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Thyroid problems induce a number of symptoms that depend on whether the gland is overactive or underactive.
Persons who struggle with dysfunctions affecting the butterfly-shaped gland can gain weight or lose it, see their cholesterol levels increase, notice their skin is somewhat dry, experience fatigue that doesn’t go away after getting some sleep, among other things.
Hair loss is yet another symptom associated with thyroid disorders.
Supplements such as biotin are dubbed effective for re-growth process and we’re going to see if there’s any truth in that.
Hair growth process
Hair doesn’t grow continuously on the human scalp.
Each hair follicle must go through several phases where hair lengthens and then enters the telogen phase indicated by a period of rest. Hair is shed and replaced by the new hair during the telogen stage.
While in animals, like dogs, the process is synchronized the process of hair growth is not coordinated that way in humans. As a result, hair follicles can be at different stages.
While some are in the phase where hair lengthens others are still in the telogen phase.
It’s perfectly normal to experience hair loss balanced with hair growth.
Why is this important?
It matters because not every hair loss is attributed to disease, hormonal imbalances, and other factors. This is a normal cycle we experience on a daily basis.
Although human hair doesn’t have the equal synchronization like in animals, Plikus M. and Qie N. et al. discovered that hairs can communicate with each other and grow in a certain level of coordination across the body.
A single molecular mechanism oversees the process and adjusts skin region to ensure efficient hair growth, without bald spots.
Increased signaling crosstalk may cause greater hair growth in one area[i] while decreased expression of the molecular mechanism slows the process in some other region.
The most common cause of hair loss is telogen effluvium which occurs when some stresses like severe disease push hair roots prematurely in resting state.
According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, telogen effluvium can be acute or chronic and as many as 70% of the scalp hairs are shed when there is a “shock to the system” within two months[ii].
Levels of thyroid hormones influence hair growth as well. Imbalances in thyroid hormones could cause hair loss too.
Thyroid and hair loss
Before we learn about the potential benefit of biotin for thyroid hair re-growth, it’s important to address the problem itself.
Do thyroid problems really cause hair loss?
The short answer would be – yes, but you need more information than that.
The longer answer (than what’s below) can be found in our article here.
Hair loss is usually associated with hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid gland, but hyperthyroidism can also play a role. Hypothyroidism causes hair loss on the head and other parts of the body while hyperthyroidism causes thinning hair everywhere on the head.
Van Beek N. et al carried out an interesting study whose primary objective was to evaluate the “impact of thyroid hormones T3 and T4 on the human hair follicle.”
They isolated human anagen hair follicles from skin obtained from female patients undergoing facelift procedure. Hair follicles from euthyroid participants aged “between 40 and 69 were cultured and treated with T3 and T4.”
Results showed that “T4 up-regulates the proliferation of hair matrix keratinocytes (found in hair follicles), but their apoptosis is down-regulated by T3 and T4.” Moreover, “T4 hormone prolongs the duration of anagen or hair growth phase due to down-regulation of a primary anagen-inhibitory growth factor called TGF-beta2.”
“Both thyroid hormones “significantly stimulate intrafollicular” synthesis of melanin and modulate pigmentation of your hair. Scientists concluded the study explaining that hair follicles “are direct targets of thyroid hormones” which influence multiple aspects of hair biology including its pigmentation and growth cycling[iii].
Hair growth relies on the function of thyroid gland. Impaired thyroid function and abnormal levels of its hormone result in changes such as thinning, hair loss, impaired growth cycle, and others. In some cases, patients don’t lose hair because of their thyroid condition but as a result of medications prescribed to balance their hormones.
Hair loss has a major impact on confidence and self-esteem of both men and women.
Affected persons feel insecure about their appearance and avoid socializing with larger groups of people. It’s possible to address this issue successfully.
While biotin intake is considered a helpful hair re-growth strategy, many men and women aren’t sure whether it works.
Let’s check it out.
