Why use saliva testing?

Appreciating the reliability of saliva testing is based on understanding the difference between steroid hormones in saliva and in serum. This difference is based on whether or not the hormones are bound to proteins in the medium used for testing. The majority of hormones exist in one of two forms: free (5%) or protein bound (95%). Only the free hormones are biologically active, or bio-available for delivery to receptors in the body. Protein bound hormones do not fit the receptors and are considered non-bioavailable. When blood is filtered through the salivary glands, the bound components are too large to pass through the cell membranes. Only the unbound hormones pass through and into the saliva. Saliva testing measures the bioavailable hormone – the clinically relevant portion delivered to the receptors in the tissues of the body.

Salivary hormone levels are expected to be much lower than serum levels, as only the unbound hormones are being measured. When healthcare providers measure serum hormone levels and prescribe hormone replacement therapy based on those results, patients are often overdosed. If the patients are then tested using saliva, the results are extraordinarily high and create confusion resulting from a lack of correlation between the two methods.

This discrepancy becomes especially important when monitoring topical, or transdermal, hormone therapy. Studies show that this method of delivery results in increased tissue hormone levels (thus measurable in saliva), but no parallel increase in serum levels. Therefore, serum testing cannot be used to monitor topical hormone therapy.

Saliva 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.

Serum measures the “protein bound” biologically inactive hormone levels in the body:

In order for steroids hormones to be detected in serum, they must be bound to circulating proteins. In the bound state, they are unable to fit into receptors in the body, and therefore will not be delivered to tissues. They are considered inactive, or non-bioavailable.

Only saliva testing measures topically dosed hormones:

The discrepancy between free and protein bound hormones becomes especially important when monitoring topical, or transdermal, hormones therapy. Studies show that this method of delivery results in increased tissue hormone levels (thus measurable in saliva), but no parallel increase in serum levels. Therefore, serum testing cannot be used to monitor topical hormone therapy.

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 western medicine has prescribed hormone replacement therapy as if everyone needed the same thing 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.