By Wiggy Saunders MD
As an Integrative Medicine physician, I am always looking for ways to improve the underlying health of my patients. I do not like to wait for diseases to develop before starting treatment; I like to set the stage for the body to be healthy so that diseases do not have a chance to develop. This approach is what has helped thousands of my patients regain a sense of vitality and well-being that once seemed so elusive.
The problem that I often see is that the longer you wait, the harder it is to correct the underlying issue. That is why my wife, Emily, and I started Raise Them Well, in order to improve the health of children from Day 1, starting early at conception.
Like it or not, what we expose our babies to from conception forward will play a role in their health as children and even into adulthood. This is why it is so important for moms to be doing everything that they can to stay healthy before, during, and after pregnancy. Moms need to be eating as clean as possible, avoiding toxins, and making sure that their baby is getting the proper nutrients necessary for optimal growth and development. This is critically important while breastfeeding because mother’s milk is the only nutrition- and the best nutrition- that many babies get. However, there are a few things that even breast milk can’t provide.
The importance of Vitamin D for babies
There is a ton of research on the importance of Vitamin D for babies and toddlers. Vitamin D3 helps the babies develop strong teeth and bones and healthy immune systems, muscles, hearts, and brains. Really, you name it, it has Vitamin D receptors and without it, will not function properly. This is one of the few vitamins that are actually supported by the mainstream medical community. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for all infants, and especially those that are breastfed, to be take 400 IUs of Vitamin D3 daily.
While, I congratulate the effort of the AAP to make this recommendation, I believe that it falls a bit short. That’s because it makes no mention of Vitamin K2.
The Fat Soluble Vitamins
There are 4 fat soluble vitamins that all work together. They are Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Most people have no problem getting enough Vitamin A and E through a healthy diet so those are less talked about. However, like Vitamin D, Vitamin K is difficult to ingest through diet alone. The more that we are learning about these fat soluble vitamins, the more we realize that it is about balance and that taking any one of them by themselves can actually be problematic.
The Calcium Paradox
Some of you may be familiar with the book, The Calcium Paradox, from Dr. Kate Rheume-Bleu. It is a fantastic book about the fat soluble vitamins and the importance of balancing Vitamin D with Vitamin K especially in pregnant moms, infants and toddlers. What she eloquently describes are the problems that can develop if the mom and infant become deficient not in Vitamin D3 but in Vitamin K2. The book highlights the work by Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist well ahead of his time.
What he noticed was aboriginal cultures, even without any dental care, had healthy teeth without crowding and spacing problems. These cultures also rarely got cavities. However, when these cultures started to stray from their traditional diet, their teeth started to show signs of decay, crowding, and disease. What he found was that there was a unique nutrient that all of the original cultures had in common and it was a fat soluble vitamin. Initially, called Vitamin X because he didn’t know what to call it, was eventually reclassified as, none other than Vitamin K2. Here is a picture from the Weston A. Price Foundation that describes the problem that he frequently observed:
The main difference between the kids with the healthy teeth and dental arches was that they were getting a lot of the fat soluble vitamins, especially Vitamin D and Vitamin K2. Of course dental problems were only one part of the problem. These cultures that stopped getting Vitamin K2 in their diet were also at a higher risk from nearly all of the chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and cardiovascular disease.
The Vitamin D and K Dance
Vitamin D and K work together to profoundly impact our bodies. When it comes to proper bone and teeth development it all boils down to proper utilization of Calcium. This is where things get interesting. Vitamin D is well known for enhancing Calcium absorption out of the gut and into the blood. It does this well, but that is only Step 1. Step 2 is getting Calcium out of the blood and into the teeth and bones, where it’s used. That’s where Vitamin K2 comes in. Vitamin K2 is the shuttle that moves the Calcium out of the blood and into the teeth and bones.
Now, I’m not saying that Vitamin K2 is going to fix everyone’s problems, but I do believe that Vitamin K2 contributes to proper bone, teeth, immune, cardiovascular, and nervous system development. If your child is not getting this crucial nutrient then he/she may be at risk for having problems in the future.
So hopefully I’ve summarized my reasoning behind my beliefs that 1. It’s important for pregnant women to be taking a Prenatal Vitamin with Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2 and 2. It’s equally important for infants to be using Vitamin D3 drops with Vitamin K2 on a daily basis.