075: Why Biotin Can Mess Up Your Labs (Big Time)

Can biotin — one of the most common supplements used for your skin, hair and nails — mess up your labs?

Yep.

It’s actually pretty alarming how many labs will be skewed from biotin supplementation.

In today’s episode, I’m sharing the details on how much biotin can cause a problem, which tests can be majorly messed up, and what you can do to prevent biotin from skewing your labs.

This way, you can better advocate for yourself and ensure that your labs come back accurate.

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

In this episode:

  • Why there is a Biotin Warning issued by the FDA
  • How biotin supplementation can lead to misdiagnosis
  • Labs that biotin specifically messes up
  • Can biotin affect thyroid labs?
  • How to get around biotin skewing lab data

Quotes:

Testing for heart issues can be skewed for possible Heart failure or a Heart attack. One specific issue has to do with testing for the protein troponin to identify whether a complaint of chest pain is a heart attack or GERD (heartburn).

The next one that's a pretty big deal for most of my clients would be their thyroid hormones. If you’ve ever wondered can biotin affect thyroid labs, the answer is YES.

Biotin supplementation can skew thyroid hormone results to the point where your doctor could even misdiagnose you with something like Graves' disease.

Other tests that can be affected include those for pregnancy, cancer, vitamin D, and even iron deficiency anemia.

The FDA issued a warning about this very specific problem with biotin that can skew your labs. Even small doses of 5 to 10 milligrams is enough to potentially skew the labs.

Microscope being used for lab tests

Why Biotin Can Mess Up Your Labs (Big Time) (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome to Episode #75 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today's episode, I want to share with you a big problem with biotin.

You might be aware that biotin is found in all of these different hair, skin and nail formulas because it can be helpful from a beauty and grow perspective.

But there is a downside that no one really talks about that could impact your health in a negative way that you wouldn't even expect or know to anticipate.

That specific problem has to do with getting lab testing done.

Basically labs can end up dramatically skewed because of biotin supplementation.

While biotin is certainly a natural substance and important for health, the accuracy of certain labs changes when there’s a high level of biotin in your blood.

This is a problem since most people don't talk to their doctor about supplements. Additionally, doctors oftentimes don't care about (and sometimes don’t even know what to do with) supplements.

But when you don't fully disclose to your doctor what you're taking, you can run the risk of having adverse reactions between supplements and medications.

And yes, inappropriate supplementation can cause problems. More isn’t always better.

I’ve worked with clients who unfortunately didn’t realize that taking more of certain nutrients isn’t always better and when we started, they had to stop what they were doing cold-turkey.

While some nutrients like biotin are water-soluble, not all are and can result in a state of toxicity.

Fortunately, biotin doesn’t carry that risk, but clearly we need to look deeper and act smarter here so that no one in this community has problems with accurate labs due to biotin.

Food sources of biotin

What Is Biotin?

Biotin is a B vitamin called vitamin B7. It's also known as vitamin H.

It is generally known for improving keratin that helps make up your skin, hair, and nails. That’s why it’s often found in higher doses in shampoos, supplements and creams.

Frankly, I sometimes think that we expect biotin to do more than it can.

It certainly can be helpful, but if a gut infection or thyroid problem is driving your skin issue, there’s really only so much biotin supplements can do.

The FDA issued a warning on their website as of November 28th, 2017 about this very specific problem with biotin.

When I say that biotin can skew your lab results or mess them up, what I mean is that certain results will appear falsely elevated or falsely low.

The labs that this affects aren't random weird labs that you're probably never going to ask for. They're pretty common! It’s likely that even you might have asked your doctor to run some of them.

So it is a big deal if you are taking supplements with biotin. Even small doses of 5 to 10 milligrams is enough to potentially skew the labs.

Let’s dive into some specifics on exactly what the problem is, which tests biotin affects, and what to do if you're taking supplements that contain biotin before getting labs run.

Scientist thinking about biotin

Labs In Question: Can Biotin Affect Thyroid Labs?

Biotin’s effect on labs is pretty broad.

Testing for heart issues can be skewed when doctors are looking for Heart failure and Heart attack. One specific issue has to do with testing for the protein troponin to identify whether a complaint of chest pain is a heart attack or GERD (heartburn).

The next one that's a pretty big deal for most of my clients would be their thyroid hormones. If you’ve ever wondered can biotin affect thyroid labs, the answer is YES.

Biotin supplementation can skew thyroid hormone results to the point where your doctor could even misdiagnose you with something like Graves' disease.

Other tests that can be affected include those for pregnancy, cancer, vitamin D, and even iron deficiency anemia.

There are two different categories of immunoassays (think types of lab test) that determine whether biotin supplementation would cause falsely high or falsely low results.

One is called competitive immunoassays and the other is called immunometric (or sandwich) assays.

The following competitive immunoassays can produce falsely high results if you supplement with biotin directly leading up to getting your blood taken:

  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Progesterone
  • DHEAS
  • Vitamin B12
  • TSH receptor antibodies

Whereas sandwich immunoassays can be affected in the opposite way. In this instance, biotin supplementation leading up to your blood draw could produce falsely low results in the following tests:

  • TSH
  • Thyroglobulin
  • Parathyroid hormone
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH)
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • Prostate-specific antigen

List of Common Endocrine Hormone Assays

Image source: EndorcineWeb.com

Scientist running lab tests

How Do You Stop Biotin From Messing Up Your Labs?

So what do you do if you normally take biotin as part of your multivitamin, some sort of hair, skin and nail formula or maybe just on its own?

First, do an inventory of all the supplements that you take looking for biotin. Put an X on the bottle(s) where you find it so you can easily spot which ones it’s in. Make sure to look at all of your supplements including green powders and protein powders.

Second, make sure that you tell your practitioner, no matter whether they're conventional or functional, about the supplements you take. Highlight those supplements that contain biotin.

Third, stop all biotin-containing supplements at least one week before you get blood labs.

If for some unforeseen reason you unfortunately end up in the hospital due to an emergency, speak up. If the staff wants to run blood labs, make sure to tell them that you are taking supplements that contain biotin. Hopefully the lab can account for any potential discrepancies.

And if you’re wondering if you should stop or reduce the amount of biotin-rich foods before you get your labs run… There's really no clear cut evidence or information on that.

The FDA warning specifically has to do with biotin supplementation.

And remember it doesn't take a whole lot in your supplements to skew the results. Even a tiny amount may be enough to cause a problem.

You've got to stop all supplements with biotin at least a week before you get labs run.

Got any questions or comments on this? Leave them below so we can keep the conversation going.

And don't forget, subscribe rate and review the Healthy Skin Show. Your support means a ton!!!

And of course, share, share, share, right? If you got friends who are going to get labs run, share this episode with them because if they are taking biotin to help support and beautify their hair, skin, and nails, this is something critical they need to know.

Thank you so much for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode!

Woman checking references in library

REFERENCES:

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/news/20171129/fda-warns-biotin-can-distort-lab-tests

https://www.endocrineweb.com/professional/endocrinology/how-might-biotin-supplementation-impact-laboratory-results-effect-diagnos

https://labtestsonline.org/articles/biotin-affects-some-blood-test-results

https://www.healthline.com/health/biotin-hair-growth#research

Biotin supplementation can skew thyroid hormone results to the point where your doctor could even misdiagnose you with something like Graves' disease.


Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.


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