SPOTLIGHT ON: BIOTIN (Vitamin B7)
Chances are, you’ve heard of biotin. You know that it has something to do with healthy, thick hair and strong nails. But, what exactly is it and how does it work? Let’s dig in.
What is Biotin?
Biotin is a form of vitamin B (vitamin B7 to be exact), and it acts as a coenzyme for multiple metabolic processes throughout the body. That means that when your body links different nutrients together to build healthy tissues, including strong hair and nails, it relies on biotin to execute that process.
Biotin deficiency can show up as brittle hair, or hair loss. You can get biotin through your diet, as it’s found in foods like eggs, avocado, beans and mushrooms. Of note, it’s only found in the yolk of the egg, so if you’re an egg white omelet kind of person, you’re missing out on the biotin of that egg. It’s actually very rare to see a biotin deficiency in the US. Since it’s a water soluble vitamin, you don’t build up stores of biotin in your body, because if you consume too much you actually urinate out the excess. While that’s an advantage when it comes to safety, meaning it’s hard to overdose on biotin, it also means you really need to be getting enough biotin on a daily basis, since you don’t hold onto it over time. Therefore, daily changes in your diet can very much affect the amount of biotin traveling through your blood to your hair follicles.
Supplementing with Biotin
To keep those levels more constant, I do recommend supplementing with biotin. BUT, this is an example where more isn’t better. I actually prefer that my patients supplement regularly with small doses of biotin than take large doses sporadically. This keeps a steady flow of biotin reaching the stem cells in your scalp and your nail beds, the places it needs to go to help keep your hair and nails healthy.
While I always advise people to check first with their doctor before starting any new supplements, as your medical history can absolutely impact the best dose for you, most of my patients do well with taking about 1500 mcg (1.5mg) to 3,000 mcg (3 mg) per day via supplements.
A few caveats when it comes to biotin (again, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any new medication or supplement):
I always tell my patients not to consume raw egg whites if they are taking biotin. Raw egg whites contain avidin, which interferes with your absorption of biotin. Also, let your doctor or lab tech know you’re taking biotin during any appointment or blood draw. Biotin can impact certain lab tests, so it’s essential to communicate that you’re taking biotin any time you see a health care professional or get your bloodwork done.