Ever walked into a doctor’s office and they suggested that you need multivitamin supplements? If so, you’re not alone. All around the world, thousands of people are diagnosed with vitamin deficiencies every day. And considering the numerous roles that vitamins play in the human body, having them at low levels can have a plethora of unpleasant effects on one’s health. If you guessed right, biotin deficiency is a common vitamin deficiency, but not as common as vitamin D, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B12 deficiencies. In this article, we’ll take a look at the vitamin, what it means to have a biotin deficiency, and the various options out there to prevent or remedy the condition. Here are 5 things to know about low biotin levels.
1. What is Biotin?
Also known as Vitamin H, B7, or coenzyme R, Biotin, as earlier hinted, is a common constituent of the B group of vitamins. These vitamins play a myriad of roles in the human body, including assisting the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates, and their conversion into energy. This energy is basically used to fuel the many essential functions and processes that take place in the body.
The water-soluble vitamin is neither produced naturally in the body, nor can it be stored for long. Most of it is acquired naturally from the food you eat, whereas some of it comes from the microbes living in your gut known as gut flora. In addition to aiding in biochemical respiration, biotin also helps in the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol. It is also important in the production of keratin, a common component of hair and nails. Also, biotin has a role in promoting skin health. So what happens when your body doesn’t get enough biotin? If you guessed right, biotin deficiency happens!
2. What is Biotin Deficiency?
Most people who eat a balanced diet regularly do not experience biotin deficiency. In most cases, the condition is diagnosed by close observation of the patient for signs and symptoms of biotin deficiency. The signs and symptoms may be experienced in/on various parts of the body, including the following:
- Skin health: scaly skin, dry skin, red skin rashes, cracked mouth, eye dryness
- GIT: upset stomach, nausea, appetite loss
- Hair: brittle hair, hair loss
- Neuromuscular symptoms: fatigue, muscle pain, walking difficulties, prickling hands/feet
- Psychological symptoms: seizures, insomnia, depression
As you can see, biotin deficiency can have a wide range of signs and symptoms that may resemble those in other medical conditions. This makes it important to always consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment if you suspect having low biotin levels instead of self-medicating.
3. What Causes Biotin Deficiency?
Low B-7 levels could result from a wide variety of causes. Some of the most common causes of Vitamin H deficiency include:
a. Certain medications:
As a side effect, some drugs can interfere with the body’s effectiveness or ability to absorb certain vitamins. In this category, antibiotics and anti-seizure medications are common culprits. According to Earl Hailey from PatchMD.com, being on antibiotics for extended periods of time can reduce the body’s biotin levels. This is precisely because, in addition to interfering with vitamin absorption, antibiotics can also disrupt the integrity of your microbiome or gut flora, which is also a common source of biotin in the body.
b. Intravenous nutrition:
Intravenous feeding could also cause vitamin H deficiency. This is because most of the biotin from your diet is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, which means that you won’t be getting much if you’re receiving your nutrition through an IV tube until you get back to taking solid food.
c. Intestinal issues
Biotin deficiency may also stem from other health conditions of intestinal origin. For instance, Crohn’s disease may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients from your diet, including biotin. Colitis is another common example.
d. Aggressive dieting:
While it can be beneficial to your weight management plan, strict dieting may also have some health repercussions. In essence, it may deny your body a wide range of essential vitamins and nutrients that you’re supposed to get naturally from food. It could be the cause of your low biotin problem.
e. Biotinidase disorder:
Biotinidase is an enzyme or protein that enables biotin to be reused in the body before being eliminated in wasted. Without an adequate amount of this enzyme, your body is unable to recycle or reuse B-7. However, biotinidase deficiency is an extremely rare genetic disorder that can be detected in the first few months of birth.
Other hereditary disorders that may lead to B-7 deficiency include:
- Early-onset multiple carboxylase deficiency
- biotin transport deficiency
- Phenylalanine hydroxylase deficiency (phenylketonuria)
4. Treatment of biotin deficiency
The good news about biotin deficiency is that it is treatable and preventable. In most cases, it is treated or prevented through diet and supplements. Since it can result from other medical issues, treating the underlying condition can help reverse biotin deficiency.
As for the nutritional approach, treatment involves ensuring that the individual gets the daily recommended dose of biotin from the food they eat, which is precisely 30mcg for adults and 5mcg for children daily. Some common foods rich in biotin include organ meats, greens, legumes, whole grains, seafood, dairy products, lentils, mushrooms, carrots, and sunflower seeds, just to name a few.
As for the supplementary approach, you can find it in a multivitamin supplement or an individual biotin supplements. B-7 supplements are available in pills of various capacities, say 10mcg, 50 mcg or 100mcg. Since there’s a possibility of side effects, it is important to consult with your doctor before you start taking a biotin supplement. A qualified medical practitioner will also prescribe to you’re the right dosage to avoid overdosing.
5. Who’s at risk?
Basically, everyone is at risk of developing a biotin deficiency. However, some may have a higher risk of suffering from low B-7 if they have certain medical conditions or disorders. For instance, as mentioned above, someone with a biotinidase deficiency is more at risk of developing biotin deficiency. Likewise, the same case applies to IV feeders and those on antibiotics. Expectant moms also carry a higher risk of suffering from low biotin levels.
Biotin is a critical vitamin in the body and when at low levels, your overall health can be negatively affected. This is because the B Vitamin plays a large number of roles to keep the body functioning properly. With the above tips, you have all the basic information about B-7 deficiency and what you can do to prevent it or seek treatment for a healthier you.