Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thick hair and strong nails - does biotin work?

Is your hair thinning? Do you have short brittle or soft nails?  Do you have dry scaly skin and thin/sparse eyelashes?  Instead of treating the symptoms, I looked for the cause of these annoying problems.

There is a lot of talk about the power of biotin.  You see hair care products with biotin and many people, including my mom, have seen the benefits of taking biotin supplements.  But is biotin the magic pill?  I did some research and found there is a lot more to healthy hair and nails.   Good hair, nails and skin are a symptom of good nutrition!  Read on!

Biotin - How it works

Biotin is also known as Vitamin H or Vitamin B7.  It is a part of the B vitamin complex which allows your body to convert food to be used in the body as fuel!   A simple way to look at the process is carbohydrates in your food are being converted to glucose to burn as energy and the fat and proteins are being converted for use in your organs.  Fats and proteins are needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes and liver.  They also essential for your nervous system to function properly.  The body has a harder time breaking down processed and artificial foods and chemicals so eating whole foods will make your body run more efficiently.

Excess biotin is expelled through urine so be sure to stay hydrated by drinking at least 8 cups of water a day! (More if you are over 100 lbs or losing water through sweat.)
Biotin is produced in small amounts in your intestines so it is important that you have good bacteria in your intestines and enough fiber (eat your greens, cooked or raw!) to ensure this process is working!  

What blocks biotin?

Can you be sabotaging your own biotin production?  Here are some ways we block biotin in our body.
  • Eating a lot of egg whites - The protein Avidin in egg whites is shown to block biotin.
  • Taking antibiotics, anti-seizure and cholesterol medication.   These types of medication can block your ability to use biotin which leads to hair loss, scaly skin, brittle nails and cracks around the mouth. Antibiotics also kill the good bacteria in your gut which produces biotin.

What food contains biotin?

  • Cooked egg yolks.  Eat the whole egg in moderation!  
  • Sardines
  • Nuts
  • Beans (legumes)
  • Whole grains
  • Cauliflower
  • Banana
  • Mushrooms

Supplements - what dosage? 

Still not seeing improvements after a few months of improving your diet? 
Biotin is in many multivitamins or you can take them separately. Dosage recommendations vary, but I have seen this to be the common recommendation: 
Children between 4 and 6 may take 25 mcg per day, those between the ages of 7-10 can take 30 mcg each day and those older than 10 can ingest 30-100 mcg of biotin daily.

You can also find higher doses of biotin in the stores.  (1000 mcg and 5000 mcg)
This higher dosage is often used to aid those with diabetes and women with yeast infections. The biotin helps the body convert the excess carbohydrates into glucose so you can burn it as energy.  But you can't be sedentary!  With the extra glucose in your system, you will need to get moving to burn it off or people start noticing weight gain. 

Who should not take biotin?

Biotin supplements are not for you if you are allergic to cobalt or cobalamin.
Too much biotin (extra glucose production) may result in acne, especially around the jaw line, and weight gain.
Too much biotin may cause miscarriage in women.

Steps for strong hair and nails

  1. Eat greens and take pro-biotics (supplements or through fermented foods) to ensure your intestines are working properly and you can produce biotin. (Healthy bowel movements each day.)
  2. Eat foods with biotin!
  3. Still need help?  Take a biotin supplement 30-100 mcg.  Talk to your doctor first if you feel you should can benefit from 1000 mcg or higher. 


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