Biotin is an important vitamin for proper digestion. It affects processing of most food. Biotin works with some other B vitamins to carry out essential functions, and is part of the vitamin B family, all of which are important to health. It is soluble in water, so you need some every day.

Biotin affects the processing of protein, fats and carbohydrates – that’s almost all of your main foodstuffs. For example, these processes include building amino acids into protein, getting energy from glucose. It also helps convert folic acid (folacin) into its active form so that it can do its work!

Severe deficiency of biotin is fairly rare, but various factors can prevent proper absorption of biotin. Infants can develop deficiency in biotin, however. In adults, antibiotics can result in deficiency of biotin, and some other vitamins.

Another cause of deficiency is the consumption of raw egg white in foods such as chocolate mousse. Biotin is not affected by cooked eggs. One reason that severe deficiency of biotin is rare is that the some biotin is synthesised in the intestine.

Although severe deficiency is rare, many Americans don’t get enough biotin to maintain good health, and a supplement should contain at least 50 mcg, and 100-200 mcg biotin is better. In fact, the majority of people don’t get enough vitamins, particularly B vitamins to maintain good health.

To get the benefits of biotin and enjoy life more, you can take either a vitamin B complex supplement, or better a multi-vitamin-mineral supplement which contains all B vitamins.

An experiment was carried out. A piece of intestine was placed for some time in a test tube containing a starch solution. The idea was that if the intestine contained digestion-accelerating substances, they would be secreted into the test tube. The intestine was then removed and some amylase added to the starch. Digestion proceeded slowly, just as in the original experiments.

Perhaps the piece of intestine did not have enough time to secrete the substance it was supposed to have. Yet another experiment was carried out. An extract was obtained from the intestine of a slaughtered animal. The extract should, no doubt, have contained the required substance.

However, when the extract was added to the test tube containing the starch and amylase, it did not accelerate the rate of digestion. This meant that the intestinal wall did not contain substances accelerating the process of digestion. What then triggered off the process?

The puzzle was solved unexpectedly. It was the very structure of the intestinal wall that facilitated the process of digestion. The surface of the epithelial cells lining the intestine carries ultra-microscopic shoots. Each cell carries as many as three thousand shoots, and this makes the surface area of the intestine very extensive, enabling it to adsorb, i. e. precipitate and retain, a great many enzymes. These enzymes act as catalysts accelerating chemical reactions. The enzymes interact chemically with the reagents, but as soon as the reaction is complete, they regain their previous chemical composition. This explains why even small amounts of catalysts markedly accelerate the rate of chemical reactions.

It is only natural that digestion is more energetic on the surface of the intestinal wall where the concentration of enzymes is much greater than within the mass of food. The total amount of enzymes may not be large; they can be used again and again. What is important is their extremely high concentration and this is why even moderate amounts of enzymes ensure a high rate of digestion.

It was not easy to study the process of digestion. It was as late as the turn of the last century that the Russian scientist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov completed a detailed study of the main alimentary glands. They turned out to be numerous and, what is more, it was discovered that for each type of food they produce a special composition of digestive juices. Academician Pavlov was awarded the Nobel prize, the highest international award, for these investigations. Thus, the basic mystery surrounding the process of digestion seemed to have been unveiled. However, the discovery was not yet complete. Nobody could reproduce the entire process of digestion in the laboratory by pouring into a test tube the necessary digestive juices in the correct sequence, and thus imitating the process observed in living organisms under natural conditions. The food was also digested in the test tube, but the process was all too slow, much slower than in the alimentary tract.

Recently, scientists have succeeded in uncovering this mystery. An astonishing thing is that the food which comes into contact with the intestinal wall is digested much more quickly than that incorporated in the main mass of food. This is similar to what happens when food is fried in a pan: the food in immediate contact with the walls of the pan cooks much more quickly. This is quite under­standable, for the pan is much hotter than the food. But the intestinal wall is not at all hot, so why then does it accelerate digestion?

The first thing was to find out whether the intestinal wall ready accelerated digestion. With this in view, the following experiment was carried out. A piece of intestine from a freshly killed animal was placed in one of two test tubes containing equal amounts of a mixture of starch and an amylase (a starch-splitting enzyme). Splitting of the starch proceeded much more rapidly around the piece of intestine which proved that the intestinal wall did accelerate digestion. But how does this happen?

Even primitive people knew that the food eaten by man and animals is digested in their stomachs. When skinning their game, they were sure to peep into the stomachs. Even nowadays almost no housewife can resist the tempta­tion of learning what the pike had for dinner and whether the chicken’s stomachs contain anything of interest besides small stones and sand. When hunters cut up their prey, they found in the stomachs and intestine neither meat, nor grass or seeds, but a pasty mass, as though the food had been cooked there.

It took man a long time to find out what really occurs. The food is not changed under the influence of heat: the temperature in the stomachs of even the ‘hottest’ warm­blooded animals is no higher than 38-43°C and this is not sufficient to cook food. Digestion takes place with the aid of digestive juices containing special enzymes.

The alimentary tract of man and animals is a complex chemical laboratory. The food consumed is ground, mixed with various digestive juices and moves gradually from one part to another. In each part the food is held long enough for it to be digested, being saturated with special substances. These substances are absorbed during the digestive process, that is, during the breakdown of complex chemical substances into simple ones (proteins into amino acids, fats into glycerol and fatty acids, carbohydrates into monosaccharides). What cannot be digested and used by the organism is disposed of.