in the white blood cells, and to maintain (via the enzyme glutathione peroxidase) the function of the antioxidant glutathione which protects both white blood cells and gut cells from ROS.  Deficiency of either selenium or iodine leads to an immediate reduction in the killing activity of white blood cells.

Iodine was widely prescribed for infectious diseases in the 19th century. The Nobel laureate Dr. Albert Szent Györgyi, the discoverer of vitamin C, recounted this anecdote:

When I was a medical student, iodine in the form of KI was the universal medicine. Nobody knew what it did, but it did something and did something good. We students used to sum up the situation in this little rhyme:

If ye don’t know where, what, and why

Prescribe ye then K and I. [22]

Doses as large as 1 gram potassium iodide, containing 770 mg of iodine, were given. In practice, however, it’s highly desirable to start with a low dose of iodine, around 1 mg/day, and allow the thyroid to adapt before gradually increasing the dose.

The great danger of high doses of iodine is that it will make autoimmune attacks, as well as attacks on pathogens, more powerful. Therefore large supplemental doses of iodine should be taken only after grains and legumes have been eliminated from the diet for at least 3 months. Bowel disease patients should also be tested for the presence of thyroid auto-antibodies before beginning high-dose iodine.

Related minerals: 

  • Myeloperoxidase requires iron (heme), and unfortunately anemia due to iron deficiency is common in bowel disease patients, especially among menstruating women. [23] A good way to judge the need for iron is to measure blood ferritin levels, which should be 50 ng/ml or higher.

Thyroid hormone

If auto-antibodies are present, then hypothyroidism cannot be repaired by iodine supplementation. Yet thyroid hormone is necessary for gut healing.  In such cases, prescription thyroid hormone should be taken.

Hypothyroidism is widely undiagnosed, because the “normal” range of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is far too wide. TSH levels over 1.5 mIU/L may indicate a subclinical hypothyroidism that is sufficient to measurably raise mortality. [24] Anyone with a TSH over 1.5 mIU/L and a basal body temperature below 98 F should consider obtaining prescription thyroid hormone to test whether it helps relieves hypothyroidism-associated symptoms such as constipation and improves general health. Generally, a good dose of thyroid hormone will eliminate symptoms of hypothyroidism and reduce TSH to 2.0 or so – still elevated, to stimulate thyroid healing.

Antioxidants and Bile Supports: Vitamin C, Glutathione, N-Acetylcysteine, Taurine, Glycine

Since the main immune defense (and autoimmune) mechanisms in the gut involve around ROS-producing respiratory bursts, the gut of any bowel disease patient is a ROS-rich environment.

It is therefore desirable to maximize the ability of both gut and immune cells to protect themselves against ROS with native antioxidants.

Foremost among the native antioxidants is glutathione, the primary immune and gut antioxidant. Glutathione may be supplemented directly, or its levels may be raised by supplementing with vitamin C and N-acetylcysteine.

Vitamin C has other important functions:  it is needed for wound healing and to maintain the collagen-based extracellular matrix which backs the gut and gives it integrity. One of the symptoms of scurvy (extreme vitamin C deficiency) is bleeding from the mucus membranes, including the gut lining.

A Japanese study found that vitamin C was highly protective against ulcerative colitis, reducing incidence by 55%. [25]

In rats, glutathione deficiency leads to elevated infection-induced bowel inflammation. [26] Glycine (the most abundant amino acid in extracellular matrix) and taurine both support glutathione synthesis.

Related minerals: 

  • Zinc and copper are both required for the function of another antioxidant, zinc-copper superoxide dismutase.  We recommend supplementing dietary intake with another 15 mg zinc and 2 mg copper. This can be achieved by taking a daily multivitamin plus eating occasional beef or lamb liver.
  • Magnesium is needed for glutathione synthesis. As noted before, 200 mg/day magnesium citrate is a highly desirable supplement for bowel disease patients.

Magnesium and copper deficiencies contribute to necrotizing enterocolitis [27], and probably worsen all bowel diseases.

Bile is an important aid to gut health, in part because it helps to clear the small intestine of bacteria. Bile needs vitamin C for its manufacture and needs to be conjugated with glycine or taurine. Glycine can be obtained from food as extracellular matrix material, or as a powder which you can sprinkle on food. Taurine is an excellent supplement for patients with gut disorders.


