What are the benefits of saliva hormone testing?
Saliva hormone testing is useful for uncovering hormone imbalance. For example: discovering a woman has insufficient progesterone to balanced high estrogen levels or that high cortisol levels are interfering with the action of progesterone on testosterone. Once a hormone imbalance has been uncovered, nutritional therapy or detoxification can be instituted.
Saliva testing can also be used to approximate which hormone levels are too high or too low as a result of supplementation and to monitor patients as they progress through treatment.
Saliva collection is painless and more convenient for the patient when multiple samples are required.
What is the difference between serum (blood) and saliva hormone testing?
Serum levels check hormones within the blood. It does not give any indication of hormone tissue response or receptor activity. It only gives presence of hormones in the blood serum.
Salivary hormone testing checks for cellular uptake (bioavailability) of the hormones within the body. The hormones present in the blood serum must be absorbed and processed through the salivary gland cells to enter the saliva, therefore indicating bioavailability of the hormone within the body.
What exactly does a saliva hormone test measure – free or bio-available hormones?
There is a common misconception that only free hormone is available to tissues. Various lines of research over the past 20 years have converged to indicate that all forms of a given hormone are available to tissue. Free hormone, protein-bound hormone (albumin and serum hormone binding globulin (SHBG)-bound), red blood cell-associated hormone and conjugated hormone are all delivered to cells in varying amounts, depending on the type of tissue and whether the hormones are endogenous from inside the body or exogenous from outside the body or environmental sources. Free hormone levels in serum are known to underestimate bioavailable hormone levels so measuring free hormone levels in serum may not accurately reflect what is being delivered to the tissues.
Hormones pass into the saliva from the cell membranes of the salivary gland. In other words, hormones must pass through saliva gland tissue to get into saliva, which means that saliva hormone level measures deliver of hormone to tissue (cells) from the various reservoirs in the blood. In contrast, a blood hormone level reflects hormone which has not yet been delivered to tissue. Because saliva reflects what actually gets into tissue rather than what might eventually get into tissue, it better reflects tissue (bio-available) hormone levels.
- Estradiol (E2)
- Estriol (E3)
- Estrone (E1)
How do saliva hormone levels compare with blood?
Because both saliva and blood plasma levels are water soluble the amount of hormone they can pick up from non-water soluble areas (binding proteins and red cell membranes) is limited by the solubility of the hormones. Hence, blood plasma hormone levels and saliva hormone levels are numerically similar.
There is no direct correlation between a specific saliva hormone level and the dose of hormone required for supplementation. Saliva hormones are only a guide since there are many factors that play a role in hormone activity and binding in the body.