Vitamins are of multiple types. Among them, B-vitamins play a significant role in enabling several metabolic functions at the cellular level. B-complex is referred to a set of such vitamins. In this milieu, B7 vitamin is commonly referred as biotin; this is essential for the processing of fats as well as carbohydrates. Deficiency of biotin is a rare occurrence. A few congenital conditions such as deficiency of carboxylase (multiple) is known to trigger conditions associated with inadequacy of biotin. However, as the daily need for this vitamin is fairly low, deficiencies are rare to occur. Your doctor may prescribe needful supplements to reduce this condition. You are advised to pay attention to the side effects such supplements may trigger.

Biotin belongs to the family of B-vitamins. It is sourced from the foods you take. Also, your renal system helps extract this vitamin during the making of urine. The good news is – your body needs only a small amount of this vitamin each day. People who take white part of raw eggs for a longer timespan are likely to report biotin deficiencies. Also, those who do not take adequate amount of proteins may also have this deficiency. In some cases, those who take antiepileptic medications such as carbamazepine, phenytoin, etc. have experienced shortage of biotin. Anticonvulsants may use up excessive levels of biotin and may hence deplete the available reserves of this vitamin. So, if your treatment plans include the intake of phenytoin or carbamazepine, you are advised to stay conscious of the consequences.

Other triggers of biotin deficiency include addiction to intoxicants such as alcohol, smoking of tobacco products, short bowel-syndrome or other intestinal conditions, persistent intake of water pills or diuretics. Among the above causes, short-gut or short bowel-syndrome is a condition in which small intestinal villi – the absorption mechanism – are damaged or impaired. The typical signs of short-gut include an inexplicable loss of bodyweight, feeling dehydrated as well as malnourished. In a few remote instances, those who live with inadequate production of antidiuretic hormones – also called as arginine-vasopressin – may also have biotin related conditions. In equally remote conditions, long-term use of antibiotics – taken orally, has also led to deficiencies.

Above all, women who are pregnant may witness higher rate of biotin breakdown or catabolism. Hence, pregnant women are more likely to experience a slight reduction in biotin level; if needful supplements are not administered, they can develop deficiency of this vitamin. It is likely that a few people living with diabetes may also have a biotin-deficient condition. Deficiency of biotin shows up in the form of loss of hair, weakening of nails, etc. As soon as you witness excessive hair-loss along with discoloration of hair, these symptoms need to be reported to a qualified medical practitioner. Apart from these signs, the other symptoms are rashes on facial organs, mood shifts, weariness, tingling sensation and numbness of legs or hands.

Side effects of biotin

As part of treatment plan, you may be asked to take supplements of biotin. In US, such supplements are sold as over the counter (OTC) drugs. In general, the intake of supplements is considered as largely safe for most people. Its supplements are also available as shots as well as topically applied creams or lotions. In case of lotions or creams, products containing upto 0.5% of biotin are unlikely to trigger any major side effects. However, some people with congenital conditions such as deficiency of biotinidase or other such anomalies may need extra dosing of supplements. Similarly, shots of biotin may not cause acute undesired side effects or allergic reactions in most people.

A few undesired side effects are commonly observed. Such side effects are generally not serious, and these include cramping of muscles, indigestion or diarrhea as well as nausea. Most of these discomforts may stop once your body gets used to the active ingredients of this vitamin supplement. But, if these side effects persist for long, you are advised to talk to your treating physician immediately. As a general precaution, you may be advised to take the supplement along with a meal. This is widely regarded as a good practice and is known to reduce most of the undesired side effects of biotin supplements.

Children, pregnant women as well as women who are nursing a baby

Biotin supplements are largely safe when administered onto younger adults or children. However, it is a good practice to talk to your child’s physician (pediatrician) before starting to give biotin supplements to children. If you are pregnant, you need to tell your doctor about discomforts such as loss of hair, poor health of nails, etc. Biotin supplements are widely considered as safe when given to women who are pregnant. Similarly, these supplements are unlikely to trigger allergies or adverse reactions among women who are breastfeeding. As a general precaution, women who are nursing their baby need to consult a qualified medical practitioner before starting to take supplements of biotin.

