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Does biotin work for hair growth?

Biotin is a form of vitamin B that exists in food, it is a water-soluble vitamin and is considered as a part of B vitamin family, it is also known as vitamin H. Biotin helps the body in breaking down fat, carbohydrates and other materials. Your body needs biotin to help convert many nutrients into energy. It also plays a major role in maintaining the health of your hair, skin and nails.

In one of the studies done in Harvard university, biotin was considered one of the main nutrients for preserving hair strength, texture and appearance. In addition to using it for treating hair loss, biotin is also used to treat the types of diabetes. Other uses include the treatment of brittle nails, hair loss, Polyneuralgia and other conditions. Biotin deficiency may be the result of malnutrition, rapid weight loss, long-term tube feeding, and other medical conditions. 

How does Biotin Prevent Hair Loss?

Biotin, or vitamin B7, also known as vitamin H or coenzyme R is a water-soluble compound, and one of vitamin B complex. Biotin is important in fatty acids synthesis, glucose and some amino acids like valine and isoleucine.

It is considered essential for biochemical process through which the cells metabolize nutrients, known to help controlling blood sugar levels. Biotin also helps strengthening the hair and nails.

Keratin is considered an essential protein in the body, and a cornerstone in making up your hair, skin and nails. Biotin clearly improves the keratin infrastructure in your body. Like all other water-soluble vitamins, biotin is not stored in the body. Anyway, intestinal bacteria produce more than the body's needed requirements.

 Deficiency Symptoms:

There is no laboratory analysis good to identify biotin deficiency, therefore this case is diagnosed by its symptoms including hair loss (it often includes losing hair color as well), red rash around the eyes, mouth and nose, and conjunctivitis. Despite hair loss, the most distinguished symptom of biotin deficiency is swollen face with irregular fat distribution and a red rash. The neurological symptoms include depression, fatigue, hallucinations, numbness in the hands and feet.

There is some evidence that diabetes may cause biotin deficiency. 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. Biotin is quite safe for most people when it is taken properly by mouth. Biotin is well-tolerated when it's used in the recommended dosages.

What Causes Biotin Deficiency?

Although biotin deficiency is rare, however it occurs, especially for people with metabolic problems. For example, alcohol addicts know that their biotin levels are lower than it is in other people, similarly, biotin levels are lower in athletes, epilepsy patients, the elderly and the sick people who had a part of their gastrointestinal tract removed.

 Pregnant women have lower levels of biotin because of the increased demand for vitamins. Pregnant women are more likely to have biotin deficiency, studies have shown that 50% of pregnant women develop this vitamin deficiency. Following a diet that depends on egg whites for a long time causes biotin deficiency because of avidin, a protein that exists in the big amounts of raw egg whites. Avidin binds with biotin and reduces its bioavailability. 

Biotin Dosage:

The recommended intake:

Biotin deficiency is considered rare; therefore, the FDA didn't set a limit for recommended dosage of biotin. Therefore, the dose may vary depending on the person, age, sex, and overall health condition. Experts recommend the following dosages: 

Anyone aged 10 years or older should get between 30 to 100 mcg a day. Infants and children should get:

- Since birth until 3 years: 10 to 20 mcg

- At the age of 4 years to 6 years: 25 mcg

- At the age of 7 years to 10 years: 30 mcg

Women breastfeeding or pregnant: 35 mcg

Biotin Rich Foods:

You would probably take enough amount of biotin for your body through food you eat every day, but in case you want to increase your biotin intake, you can add biotin-rich foods to your diet, these foods include:

- Organ meats like the liver or kidney

- Egg yolk

- Nuts, like almonds and peanuts

- Soybeans and other legumes

- Bananas

- Whole grains

- Cauliflower

 - Mushrooms

Heating may reduce the effectiveness of biotin; therefore, you should eat these foods raw, or use them lightly cooked. Biotin amount may vary from one kind of food to another.

 Supplements that Contain Biotin:

If you think that you are not getting enough biotin from your food, or you want to increase your intake of biotin, supplements that contain biotin may be the solution. Those supplements are available over-the-counter as capsules or tablets

. Although these supplements are approved by the FDA, it's important to read the instructions in the package insert. Buy the supplements from a place you trust.

Many people can take supplements that contain biotin without any side effects, however, there are potential rare side effects including:

- Nausea

- Cramping

- Diarrhea  

You can reduce the risk of side effects by taking the supplement with food. 

In Addition to the Benefits of Biotin for Hair and Nails, what are the Benefits of Biotin?

Although biotin needs more research to prove its influence on hair growth, biotin has many proven benefits. For example: biotin is one of several B vitamins that supports a good metabolism.

Biotin converts glucose from carbohydrates to provide body with energy, and it help amino acids in carrying out regular body functions. It is also believed that biotin is used for:

 - Reduce inflammation

- Improve cognitive functioning

- Help lower blood sugar in diabetes patients

- Increase the good cholesterol HDL and decrease the bad cholesterol LDL

How Long Until Treatment Results Appear? 

Although the studies are limited, two studies done in 2012 and 2015 showed that improvements may appear in at least 90 days, the improvements include an increase in hair growth and shine.

Precautions and Warnings:

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Biotin may be safe when it is used in the recommended dosage during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Dialysis patients: Extra doses of biotin may be needed for dialysis patients. Consult your doctor.

The appropriate dose of biotin depends on many factors like the age of user, health, and many other conditions.

What should I Discuss with the Doctor Before Taking Biotin Supplements?

You should not take this product if you are allergic to biotin. Talk to your doctor before taking biotin, the dose may need a change in the following cases:

- If you have kidney problems

- If you had a stomach surgery

- If you are a smoker your dose should be different during pregnancy.

Do not use this product without a medical advice if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. 

What Happens if You Forget to Take the Dose?

Just skip the dose that you forgot when it's time for the next dose, do not take more biotin to replace the dose that you forgot to take. 

What Happens if You Take an Overdose? 

Since biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, overdose rarely happens, and any excess is flushed from the body with urine.

Biotin Side Effects:

Ask for medical help if you have allergic reaction symptoms, chills, difficulty breathing, or swelling in your face, lips, tongue or throat. 

Common side effects include:

- Stomach pain

- A minor rash

What are the Other Medications that Interact with Biotin?

Taking many medications may reduce biotin levels in the blood, which may affect your biotin requirements. Consult the doctor or pharmacist before taking biotin if you're taking any of the following medications: 

- 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, tell your doctor about any unusual symptoms you may feel during your biotin treatment.