Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system affects the central nervous system, including the brain and the spinal cord. The cause is unknown, but it may involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) use diet to help manage their symptoms, and vitamins are an essential component of this.
One important group of vitamins are the B vitamins, which help the body turn food into energy, support the nervous system, and keep the skin, hair, eyes, and liver healthy. They are very important during pregnancy.
Biotin, sometimes referred to as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, is one of the B-complex vitamins and is essential for human health. Biotin is found in brewer’s yeast, nuts, egg yolks, Swiss chard, liver, and many other foods.
The United States Food and Nutrition Board has not set a recommended daily allowance (RDA) for biotin, but the board has established an adequate intake (AI) level of 30 micrograms per day for adults.
How might biotin work and how is it used?
Amongst other foods, biotin can be found in nuts.
Biotin is very useful in cases of progressive MS because it supports nerve cell metabolism.
MS develops when myelin, a substance that protects the nerve cells, is damaged. Biotin activates key enzymes and helps the body to produce more of this the nerve-protecting substance.
When levels of myelin are at healthy levels in the body, the nerve cells are able to communicate with each other more easily. This communication between the nerve cells can reduce the level of disability in people with MS.
Producing more myelin may also slow the progression of the disease.
Current research on the use of biotin with multiple sclerosis
Several studies have found that high doses of biotin, up to 10 times the typical daily intake, can reduce symptoms in people with progressive MS. In addition, people who took these high doses of biotin did not develop any significant adverse reactions.
Several studies on the use of biotin as a treatment for people with MS have shown positive results.
One study found that people with MS who had taken high doses of biotin reported reduced pain and improved energy levels.
A French study showed that people with MS who had been treated with biotin found that their vision had improved.
It is important to note that these are preliminary studies and that not every person who took part in the studies saw the same degree of improvement.
However, several studies do show that of those people who have been treated with high levels of biotin, some have seen a slowdown in the progress of the disease and an improved quality of life.
Other health benefits and precautions of biotin
Large doses of biotin appear to reduce the symptoms of MS but may affect tests for other conditions.
In standard doses, biotin is associated with promoting healthy skin, hair, and nails. When taken in large doses, biotin appears to reduce symptoms of MS without causing serious side effects.
However, biotin can interact with other elements, and this may skew the results of important medical tests. This has led to unreliable readings in some individuals who are taking biotin supplements.
For example, biotin has been known to interfere with thyroid testing, suggesting that some people had Graves’ disease, a serious thyroid condition, when they did not.
Reports in The New England Journal of Medicine have suggested that taking biotin supplements could lead to falsely high measurements of:
- Free T4
- Free T3
- DHEA sulfate
- Vitamin B12
The reports also noted that biotin could lead to false in tests for:
- Luteinizing hormone
- Follicle stimulating hormone
However, in order to ensure accurate readings, a person being treated with biotin should stop taking it 3 days before having a blood test.
Causes and symptoms of MS
MS is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. It attacks myelin, a substance that wraps around nerve cells to protect them and facilitates communication between them.
When MS attacks myelin, it damages this layer and the nerves underneath. Scar tissue develops, which slows or stops the nerves transmitting signals to each other. This interferes with communication between the brain and rest of the body, resulting in the nervous system problems that are characteristic of MS.
Risk factors may include age, as the disease tends to appear between the ages of 20 to 40 years, family history, tobacco use, and the presence of another autoimmune disease.
Women are around twice as likely to have MS as men, and it is more common among white people and those living in cold climates.
People who are diagnosed with MS may have to work closely with a healthcare professional to find a treatment that works for them.
MS affects people in different ways. Some individuals may experience only mild symptoms, while others may eventually lose the ability to walk or communicate. The rate of progression also varies between individuals.
- Problems with vision, coordination, and balance
- Weakness in the hands and feet, or on one side of the body
- Hearing loss
- A tingling sensation or numbness
People with MS may also develop emotional and cognitive difficulties, such as depression, forgetfulness, loss of concentration, and poor judgment.
Current medical treatments
Although there is currently no cure for MS, researchers are hopeful that techniques such as stem cell therapy and myelin repair might offer a solution.
Current treatment programs aim to relieve symptoms, help patients recover after flare-ups, and slow or stop disease progression.
Steroid medications can help when symptoms spike. If medication does not work, plasma exchange is another option.
For patients whose symptoms develop steadily, no treatment is currently available. For those whose disease progresses in fits and starts, some disease-modifying drugs can help in the early stages. These drugs can have unwanted side effects, however.
Patients with MS need to work closely with their physician to find an appropriate treatment.
Physical therapy, muscle relaxers, antidepressants, and other medications targeted at specific symptoms can help to manage the symptoms of MS.
Self-care practices, such as exercising, getting plenty of rest, and trying to reduce stress can also help people to live with the disease. Eating a balanced diet, especially one containing healthy oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can also help people manage the symptoms of MS.