Perhaps you’ve heard some of the hype about taking biotin. It is a vitamin that is good for your body and can help increase hair and nail growth. However, starting to take a new vitamin supplement without first doing some research isn’t advisable. Here are five things you might want to know before you start taking this supplement:

1. Biotin is a vitamin that your body needs. Biotin is one of the B vitamins. To be exact, it is Vitamin B7, but some people call it Vitamin H. It is crucial to many of the metabolic functions your body performs and helps convert the food you eat into energy that your body can use.

2. There are several food sources of biotin. In addition to the biotin your body naturally produces, you can also get it from shellfish, dairy foods, and organ meats like chicken liver. Cauliflower is also a good source of biotin. Eating a well-rounded diet is the best way to get more biotin into your body naturally.

3. You can also take biotin supplements. Biotin supplements are a great way to increase your biotin intake without getting bogged down in reading nutrient labels and spending money on lots of different foods. If you often eat on the go, you can buy biotin supplements to ensure you are getting all the biotin you need even when your food choices are limited by your hectic schedule.

4. Biotin has relatively few side effects. Because it is naturally produced by the body, it isn’t harmful to take biotin vitamins for hair loss and other needs. Although it’s relatively difficult to overdose, you should really limit yourself to 5000 mcg (micrograms) per day. Once you start taking more than that, your body will simply eliminate the excess so it won’t have any additional effect. There are a few possible drug interactions associated with high doses of biotin, so consult your doctor if you take antibiotics or insulin. It’s also not known how much biotin might affect breastfeeding or pregnancy, so women who are expecting or breastfeeding shouldn’t take any additional biotin beyond what is in the vitamins their doctors prescribe.

5. A biotin deficiency can be problematic. A true biotin deficiency is actually rare. Most people’s bodies produce all the biotin they need to be healthy. Still, supplementing your dietary biotin can help hair and nails to grow. People who consume a lot of raw egg whites can develop a biotin deficiency. It can also be a congenital condition or caused by diabetes. There is no good lab test for a biotin deficiency, so it’s usually diagnosed by observing the physical symptoms associated with not getting enough biotin. Some symptoms of a deficiency in biotin include dry, itchy skin and hair loss. Although biotin deficiency can be detrimental, it is easy to treat by taking biotin supplements.