Beach Metro Community News
Why Are Hormones Important?
Hormones play such an integral role in our body that when they become imbalanced, this can lead to a whole host of problems. Hormones are chemical messengers released by cells in the body which send out messages to other cells in the body to influence many different biochemical processes.
They can affect things such as: metabolism, growth and development, immune system function, reproduction, and mood. An imbalance in hormones can contribute to: depression, hot flashes, mood swings, allergies, foggy thinking, weight gain, headaches, fatigue, hair loss, & sleep disturbances.
What Is The Best Way To Assess Hormone Levels?
Many patients often ask what is the best way to test a person’s hormone levels? The answer to that depends on the type of hormone(s) being tested.
Saliva hormone testing has been proven to be the most accurate method for measuring cortisol (a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands) and the sex hormones. Saliva testing determines the actual amount of hormone delivered to receptors in the body, which is the active or bioavailable hormone level. This is because hormones must pass through the cell membranes of the saliva gland to get into the saliva. Thus, this level represents the amount of hormone which actually gets into the tissue. On the other hand, serum or blood values reflect hormone which has not yet been delivered to tissue. These hormones must be protein bound in order for them to be detected in the serum. However, in this state, they are not delivered to tissues and are therefore considered inactive or non-bioavailable. It is much more reliable and useful to measure the amount of hormone delivered to the tissue receptors, as this is what is biologically active in the tissues.
Advantages of Saliva Hormone Testing
Saliva hormone testing is also non-invasive, painless, and most convenient if one needs to collect samples over the course of a day (as a patient can collect the samples at home). For example, cortisol levels change throughout the day – usually being highest in the morning and decreasing as the day progresses. Therefore, in order to determine if a person has imbalances in cortisol levels, it is optimal to collect samples four times during the day (morning shortly after waking, before lunch, before dinner, and at night before bed). The cortisol levels can indicate how stress can be affecting a person or if an individual may be suffering from adrenal fatigue. This can be common in patients who are undergoing a great deal of or long-term stress. When measuring cortisol levels, saliva testing is also preferred over serum testing because research has shown that the stress of a blood draw can greatly affect cortisol levels, which would render the results inaccurate.
Another advantage of saliva testing is that it can be used to monitor topical hormone therapy. In this way, a person who is on topical or transdermal hormone therapy can be reassessed to see how they are responding to treatment. Serum testing, on the other hand, cannot measure topically dosed hormones. This is due to the fact that there is no concomitant increase in serum levels of hormones after topical hormone therapy (even though there is an increase in tissue hormone levels).
What Saliva Hormone Testing Does Not Measure
One disadvantage of saliva testing is that it cannot measure protein hormones such as insulin or thyroid hormones, which are usually measured through blood testing. (Another way to assess a person’s thyroid function is to measure their basal body temperature. This can give us an indication of whether or not a person’s thyroid is functioning optimally or if it is underactive).
What Happens After Testing?
Once a person has undergone testing and has determined that they have a hormonal imbalance or that their topical hormone therapy needs to be adjusted, treatment can then be implemented. For hormonal imbalances, nutritional and lifestyle modifications can be recommended, and homeopathic, herbal remedies, and/or bioidentical hormone therapy can be prescribed to achieve hormonal balance again.
Note: This article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace proper diagnosis and treatment by a qualified healthcare professional.