Recently a female patient came into my office expressing total frustration with her stringy hair and her cracked nails. Though she was a pretty woman, emotionally she didn’t see herself as attractive. She just couldn’t seem to get her hair or her nails to look healthy, and it was affecting her confidence.
Oftentimes, symptoms like these are the first warning signs that something more is going on in your system. Dull hair, flaky skin, and brittle nails can be signs of a biotin deficiency.
Biotin is one of the B vitamins. It doesn’t get much press, which is unfortunate because it’s a very important nutrient. Your body uses biotin as part of your metabolism. It helps you convert protein, fat, and carbohydrates into energy. Your body also needs biotin to use blood sugar.
Without enough biotin in your system, the first thing to suffer is your hair and nails. That’s because these things are expendable—your body uses biotin for other more vital functions and what is left over goes into making shiny hair and strong healthy nails. When there’s not enough biotin to go around, your hair and nails just don’t get any. Your nails get weaker and your hair goes kind of limp and lifeless.
Luckily, a biotin deficiency is easy to fix.
Improve Your Look with a B-Complex
Biotin is readily available in most grains and vegetables. The richest sources are oatmeal, barley, and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower. Because it is so common, deficiencies are unusual. But you do have to be careful of two things.
First of all, because biotin deficiency is rare, your doctor might not even realize that this is a possible cause of your hair and nail troubles.
Secondly, one man’s deficiency is another doctor’s average. What I mean by this is that when it comes to nutrients doctors deal in ranges. If a doctor looks at your biotin levels and you’re in the normal range, he might not realize that your levels are lower than what your body needs to be at its best.
My recommendation if you’re struggling with lifeless locks and brittle nails is to start taking a B-complex vitamin immediately. This will give your biotin levels a boost. When taking a B-complex, take it after you eat. A B-complex on an empty stomach can make your fell nauseated. Plus, having food in your stomach will actually help your body use more of the vitamins.
With any luck, after a week on the B-complex, you’ll notice a marked improvement in the appearance of your hair and nails. If not, you might be facing a different problem, and you should schedule a visit to your dermatologist. But chances are, the B-complex will do the trick.
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.
photo credit: examiner.com