Safe dosage levels for adults – To avoid likely side effects

The frequency of intake as well as strength of doses are critical to avoid side effects of biotin. In general, there are no pre-set dietary allowances recommended for this supplement. Those who do not have deficiencies are advised to take a dose of 25 to 30 micrograms (mcg); this dosage level works well for people aged 18 years or above, for all genders. The same dose is also considered as a safe level of intake for pregnant women. But, for women who are nursing a baby or breastfeeding, the dosage levels are slightly increased; their doses range from 30 to 35 micrograms.

The levels administered to people with biotin deficiency are usually larger in quantity; for supplementing a deficiency of biotin, the doses are in the range of 8 to 10 milligrams (mg). Doses at this strength are administered on a daily basis, preferably at the same timeslot each day. Such dosing practices are known to increase the efficacy levels of this dietary supplement.

Safe dosing for children – To prevent undesired side effects

Adults – as mentioned above – do not have a standard allowance of biotin prescribed for daily intake. The average level of dosing works based on what is considered as adequate. With such an approach, a dose of upto 24 micrograms (mcg) is considered as adequate for teens; upto 19 mcg for those aged between 9 and 13; nearly 11 mcg for children aged between 4 and 8; less than 8 mcg for younger children – i.e., those upto 3 years of age. However, when babies are found to live with deficiency of biotin, an intake of upto 9 mcg each day is recommended.

Risks of an overdose of biotin

Biotin belongs to a genre of vitamins that are soluble in water. Hence, the risks of an overdose are very rare; this is because of the eventual flushing out of excess quantities of biotin in the form of urine. As a stray occurrence, some people may develop hives, rashes or excessive levels of itchiness. Upon sensing any of these discomforts, you are advised to check with your treating doctor. Your medical team can help determine possible risk of overdose. In such cases, the dosages are appropriately reduced to avoid the aforesaid side effects.

In a few cases, your doctor may advise you to undergo some diagnostic tests. The common tests include those done to check your blood sugar level, quantum of insulin produced as well as tests done to check the level of vitamin B6. Some doctors may also check the level of vitamin C to assess the likelihood of a biotin overdose. These tests are often considered as reliable indicators; for example, high level of blood sugar or a reduction in your insulin level can be triggered due to an excessive intake of these supplements. Similarly, a marked drop in the B6 vitamin level or a significant reduction in C vitamins also may indicate an excessive presence of biotin in your system.

People who take biotin supplements may have to wait for many weeks (at times, even for months) to see some positive outcomes. Your treating physician may tell you not to lose track of your medication plan. Hence, it may require consistent intake of these supplements for a fairly longer period of time to witness some improvements.

Foods rich in biotin

Some users may also take foods that are rich in biotin or B7 vitamins. In those instances, you are advised to take such foods on a regular basis, preferably without breaks in between. Foods rich in biotin are broccoli, cheese, avocado, spinach, sunflower seeds, almonds, etc. Among animals-based foods, you may consider taking beef liver, fish (such as salmon), eggs and pork. People who follow ketogenic-diet are generally known to have lower levels of biotin. They can consider taking eggs regularly. Each egg has more than 9 micrograms (mcg) of biotin. You also need to remember that of all these foods, beef liver has as high as 30 mcg in each standard serving (i.e., 3 ounces).

In sum, biotin supplements are taken to boost metabolic health. Adequate presence of biotin is known to help converting amino acids into usable energy forms as well as to draw energy out of carbohydrates. In general, this B7 vitamin is known to boost cognition, exercise better control over blood sugars and enhance the presence of good cholesterol (i.e., high density lipoproteins). Intake of biotin supplements are recommended to people living with deficiencies of this B vitamin variant. Doses are usually taken in very small quantities. Common side effects include diarrhea, nausea and cramps. Talk to your doctor if these side effects persist; your physician may reduce the dosage level or change your diet plan to stop undesired side effects.

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