Saliva testing measures the “unbound” biologically active or free hormone levels in the body:
When blood is filtered through the salivary glands, the bound hormone components are too large to pass through the cell membranes of the salivary glands. Only the unbound hormones pass through and into the saliva. What is measured in the saliva is considered the “free”, or bioavailable hormone, that which will be delivered to the receptors in the tissues of the body.
Blood testing measures the “protein bound” hormone levels in the body:
Usually, for steroid hormones to be detected in serum, they must be bound to circulating proteins. In this bound state, they are unable to fit into receptors in the body, and therefore will not be delivered to tissues. They therefore usually reflect the current reserve amount of hormone available (rather than the current active hormone).
Why test hormone levels?
Hormones are powerful molecules essential for maintaining physical and mental health. We frequently think of estrogen as being a female hormone, and testosterone as being a male hormone. But men AND women make both, plus several more that need to be in balance for optimum health. An imbalance of any one hormone can throw your physical and mental health out of balance, causing aggravating and even serious health problems.
One size does not fit all when it comes to hormones! For decades modern medicine has often prescribed hormone replacement therapy as if everyone needed the same forms and the same amount. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your hormones are like your fingerprints and in order to achieve optimal health, you need to know what your specific imbalances are.
Which hormones need testing?
The major sex hormones to assess are estradiol, progesterone and testosterone. Estrone and estriol are also important sex hormones to consider testing. The main adrenal hormones are DHEA and cortisol. These seven hormones will provide crucial information about deficiencies, excesses and daily patterns, which then result in a specifically tailored treatment approach and one far more beneficial than the old “shotgun” approach. Below is a brief description of each of these hormones:
There are three forms made by the body: estrone, estradiol and estriol. The form used in past hormone replacement therapies is estradiol, often in the form of concentrated pregnant mare’s urine (premarin). It is a proliferative (causes growth) hormone that grows the lining of the uterus. It is also a known cancer-causing hormone: breast and endometrial (uterine) in women and prostate gland in men. It will treat menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia and memory-loss. With bio-identical formulas estriol is often matched with estradiol (biest) to provide protective effects and additional estrogenic benefits. The other major protector in keeping estradiol from over-running the system, is progesterone. Estrone and estriol are also useful hormones to test.
Called the anti-estrogen because it balances estradiol’s proliferative effects. It is considered preventive for breast and prostate cancers as well as osteoporosis. In addition, too little progesterone promotes depression, irritability, increased inflammation, irregular menses, breast tenderness, urinary frequency and prostate gland enlargement (BPH).
An anabolic hormone (builds tissue) that is essential for men and women. The proper level of testosterone is necessary for bone health, muscle strength, stamina, sex drive and performance, heart function and mental focus.
An important adrenal gland hormone, which is essential for energy production and blood sugar balance. DHEA is a precursor to other hormones, mainly testosterone.
Your waking day hormone (highest in the morning and lowest at night). It is necessary for energy production, blood sugar metabolism, anti-inflammatory effects and stress response.
Classified as a hormone but also acting as a neurotransmitter, melatonin is primarily secreted during the dark (at night) with levels dropping dramatically after exposure to bright light. Melatonin is involved with circadian rhythms, and most commonly associated with sleep patterns and sleep disturbances.
Some of the common imbalances identified through hormone testing include estrogen dominance, estrogen deficiency, progesterone deficiency, androgen (testosterone and DHEA) excesses or deficiencies, adrenal dysfunction and adrenal fatigue.
Accuracy of Labrix saliva testing
Pooled Tube Provides More Accurate Sex Hormone Levels
Sex hormone (E2, Pg, T, DHEA) levels fluctuate throughout the day as well as throughout the month while other hormones, like cortisol, have a predictable diurnal rhythm. As a result, many blood test measurements will give falsely elevated or depressed values if only evaluating one sampling for sex hormones.
The graph below shows the measured salivary estradiol levels (in pg/ml) of two females during the luteal phase, with samples taken every 10 minutes. As you can see, the estrogen levels are fluctuating continuously and dramatically. Imagine if you had only measured one sampling… say in the morning? It might alter your assessment and lead you to incorrect treatment choices.
Labrix Measures Sex Hormones From a Fifth Pooled Tube
When saliva kits are received by our lab, a fifth tube of saliva is created by pooling a measured sample from each of the four submitted tubes. This fifth pooled tube is mixed thoroughly to provide homogenization and becomes the source from which estradiol, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA are measured. The pooling of these multiple samples throughout the day enables us to provide a much better reflection of each patient’s hormonal status. It is essentially an average of the four submitted samples and more accurately reflects the physiologic hormone levels.
Cortisol Levels Are Measured From Four Timed Samples
Cortisol levels are measured from the original four saliva tubes to provide an assessment of the natural diurnal rhythm of cortisol. Cortisol should be highest in the morning, and gradually taper off throughout the day. Knowing the time of day that a sample was collected is critical to accurate interpretation of the cortisol levels.
Melatonin is Measured From Three Timed Samples
Like cortisol, melatonin is measured directly from the AM, evening and PM sample. Melatonin levels follow a diurnal rhythm with highest levels produced at night, when sleep should be occurring, and the lowest levels should be during daytime.