Beware These 5 Signs You're Missing Biotin From Your Diet
Biotin is not one of the most commonly thought of supplements, especially when it comes to dietary health. Most often, people think about Biotin for their hair and nails, only thinking it can help aid in the health and growth of those areas. It turns out that Biotin is actually a fairly important dietary supplement that helps your entire body function properly on a daily basis. Below you can learn about Biotin and several signs of a Biotin deficiency.
What Is Biotin?
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin which is often referred to as several different names, like “vitamin H”, “vitamin B7”, or even “coenzyme R”. For the purpose of this article, we'll stick with the humble “Biotin”.
Biotin is a dietary vitamin that you can get from a healthy variety of foods. It is a necessary supplement for cell growth and the production of fatty acids in the body. Biotin also helps the body's metabolic system and assists in turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. Overall, the amount of Biotin your body needs is minimal, and many people have sufficient Biotin in their diet even within an average American diet. There are, however, a variety of disorders (often metabolic) that can cause a Biotin deficiency.
Potential Causes of a Biotin Deficiency
- Protein Deficiency
- Some Anticonvulsant Therapies and Drugs
- Oral Antibiotics
Proteins help Biotin adjust to the conditions of the body and stay in a stabilized state where it can be used. A deficiency of these proteins can lead to a Biotin deficiency.
In some cases, long term use of anticonvulsant drugs (anti-seizure medications) or therapy can inhibit Biotin's ability to travel in your body's intestine or encourage the break down of the vitamin before your body can use it.
In severe cases of malnourishment, Biotin deficiency is common due to a lack of nutrients received by food, or a complete lack of food.
Long term use of oral antibiotics tends to alter the intestinal flora and may create an inhabitable or undesirable environment for Biotin.
In some cases of pregnancy, the body can encourage the break down of Biotin before the body can use it. It is fairly common for pregnant women to be suffering from a Biotin deficiency.
Other potential causes of Biotin deficiency are smoking and alcohol consumption as these may encourage the break down of Biotin before the body can utilize it. Excessive antidiuretic use can encourage the body to waste the Biotin before having a chance to utilize it, and diets such as the Ketogenic or Atkins diet can significantly lower total Biotin levels.
What Foods Contain Biotin?
There are two forms of Biotin that are available in many common foods. These forms are “free” and “protein-bound” Biotin. The free Biotin is not bound to a protein molecule and is more common in plants. Protein-bound Biotin, on the other hand, is bound to a protein molecule and commonly found in animal-based products. Our bodies can metabolize both types of Biotin, however, protein-bound Biotin requires the body to break down the protein-Biotin bond and then convert the Biotin to be utilized. Free Biotin does not require this step and is more easily absorbed and utilized in the body. This makes free Biotin a better source for this nutrient.
Protein-Bound Biotin Foods
There are many foods that contain protein-bound Biotin, such as organ meat, dairy products, and seafood. Egg yolk contains Biotin but also, along with egg whites, interferes with Biotin absorption.
Free Biotin Foods
There are many foods that contain free Biotin, such as nuts, sunflower seeds, legumes, cauliflower, bananas, avocados. Many other foods such as leafy vegetables, peas, grains, mushrooms, tomatoes and fruits like raspberries, strawberries, watermelon and grapefruit.
Foods to Avoid When Taking Biotin
Some foods actually decrease your body's ability to absorb the Biotin you are taking. For this reason, it's important to know which foods you should avoid when you are trying to get your Biotin levels up. In some cases, if you only have a mild Biotin deficiency (or simply want to raise your Biotin levels), it will be sufficient to simply start eating more Biotin-rich foods. Luckily, not many foods have been identified as something to avoid when taking Biotin.
Egg whites, especially when raw, contain a protein called avidin that binds tightly to the Biotin. This tight bond makes it tough for your body to absorb any of the Biotin within it and has the potential to continue binding to Biotin in your body, lowering the amount of Biotin your body can absorb. Diets high in egg whites or raw egg can potentially cause a Biotin deficiency.
Signs of a Biotin Deficiency
It's important to know the signs of a Biotin deficiency. After all, if you don't know the signs of deficiency then you won't know when to supplement.
1. Unexplained Hair Loss
If you are suffering from unexplained hair loss or hair thinning, then the culprit may be a Biotin deficiency. In one double-blind study, healthy women from ages 21 to 75 were asked to take Biotin treatment for self-perceived hair loss. A control group was given a placebo treatment – both groups were asked to take the treatment twice a day for at least 180 days. Hair counts were taken before the treatment to measure a baseline. Another hair count was taken at both 90 and 180 days to measure results.
After 180 days, the placebo group did not have much of a change in hair count, however, the Biotin supplemented group saw a 24.2% - 66.6% increase in hair coverage. Additional improvements in this group such as hair shine, moisture retention, and skin smoothness were reported as well.
2. Unexplained Skin Rashes
This condition is known as seborrheic dermatitis, but many people call it eczema. This condition is typically characterized by an itchy rash that appears scaly, flaky, or red. This condition often affects the face and scalp but can affect many different places such as the palms, hands, foot soles, and lips.
3. Fungal Infections
Some studies suggest that Biotin helps prevent and treat yeast infections, particularly of the candida strain. This strain of yeast is present in the human gut and throat but is also the culprit of female genital yeast infections. There are theories that this yeast may be inhibited by the Biotin content already present in the body, particularly in the gut, therefore a deficiency in Biotin risks an overpopulation of the yeast.
4. Brittle Hair and Nails
There is evidence that suggests a Biotin deficiency may be behind brittle hair follicles and nails. In one study that lasted six months, 35 patients who were prescribed Biotin for nail health were evaluated for efficacy. 22 of these patients showed a positive result in the thickening of their nails The other 13 patients reported no change in the condition of their nails. This suggests that in at least most individuals, Biotin can improve nail quality
5. Fatigue or Mild Depression
Studies show that the B vitamins play an important role in cognitive function and maintaining cell growth and development. Biotin is considered a B vitamin and while more evidence is needed to fully support these claims, a Biotin deficiency has been suggested to cause symptoms such as anxiety and depression.