Lately, I’ve had a lot of patients with questions about salivary hormone testing. Usually, when a medical doctor measures hormones it always involves a blood draw. So why am I asking all of my patients to spit?
A perfectly understandable question, especially when patients have been through the gamut of conventional testing.
Today I’d like to clear the air a bit about hormone testing, why I test salivary hormones in my office and the difference between saliva and serum (blood) hormone levels.
Saliva testing is proving to be the most reliable medium to measure hormone levels. In saliva, hormone levels accurately represent the amount of hormone delivered to receptors in the body – unlike serum, which represents hormones that may or may not be active at receptors in the body.
Clinically, it is more relevant to test the amount of hormones delivered to tissue receptors, as this is a reflection of the amount of active hormone in the body.
In the blood, hormones exist as either free (5%) and ready to act, or protein bound (95%) and inert. When we measure a blood hormone level, then, it tells us how much active (free) and inactive (bound) hormone is present. Saliva testing, however, is able to give us a measurement of only the free, bioavailable and biologically active hormone present in the body. It tells us about the functional hormone levels in your body.
Salivary testing becomes very important when we are measuring a person’s response to topically dosed steroids (progesterone cream, for example). This method of delivering hormones results in increased tissue hormone levels that are measurable in saliva, but does not equally change the blood levels. Therefore, salivary testing is the only way to accurately follow a patient’s response to topical hormone therapy.
Our salivary testing kits are easy to use, and we even have an online video that explains to patients how to make their collections. Saliva testing is more accurate for determining hormone levels, and is a bonus for patients with needle phobias!