When the various glands manufacture the steroids, they are released into the bloodstream bound to carrier proteins. Only a small fraction (1-5%) of a given amount of steroid hormone breaks loose from the carrier protein in the bloodstream and is free to enter target tissues. This free or unbound hormone is what we want to measure, since it is active or bioavailable to the target tissues such as the breast, uterus, brain, and skin.
Many studies in the scientific literature have shown that there is a strong correlation between the levels of steroid hormones in saliva and the bioavailable (free) levels of steroids in the bloodstream. The amount of steroid hormone that enters the salivary ducts and then saliva is representative of the fraction of steroids in the bloodstream that are bioavailable to other tissues in the body.
Saliva collection is easy, can be done anywhere, any time and at a much lower cost. Scrum hormone testing is stressful, and the stress of a blood draw can sometimes alter the result. Blood has to be drawn at a doctor’s office or drawing station, and it is more difficult to obtain samples at the desired times (e.g. early am), multiple times through the day or late evening There is also an extra cost involved in drawing blood, independent of the cost for the test itself.
Hormones in saliva are exceptionally stable, allowing wide latitude in collection and shipment. Samples can be stored at room temperature for at least a week without loss of activity, so samples can be shipped to the testing facility by regular mail. Blood, on the other hand, must be kept cool on ice packs, increasing costs for shipping as well as the likelihood of error due to improper handling.
There are several ways salivary hormone tests can help you to take responsibility for, and optimize your health. The first way is to help identify possible causes of health problems. Depending on the specific hormones involved, certain symptoms or groups of symptoms are usually present when hormonal imbalance exists. For example, contrary to popular belief, depression is not caused by a prescription drug deficiency, but it can be caused by an imbalance between estrogens and progesterone, low androgens like DHEA and testosterone, or high cortisol.
Tests and Fees
Adapted from What Your Doctor May Not Have Told You About Peri-Menopause by Dr. John Lee, MD
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