Biotin (Vitamin H) deficiency: Symptoms, causes and treatment

Biotin, also known as Vitamin H, is a vital nutrient that plays a crucial role in maintaining our overall health and well-being.

While it may not be as widely recognized as some other vitamins, its significance should not be underestimated.

In this blog, we will delve into the world of biotin deficiency, shedding light on its symptoms, causes, and the various treatment options available.

Understanding the importance of biotin and how its deficiency can impact our lives is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Why is biotin (vitamin H) important? 

Skeletal muscles, cardiac muscles, and all other types of cells in the body require vast amounts of energy to perform their respective functions – lack of ATP results in fatigue and poor oxygenation of the vital organs in the body.

ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is a molecule produced in the cells’ mitochondria or powerhouses. 

Carbohydrates are the primary sources of ATP in the mitochondria. Glucose, which is the simplest form of carbohydrate, is metabolized with the help of oxygen to produce ATP. 

The body also uses lipids to form ATP. Triglycerides are the most common form of lipids or fats in the bloodstream.

A single triglyceride is composed of glycerol and three fatty acid chains and is broken down to form 460 molecules of ATP. In contrast, one glucose molecule only produces 38 molecules of ATP. 

Biotin plays a crucial role in the metabolic pathways of the following [1]: 

  • Gluconeogenesis (synthesis of glucose) 
  • Fatty acid synthesis 
  • Amino acid catabolism 

Biotin is needed to form glucose and triglycerides, which are broken down to create ATP, the cell’s energy currency. 

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What are the signs and symptoms of biotin deficiency? 

The body only needs small amounts of vitamin H to be healthy. However, a lack of this vitamin can result in the following: 

  • Depression
  • Fatigue 
  • Insomnia or inability to sleep well 
  • Loss of hair or early alopecia 
  • Scaly and dry skin 
  • Swelling and pain in the tongue, leading to a condition called glossitis 
  • Dry eyes
  • Cracking in the mouth corners, which is also called Cheilitis 

Depression and biotin-deficiency 

Biotin is needed to synthesize neurotransmitters in the brain. One review [2] pointed out that biotin and other B vitamins are cofactors in synthesizing essential neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and the hormone melatonin.

All these neurotransmitters are needed to maintain a healthy mood and prevent depression and anxiety. These neurotransmitters also relax the brain and allow for better cognition and memory. 

Biotin deficiency can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. In a study [3] published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, 7,387 adults were recruited to examine if there is a relationship between B vitamin deficiency and depression and other psychological disorders.

This cross-sectional study found that people with a higher intake of biotin had lower odds of depression, anxiety, and stress. 

The authors of the study performed a subgroup analysis and discovered that individuals with high dietary biotin intake reduced the risk of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Hence, to treat depression in those with biotin deficiency, one only needs to increase biotin intake from the food they eat. Biotin can be found in the following food sources: 

  • Egg yolks are rich in Biotin 
  • Meat such as beef and pork are good sources of Biotin 
  • Dairy and poultry products such as milk and cheese 
  • Fruits and vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and apple 
  • Oats 

The recommended intake for Biotin is 30 micrograms daily. Overeating food rich in biotin has no side effects or adverse effects.

Since biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, excess biotin from our food is excreted through the urine. Further, the body only metabolizes biotin according to the demands of the body. 

Biotin deficiency and fatigue 

Biotin deficiency and fatigue 

Fatigue is described as a lack of energy or getting tired quickly. Biotin is an essential nutrient needed to metabolize glucose and lipids.

Both glucose and triglycerides are required to form ATPs. When B vitamins are deficient, including biotin, the body cannot keep up with the energy requirements needed to power up the brain and other body parts. 

Lack of ATPs, which is the cell’s energy currency, results in low energy or getting tired quickly. To treat fatigue, getting appropriate amounts of biotin from one’s diet is necessary.

However, if you have Crohn’s disease, which limits the absorption of essential nutrients in the small intestine, you can likely have a biotin deficiency. 

It is not enough to take biotin from the food that you eat. You might need supplementation with this nutrient.

When this happens, consult your doctor about biotin deficiency and discuss if biotin supplementation will help correct the constant tiredness. 

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Biotin deficiency and insomnia 

Insomnia, or difficulty falling and staying asleep, is a common disorder. Some common causes of insomnia include stress and anxiety, depression, lifestyle factors, and a poor sleeping environment. 

Biotin is needed to form neurotransmitters in the brain for regulating mood and decreasing the risk of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Since insomnia is a sign that you might worry too much or are stressed and depressed, you can address this sleep disorder by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. 

