Understanding Salivary Testing
Salivary hormone testing is an accurate method to determine active steroid hormones (i.e. progesterone, estrogen, DHEA and testosterone) levels.
It is much more precise and useful than blood or urine testing for measuring active hormone levels. Blood testing measures total hormone levels but do not distinguish between active or inactive hormone. Urine hormone testing is useful for determining how hormones are metabolism by the body. All three methods of hormone testing provide different information regarding hormone but salivary testing is the most useful for determining the dosage of hormone replacement. In most cases doctors that use blood hormone testing only use it to identify low total levels of hormones before starting hormone replacement. Many doctors that use blood testing rely on patient symptoms to direct their treatment dosage since blood levels do not reflect active levels of sex hormones. Many patients are overdosed with bioidentical hormone replacement and exposed to potential adverse side effects from overdosing with hormone therapy. Hormone therapy is great if hormone levels are maintained within normal limits. Too much or too little hormone levels can result in undesired symptoms.
Steroid hormones are fat-soluble which means that they dissolve in the oil and not water
Oil and water don’t mix and neither do steroid hormones and blood. The body makes carrier proteins that can dissolve in water, which attach to the fat-soluble hormones. Carrier proteins allow fat-soluble hormones to travel in the watery bloodstream. Steroid hormones, when bound to the carrier proteins, are inactive. They are inactive because protein carrier bound hormones are unable to bind to the cell receptors.
Let’s use a wrapped piece of candy to illustrate this concept
When unwrapped and placed in our mouth, our taste buds can recognize the sweetness and flavor of the candy. However, if the candy is wrapped and placed in our mouth, our taste buds are unable to detect the flavor of the candy. The candy wrapper represents the protein carrier surrounding a fat-soluble hormone which makes it inactive. Hormones measured in the blood represents the amount of “wrapped” or inactive hormone while salivary testing reveals the “unwrapped” or active hormone. Over 99% of the hormone found in the blood is inactive. Therefore, blood testing is not a good indicator of how much active hormone is available to carry out normal bodily functions.
There are a number of factors that determine how much hormone is active in the body
Increased weight, diabetes, low fiber, and high-fat diets can all increase the number of active hormones. Many hormone levels may be altered by stress, perimenopause, menopause, infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, post-partum and andropause to name a few.
Because there are so many variables, it is impossible to determine active hormone levels without testing saliva. Saliva testing can accurately determine the active amounts of progesterone, estrogen, DHEA, testosterone, and cortisol which allows your physician to determine the best therapy for you and avoid under or over hormone dosing. Saliva testing is available in several labs across the country and most insurance companies cover the cost of the testing. Exercise, high fiber diets, good fats, stress elimination, avoiding external estrogen i.e. food pesticides, cosmetics and plant estrogen consumption can have a positive effect on hormone balance.
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