Have you ever felt a burning sensation in your hands or feet? Do you have trouble with your balance or a raging case of insomnia?
While these symptoms could be caused by a number of conditions, in rare cases they are signs of a biotin deficiency. If left untreated, this condition could become fatal in children and adults.
If you’re being treated for a constellation of symptoms that won’t go away, this article is for you. We’ll give you all the information you need to know about Biotin and give you some tips for talking to your doctor.
What Is Vitamin H?
Biotin, also known as vitamin H, is a member of the B class of vitamins. It’s often referred to as a micronutrient and it helps your body send protein to your skin, nails, and hair.
Our bodies also need biotin to access the energy stored in amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates. One of the early symptoms of biotin deficiency is a rash around the mouth, often coupled with dry and thinning hair.
While biotin deficiency only affects one out of 60,000 babies, it is still one of the first tests that all babies receive after they’re born.
The condition is most common in people whose ancestors are from Europe but can be found in infants all around the world.
Signs and Symptoms
In addition to brittle nails and dry hair, biotin deficiency can cause a wide array of troubling symptoms. If you notice any of the following symptoms in children or adults, it’s definitely time to see a doctor about biotin deficiency:
- balance problems while walking or standing up;
- pain in your muscles; and
- dry mouth.
If you look at a biotin deficient face, you will see dry skin that’s cracking around the mouth and nose. Again, these symptoms could have other causes, but taken together they could signal an issue with biotin levels.
Common symptoms like depression and exhaustion can signal problems with biotin but, unfortunately, are often mistaken for other medical conditions.
Left untreated, biotin deficiency symptoms can become serious or fatal. Symptoms of advanced biotin deficiency can include hallucinations, tingling in hands and feet, and insomnia.
Causes of Biotin Deficiency in Adults
While biotin deficiency in newborns is genetic, there are several possible causes of the condition in adults.
One reason for low levels of vitamin B7 is the long-term use of antibiotics. They interfere with your body’s gut bacteria, making it difficult for your body to absorb micronutrients.
Biotin is actually water-soluble, which means that it gets flushed out of the body quickly under adverse conditions. Your body can also reuse the vitamin several times, but only if you have healthy bacteria in your intestines.
Another cause of biotin deficiency is tube feeding. If you have been fed intravenously for more than a few weeks, you’re likely to develop biotin processing issues.
Pregnancy, anorexia, and Crohn’s disease can also cause your body to stop absorbing and using biotin. Anorexia is especially harmful to intestinal bacteria and can cause serious nutritional deficits, even after recovery.
The good news is that biotin deficiency is easily treated with supplements. The recommended dosage is 30 mcg of biotin per day, but levels up to 10,000 mcg are acceptable.
Since biotin is water-soluble, it will flush out of your system if you take more than you need. High dosages of biotin have been used to treat multiple sclerosis with no negative side effects.
In addition to taking a dietary supplement, you can also include foods that are high in biotin in your diet.
Some foods that have high levels of biotin include:
Brewer’s yeast, a popular nutritional supplement, can also help treat biotin deficiency. Just put a few teaspoons over pasta or in a smoothie.
You can also include more milk and cheese in your diet to boost biotin levels.
One unusual cause of biotin deficiency is raw egg whites. If you routinely put raw egg whites into smoothies or eat raw eggs, you may be putting yourself at risk.
Talking to Your Doctor About Biotin Deficiency
If you suspect that you have a biotin deficiency, your doctor can order a blood test. Before you meet with your doctor, however, you may want to document your symptoms.
If you have a rash, take some pictures of it over the course of a few weeks. That way, your doctor can see its progression and make a decision about treatment.
Write down any dizzy spells, hallucinations, or insomnia. Since biotin deficiency can mimic so many other conditions, it’s important to see how often you have the symptoms.
People who have been diagnosed with certain mental illnesses may have a long history of hallucinations. If you haven’t hallucinated in a long time and then suddenly started again, it could be an indicator of biotin deficiency.
While you can start to take biotin supplements without consulting a doctor, take the time to talk to your primary care physicians about your symptoms. They’ll do blood work and recommend a course of treatment.
How Widespread Is Vitamin Deficiency?
While the exact figures vary, most comprehensive studies show that millions of American adults are deficient in at least one vitamin.
For example, if you are dealing with exhaustion, dry skin, and muscle pain, you could have vitamin deficiency anemia, a lack of vitamin C or B-12.
When your doctor does the blood test for biotin deficiency, ask them to test for key nutrients like iron, potassium, and zinc.
In addition to writing down all of your symptoms, keeping a food journal is a good way to narrow down the true cause of your physical symptoms.
You may have to shift your focus onto fresh vegetables and whole grains to keep your weight down and feed your body the vitamins it needs.
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