Biotin for hair loss: benefits and side effects

What is Biotin?

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7 (and formerly as vitamin H), is a water-soluble vitamin who plays an important role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fatty acids, purines and some amino acids like valine and isoleucine. Biotin is a vitamin considered essential for biochemical process through which cells metabolize nutrients.

Biotin can be found mainly in food: our body needs biotin in order to convert certain nutrients into energy, so that our body can use it. Like all other water-soluble vitamins, biotin is not stored in the body; our intestinal bacteria produce biotin, but it´s not clear if it can be absorbed by our body in some way.

In addition, biotin plays an important role in building our body; for example, our hair and nails need biotinto have a stronger structure: this vitamin helps in the creation of keratin, an essential protein in the body, and a cornerstone in making up our hair, skin and nails.

Biotin for hair: what are the benefits?

So, what are the benefits of biotin for hair? Does biotin prevent hair loss? Among biotin benefits, this vitamin favours blood circulation, including in the scalp, contributing to nourishing follicles and, therefore, to hair growth. Biotin will not just allow us to have a healthy and well-nourished scalp: it will also provide strength and elasticity to our hair, making it shiny, too.

Taking that into account, it becomes clear that lacking this fundamental vitamin will have consequences for our hair, which will become thinner, more fragile and brittle, dull and lifeless; in addition, hair will fall out more, and its growth will slow down. That is why it is so important that this vitamin is present in our diet.

In fact, in one study carried out in the Harvard University, biotin was considered one of the main nutrients for preserving hair strength, texture and appearance. This is the main reason why the use of biotin for hair loss is quite common in many products related to hair health (especially those who work on hair growth and thickness), or targeting alopecia symptoms. For example, it´s easy to find biotin and collagen shampoos, combining both ingredients to promise a thicker, stronger and growing hair.

Foods rich in biotin

So, what are those biotin-rich foods for hair growth that we can take? Basically, there are two main groups of foods with biotin:

Foods rich in biotin of animal origin:

  • Organ meats like the liver or kidney
  • Egg yolk
  • Oily fish
  • Dairy products

Foods rich in biotin of vegetal origin:

  • Nuts, like almonds and peanuts
  • Soybeans and other legumes
  • Bananas
  • Whole grains
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Sunflower seeds

You probably take enough amount of biotin for your body through the food you eat every day, but in case you want to increase your biotin intake, or if you do not eat enough quantity, there is also the option of taking biotin tablets or supplements for hair.

What causes biotin deficiency?

Although biotin deficiency is rare, however it occurs, especially for people with metabolic problems. Biotin deficiency may be a result of malnutrition, losing weight in rapid rate, and many other different medical conditions; for example, it´s known that biotin levels are lower in alcohol addicts that in other people; biotin levels are lower in athletes, epilepsy patients, elderly, and sick people who had a part of their gastrointestinal tract removed, too.

There is some evidence which shows that diabetes may cause low biotin levels, too. Pregnant womenhave also lower levels of biotin because of the increased demand for vitamins; they are more likely to have biotin deficiency, and studies have shown that 50% of pregnant women develop a deficiency in this vitamin. Following a diet based on white eggs for a long time causes biotin deficiency, too; this is due to avidin, a protein that exists in big amounts in raw white eggs and that binds with biotin, reducing thus its bioavailability.

What medications reduce biotin levels?

Taking many medications may also reduce biotin levels in the blood, which may affect your biotin requirements. If you are using some of the following medications, you should ask a pharmacist or a doctor in case you need to take biotin:

  • Carbamazepine
  • Phenobarbital
  • Phenytoin
  • Primidone

This list is not complete: there are other medications that may interact with biotin, like vitamins and herbal products. There are no side effects recorded for biotin in doses up to 10 mg per day. Anyway, always tell your doctor about any unusual symptoms you may feel during your biotin treatment.

Deficiency symptoms

There is no laboratory analysis good enough to identify biotin deficiency; therefore, this condition is diagnosed by its symptoms, including hair loss (it often includes losing hair pigmentation, according to studies), red rash around the eyes, mouth and nose, and conjunctivitis. The most distinguishable symptom of biotin deficiency is swollen face with irregular fat distribution, and red rash.

Neurological symptoms include depression, fatigue, hallucinations, and numbness in hands and feet. Chronic biotin deficiency or recurrent deficiency may also lead to problems in the immune system, and increase the risk of developing fungal and bacterial infections.

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