Although not a complete list of the vitamins and minerals which may be helpful to bowel disease patients, these are among the most important – and most often overlooked:

  • Vitamin D3 sufficient to raise serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D above 40 ng/ml.
  • Vitamin K2, at least 100 mcg/day.
  • Magnesium citrate or bis-glycinate, 200 mg/day.
  • Melatonin, if needed for deep restful sleep.
  • Selenium, 200 mcg/week.
  • Iodine, 225 mcg/day.
  • Thyroid hormone sufficient to bring TSH below 2.0.
  • Vitamin C, 1 g/day.
  • Glutathione, 500 mg/day, preferably in the reduced form, taken between meals on an empty stomach with a full glass of water (since it is destroyed by stomach acid).
  • N-acetylcysteine, 500 mg/day.
  • Iron, zinc, and copper sufficient to relieve deficiencies.
  • Taurine, 1 g/day.
  • Glycine (if insufficient extracellular matrix is eaten), up to 5 g/day.

Related Posts

Other posts in this series:

  1. Bowel Disorders, Part I: About Gut Disease July 14, 2010
  2. Bowel Disease, Part II: Healing the Gut By Eliminating Food Toxins m July 19, 2010
  3. Bowel Disease, Part IV: Restoring Healthful Gut Flora July 27, 2010


[1] “The antibiotic vitamin: deficiency in vitamin D may predispose people to infection,” Science News, Nov 11, 2006,

[2] Liu PT et al. Cutting edge: vitamin D-mediated human antimicrobial activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis is dependent on the induction of cathelicidin. J Immunol. 2007 Aug 15;179(4):2060-3.

[3] Lehrer RI, Ganz T. Defensins of vertebrate animals. Curr Opin Immunol. 2002 Feb;14(1):96-102.

[4] Rivas-Santiago B et al. Susceptibility to infectious diseases based on antimicrobial peptide production. Infect Immun. 2009 Nov;77(11):4690-5.

[5] Wehkamp J et al. Inducible and constitutive beta-defensins are differentially expressed in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2003 Jul;9(4):215-23.

[6] Barrier dysfunction due to distinct defensin deficiencies in small intestinal and colonic Crohn’s disease. Mucosal Immunol. 2008 Nov;1 Suppl 1:S67-74.

[7] Kelly P et al. Reduced gene expression of intestinal alpha-defensins predicts diarrhea in a cohort of African adults. J Infect Dis. 2006 May 15;193(10):1464-70.

[8] Wehkamp J et al. Defensins and cathelicidins in gastrointestinal infections. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2007 Jan;23(1):32-8.

[9] Froicu M, Cantorna MT. Vitamin D and the vitamin D receptor are critical for control of the innate immune response to colonic injury. BMC Immunol. 2007 Mar 30;8:5.

[10] Yamshchikov AV et al. Vitamin D for treatment and prevention of infectious diseases: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Endocr Pract. 2009 Jul-Aug;15(5):438-49.

[11] Goswami R et al. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its relationship with thyroid autoimmunity in Asian Indians: a community-based survey. Br J Nutr. 2009 Aug;102(3):382-6.

[12] Dr. John Cannell, The Vitamin D Newsletter, March 9, 2009.

[13] Woolcott CG et al. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and the risk of colorectal cancer: the multiethnic cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jan;19(1):130-4.

[14] Kuwabara A et al. High prevalence of vitamin K and D deficiency and decreased BMD in inflammatory bowel disease. Osteoporos Int. 2009 Jun;20(6):935-42.

[15] Bubenik GA. Gastrointestinal melatonin: localization, function, and clinical relevance. Dig Dis Sci. 2002 Oct;47(10):2336-48.

[16] Tekbas OF et al. Melatonin as an antibiotic: new insights into the actions of this ubiquitous molecule. J Pineal Res. 2008 Mar;44(2):222-6.

[17] Sánchez-Barceló EJ et al. Clinical uses of melatonin: evaluation of human trials. Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(19):2070-95.

[18] Terry PD et al. Melatonin and ulcerative colitis: evidence, biological mechanisms, and future research. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2009 Jan;15(1):134-40.

[19] Chang FY, Lu CL.Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome using complementary and alternative medicine. J Chin Med Assoc. 2009 Jun;72(6):294-300.

[20] Lu WZ et al. Melatonin improves bowel symptoms in female patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Nov 15;22(10):927-34.

[21] Song GH et al. Melatonin improves abdominal pain in irritable bowel syndrome patients who have sleep disturbances: a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled study.  Gut. 2005 Oct;54(10):1402-7.

[22] Szent-Györgyi, A. (1957) Bioenergetics. New York: Academic Press, p. 112.

[23] Gomollón F, Gisbert JP. Anemia and inflammatory bowel diseases. World J Gastroenterol. 2009 Oct 7;15(37):4659-65.