While many forms of talking therapies and medications are used to treat depression, more people are looking for natural ways to treat these mental health conditions. Medications for mental illness are known to have serious side effects.

A healthy diet rich in biotin coupled with exercise and talking therapies could help you reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Once these mental health conditions are addressed, you can sleep your night away peacefully. 

Biotin deficiency and hair loss, dry and scaly skin, dry eyes 

Biotin supplements are marketed to improve the quality of one’s hair and to promote healthy nails. There is little evidence that biotin supplementation makes the hair and nails shinier.

However, for infants, children, and adults who are biotin-deficient, supplementation is necessary to improve hair quality and address hair loss. 

In a case study [4] of 18 individuals who are Biotin deficient, biotin supplementation addressed alopecia or hair loss and brittle nail syndrome.

The survey in Skin Appendage Disorders also found that biotin supplementation can help make hair softer and more manageable in individuals with uncombable hair. 

The review’s authors found that treatment dosages ranged from 2,500 to 30,000 micrograms daily. The recommended daily allowance for biotin is only 30 micrograms per day.

Interestingly, none of the participants in the study suffered any adverse effects with very high supplementation of biotin.

Further, it took at least ten days for visible improvements in the hair and nails and at least three months for complete hair growth. 

Biotin-deficient individuals also exhibit dry and scaly skin and dry eyes [5]. Dermatological symptoms are first recognized in infants diagnosed with biotinidase deficiency, an inherited genetic disorder. Biotinidase is an enzyme needed to recycle biotin.

Biotin is needed to produce fatty acids that nourish the skin and ensure oil glands function correctly.

When there is a deficiency in biotin, the body cannot keep up with the production of fatty acids needed to produce healthier and supple skin.

As a result, the skin becomes dry due to a lack of oil from the oil glands. The skin also becomes scaly due to dryness in the outermost part layer of the skin. 

Biotin deficiency and hair loss, dry and scaly skin, dry eyes 

Biotin deficiency: Glossitis and Cheilitis 

Glossitis and Cheilitis are caused by infections, allergic reactions, and vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.

Biotin is needed to form healthy cells in the mouth and the tongue. Nutritional deficiency in biotin results in cracking of the mouth corners since the body cannot produce sufficient fatty acids to supply the squamous or outermost layer of the lips or mouth. These fatty acids are needed to form healthy cells in the tongue and mouth. 

To correct the nutrient deficiency, individuals can have biotin supplementation. Improvements in the tongue and mouth can be seen in five days. 

Biotin deficiency and brain fog 

Deficiency in B vitamins, including biotin, has been shown to disrupt short-term memory and long-term memory. Biotin is needed to form the myelin sheath that covers the brain and spinal cord nerves.

Gradual loss of the myelin sheath results in memory and thinking problems. A proper diet that includes food rich in biotin and exercise would help address brain fog. 

Since communication between brain cells is crucial in proper brain functioning, it is necessary that brain cells are healthy and the nerves can deliver the messages.

Biotin supplementation can help address the loss of myelin sheath and delay or prevent the destruction of nerve cells. 

Memory formation is strengthened when the nerves function and the nerve cells are healthy.

Since memory formation is enhanced with exercise and proper diet, it is necessary to support biotin supplementation with an exercise program.

You may walk outside for at least 10 minutes a day or in green spaces to relieve stress and anxiety.

Addressing stress and anxiety will indirectly improve memory formation, as stress can induce memory fog. 

Conclusion

Eating a meal high in biotin is needed to promote healthier skin, eyes, and nails, better memory and cognition, and improved mood and overall well-being. It has been shown that one of the benefits of biotin is improvement in brain functioning.

The brain has 50 times the biotin in the bloodstream, suggesting that brain functioning is enhanced in biotin.

A healthy dose of biotin daily is required to prevent memory fog and poor cognition. Finally, you must consult with your doctor when taking biotin supplementation. 

FAQs

What are the symptoms of biotin deficiency?

Symptoms of biotin deficiency may include hair loss, skin rashes, brittle nails, fatigue, and neurological problems.

Which food is rich in biotin?

Foods rich in biotin include eggs, nuts, seeds, salmon, and sweet potatoes.

What can happen if you don’t get enough biotin?

Not getting enough biotin can lead to various health issues, such as hair loss, skin problems, and neurological disturbances.

What does biotin deficiency do to hair?

Biotin deficiency can result in hair becoming brittle, thin, and prone to breakage, potentially leading to hair loss over time.

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[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10846444/
[2] ​​https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/
[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33848753/
[4] ​​https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/ 
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547751/ 

Photograph: YuriArcursPeopleimages/Envato
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