What is biotin? Can it help re-grow your hair?
Biotin once called vitamin H and coenzyme R is a part of B-complex and also referred to as Vitamin B7.
It is a water-soluble micronutrient meaning the body doesn’t store it and one has to obtain it through diet.
The term biotin comes from Greek word bio to which means life and sustenance.
Sufficient levels of the vitamin are vital for energy, liver health, the function of nervous system, eye health, digestion, healthy pregnancy, just to name a few. Healthy levels of this vitamin can reduce inflammation which is a significant factor in the development of many diseases and health conditions, including thyroid problems.
Biotin improves cognitive function and helps lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. The micronutrient supports cholesterol management via elevated levels of HDL or good cholesterol.
It is a well-known fact that hypothyroid persons have high cholesterol.
In the body, biotin acts as a coenzyme needed for the metabolism of amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose. Besides its importance for metabolic, digestive and our overall health biotin exhibits positive effects on skin and hair.
Vitamin H, the old name for this micronutrient, stands for Haar and Haut which are German words for hair and skin[iv].
The beneficial effect of biotin for hair growth isn’t a shocking idea or baseless claim; it was even rooted in its name.
Sufficient levels of biotin are vital for hair, skin, and nails while low levels of the micronutrient can contribute to hair loss. Biotin deficiency is a rare nutritional disorder, especially in the countries where people consume enough food and calories.
MedScape reports that at least 25 countries have included biotin deficiency in their screening programs for the neonatal disease[v]. Prevalence of biotin deficiency is somewhat higher in Brazil compared to other countries.
In Brazil, 1 case per 9000 population is recorded while in other countries it’s usually 1 in 60,000 population.
Factors that increase the risk of biotin deficiency include pregnancy, long-term use of anti-seizure medications, excessive alcohol use, smoking, prolonged antibiotic use, consumption of raw egg whites, intestinal malabsorption issues.
Insufficient levels of biotin cause hair loss[vi] and other symptoms such as dermatitis, seizures, muscle aches and pains, lack of energy, cramps, mood swings, and others.
Biotin and hair growth
Both biotin deficiency and thyroid disorders impair hair growth so it’s logical to assume that consuming recommended amounts of the micronutrient support healthy hair and normal growth.
Even though supplementation with biotin is a widely used and recommended strategy for hair growth, evidence on this subject is still limited.
Patel D.P. et al found that biotin supplementation may be of benefit for brittle nail syndrome, uncombable hair, but there is lack of information about other effects of this vitamin[vii]. Not all scientific findings support that analysis.
Glynis Ablon at the Ablon Skin Institute Research Center carried out an experiment which included 60 women assigned to two groups. Thirty women received ‘an oral marine protein supplement (MPS) containing biotin” while the second group was given a placebo.
Participants were asked to take the pill twice a day for 90 days.
Prior to the beginning of the study, “digital images were taken of the affected areas on the scalp.” In addition, each woman’s hair was washed, and all shed hairs were counted. A
blon discovered that women who took MPS experienced substantial hair growth and less shedding in areas where hair loss was evident. Ladies who were assigned to placebo group had no change in hair growth[viii].
The same researcher conducted yet another experiment and observed “similar results.” Participants noticed an improvement in hair growth and quality after 90 and 180 days of biotin supplementation[ix].
As seen above, biotin supplementation positively influences hair growth and quality. It comes as no wonder why many hair masks today contain biotin in their formula.
Biotin supplements are popular among patients with thyroid disorders and while they can, indeed, help one needs to be cautious.
The Endocrine News published an article which reported that consumption of biotin supplements could cause falsely high and low results in different laboratory tests, including thyroid lab tests.
The report explains that biotin interferes with the test platform that is used for laboratory analysis.
The same article included a story about a woman whose thyroid laboratory tests showed that free T4 and total T3 were elevated while total T4, T4 index, and TSH were normal[x]. After a doctor suggested she should discontinue using biotin, test results were more realistic.