[24] Asvold BO et al. Thyrotropin levels and risk of fatal coronary heart disease: the HUNT study. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Apr 28;168(8):855-60.

[25] Sakamoto N et al. Dietary risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease: a multicenter case-control study in Japan. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2005 Feb;11(2):154-63.

[26] van Ampting MT et al. Intestinal barrier function in response to abundant or depleted mucosal glutathione in Salmonella-infected rats. BMC Physiol. 2009 Apr 17;9:6.

[27] Caddell JL. A review of evidence for a role of magnesium and possibly copper deficiency in necrotizing enterocolitis. Magnes Res.1996 Mar;9(1):55-66.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Osteopenia, and Diet Advice from the Daily Mail

At her health site, Gwyneth Paltrow recently revealed that a broken leg she suffered several years ago was due to osteopenia, or brittle bone disease, possibly caused by sun avoidance and low vitamin D:

I suffered a pretty severe Tibial plateau fracture a few years ago (requiring surgery) which led the orthopaedic surgeon to give me a bone scan, at which point it was discovered I had the beginning stages of osteopenia. This led my western/eastern doctors in New York to test my Vitamin D levels, which turned out to be the lowest they had ever seen (not a good thing). I went on a prescription strength level of Vitamin D and was told to … spend a bit of time in the sun! I was curious if this was safe, having been told for years to stay away from its dangerous rays, not to mention a tad bit confused. [1]

Low vitamin D can certainly cause osteopenia and fractures. Bone density is highest and fracture rates lowest when serum 25(OH)D levels are between 32 and 45 ng/ml. [2] (As an aside, 25(OH)D levels should be tested routinely. It’s remarkable that Paltrow’s doctors waited until she had fractured a bone to measure her vitamin D levels.)

In Paltrow’s case, however, it’s quite likely that other nutritional and dietary deficiencies were also at work.

For 11 years Ms. Paltrow has avoided meat and dairy and eaten a macrobiotic diet in which most calories come from grains and legumes – two of the toxic foods that the PerfectHealthDiet counsels avoiding.

Grain consumption has long been known to damage vitamin D status and bone health. Indeed, it is difficult to induce bone frailty in laboratory animals without feeding them grain. In Edward Mellanby’s original experiments leading to the discovery of vitamin D, he induced rickets by feeding dogs a diet of oats or wheat bread. [3] In human infants, wheat bran induces rickets. [4] In addition to interfering with vitamin D, grains also contain high levels of phytic acid, which interferes with bone mineralization by blocking absorption of calcium and magnesium.

Another crucial factor in bone health is vitamin K2. Since dairy fats are the leading source of vitamin K2, it’s likely Ms. Paltrow was deficient in this crucial vitamin. Most people are deficient in vitamin K2 – let alone those who avoid meats and dairy.  In clinical trials, vitamin K2 supplementation reduced non-vertebral fractures by a remarkable 81%. [5]

Given Paltrow’s avoidance of animal fats, it’s likely that omega-6-rich vegetable oils were an outsized share of her diet, and fatty seafood a small share. But a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio reduces bone density. [6]

The long and the short of it is that Ms. Paltrow would benefit from more meat, more fat, more fat-soluble vitamins, and fewer grains and legumes.  A commenter in Britain’s Daily Mail quipped:

Maybe if she started having a nice juicy steak for dinner each day instead of the poached peelings from half an apple … [7]

Hyperbolic, no doubt, but good advice!

[1] Gwyneth Paltrow, June 17, 2010, Hat tip Frank Hagan,

[2] Bischoff-Ferrari HA et al. Positive association between 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels and bone mineral density: a population-based study of younger and older adults. Am J Med. 2004 May 1;116(9):634-9.

[3] Mellanby E. (March 15 1919) An experimental investigation on rickets. The Lancet 193(4985):407-412.

[4] Zoppi G et al. Potential complications in the use of wheat bran for constipation in infancy. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1982; 1(1): 91-5.

[5] Cockayne S et al. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jun 26;166(12):1256-61.

[6] Watkins BA et al. Dietary ratio of n-6/n-3 PUFAs and docosahexaenoic acid: actions on bone mineral and serum biomarkers in ovariectomized rats. J Nutr Biochem. 2006 Apr;17(4):282-9. Watkins BA et al. Dietary ratio of (n-6)/(n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids alters the fatty acid composition of bone compartments and biomarkers of bone formation in rats. J Nutr. 2000 Sep;130(9):2274-84.

[7] “Gwyneth Paltrow:  I’m suffering from brittle bone disease,” Daily Mail, June 26, 2010,