What does this mean for you?
Don’t take the above-mentioned precaution as an advice to avoid biotin supplements.
If you’re taking biotin or considering purchasing a supplement, it’s useful to consult your healthcare provider.
Your doctor will inform you whether you should take biotin and he/she may recommend a certain dosage to support hair growth.
Sources of biotin
Like many other vitamins, one can consume sufficient amount of biotin through diet. The most abundant sources of this micronutrient include:
|Food||Mcg per serving|
|Beef liver (3oz, cooked)||30.8|
|Egg (whole, cooked)||10|
|Salmon (3oz, pink, canned in water)||5|
|Sunflower seeds (1/4 cup, roasted)||2.6|
|Sweet potato (1/2 cup, cooked)||2.4|
|Almonds (1/4 cup, roasted)||1.5|
|Tuna (3oz, canned in water)||0.6|
|Spinach (1/2 cup, boiled)||0.5|
|Broccoli (1/2 cup, fresh)||0.4|
Other sources of biotin include yeast, cheese, avocado, raspberries, cauliflower, whole grain bread, hamburger patties, milk, yogurt, banana, and apple.
How much biotin do you need?
According to the National Institutes of Health, you should consume 30mcg of biotin every day. The recommended intake for pregnant women is also 30mcg a day while lactating mothers should consume 35mcg of this micronutrient[xi].
Persons who want to use biotin supplements for hair re-growth after thyroid-related hair loss should stick to the recommended intake listed on the label or adhere to doctor’s instructions.
Today, biotin is known as vitamin B7 but back in time the official terms were coenzyme R and vitamin H standing for German words for hair and skin.
Indeed, sufficient intake of this important micronutrient benefits nails, skin, and hair quality and growth.
At the same time, deficiency in biotin can contribute to weight loss.
Scientific evidence supports the positive effect of biotin for hair growth, but you should consult your doctor prior to using a supplement.
In some cases, biotin can disturb thyroid laboratory test results, but sticking to recommended intake could help avoid unwanted scenarios.
Many hair masks today contain biotin.
Some thyroid supplements may contain biotin as well.
[i] Plikus MV, Nie Qing, Wang Q. et al. A multi-scale model for hair follicles reveals heterogeneous domains driving rapid spatiotemporal hair growth patterning. eLife 2017 Jul;6. Doi: 10.7554/eLife.22772 https://elifesciences.org/articles/22772
[iii] Van Beek N, Kromminga A, Gaspar E, et al. Thyroid hormones directly alter human hair follicle functions: anagen prolongation and stimulation of both hair matrix keratinocyte proliferation and hair pigmentation. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2008 Nov;93(11):4381-8. Doi: 10.1210/jc.2008-0283 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18728176
[iv] What are the health benefits of biotin? MedicalNewsToday.com https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318724.php
[v] Biotin deficiency, emedicine.medscape.com https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/984803-overview
[vi] Zempleni J, Hassan YI, Wijeratne SS. Biotin and biotinidase deficiency. Expert Review of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2008 Nov 1;3(6):715-724. Doi. 10.1586/174466513.6.715 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19727438/
[vii] Patel DP, Swink SM, Castelo-Soccio L. A review of the use of biotin for hair loss. Skin Appendage Disorders 2017 Aug;3(3):166-169. Doi: 10.1159/000462981 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28879195
[viii] Ablon G, A 3-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the ability of an extra-strength marine protein to promote hair growth and decrease shedding in women with self-perceived thinning hair. Dermatology Research and Practice 2015 Mar;2015. Doi: 10.1155/2015/841570 https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2015/841570/
[ix] Glynis A. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2012;5(11):28-34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/
[x] January 2016: thyroid month: beware of biotin, EndocrineNews.Endocrine.org https://endocrinenews.endocrine.org/january-2016-thyroid-month-beware-of-biotin/
[xi] Biotin, National Institutes of Health https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/