An at-home hormone test that uses your saliva as a test sample helps you understand more about your hormones and if they are in balance. But are they effective?
Before using a test kit, it’s important to understand a little bit about how these tests work and why it’s important to understand as much as possible about your hormones.
Saliva tests are a non-invasive and convenient way to submit a sample for hormone testing. All you need to do is spit into a plastic tube and submit the sample to the testing company. Hormone testing looks for androgens, cortisol, estrogens, and progesterone in the sample. These tests are easy to use, affordable, and offer a way to understand more about your body right from the privacy of your own home.
Learning more about your hormones helps you understand more about your health.
Hormones are chemical substances produced and excreted by the body’s endocrine system. These chemicals travel through the bloodstream and regulate the activity of various organs and cells in your body.
Why is a saliva sample effective for testing hormones?
Saliva offers a variable and complex look into what’s going on in the body. Saliva is produced by the salivary glands and the buccal glands. It includes liquid that leaks from the gums, as well as blood, which contains hormones. Saliva testing provides an accurate assessment of various hormone balances, including the presence of sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and stress hormones.
First, determine whether your body’s hormones are balanced. Once you identify an imbalance, it’s important to determine what’s causing the imbalance and find ways to return to homeostasis. The most common causes of hormone fluctuations include environmental exposure, lifestyle choices, medication, and disease.
Saliva testing is a great way to begin your assessment of your hormonal balance. A test kit is not going to give you all of the information you need to master your hormones, but it’s a jumping-off point. It might not be as accurate as a blood test, but a saliva test kit can provide general information you’d get in a hormone panel. The test measures various hormone levels and tells you where there are imbalances. You’ll recognize where there are problems and be able to make lifestyle adjustments or seek treatment based on that information.
Assessing sex hormones is one of the primary reasons people use at-home saliva testing.
Sex hormones are an important factor in a person’s sexual development and ability to reproduce. Additionally, sex hormones affect:
Your sex hormones fluctuate throughout your life. If you’ve taken a saliva test before and you notice a difference in subsequent tests, you shouldn’t panic. However, it’s important to understand the fluctuations and know what causes them. The most common reasons for changes in sex hormones include:
Men and women have different sex hormones. The adrenal glands, the ovaries, and the placenta release female sex hormones when a woman is pregnant. They include estrogen, progesterone, and small amounts of testosterone. Estrogen is responsible for sexual and reproductive development during adolescence. Progesterone stabilizes the menstrual cycle and prepares the body for pregnancy. Testosterone affects fertility, menstruation, and tissue and bone mass.
The only male sex hormone is testosterone. It plays a role in sexual development and reproduction. Testosterone is an androgen or steroid. It’s mostly produced in the testes with a small amount produced by the adrenal glands.
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland control testosterone production. It is responsible for the development of male sex organs during birth and the development of secondary sexual characteristics during puberty.
The testosterone levels gradually decrease with age. It results in impotence, low sperm count, shrunken testes, depression, irritability, etc.
By submitting a saliva sample via a test kit you can assess the balance of sex hormones and determine if hormone replacement or hormone therapy is needed.
Stress activates your endocrine system. Stressful situations trigger the release of certain hormones. This creates a chain reaction that alters your body’s functioning. The three main stress hormones include:
The body produces this hormone during anything perceived as an emergency. It helps you deal with the situation and is the body’s way of dealing with what it’s facing quickly and effectively.
When things are normal, your body uses about 90 percent of its energy for metabolic activities. This is when cells and tissue is repaired and renewed. But when you’re in stressful situations, the body’s energy focuses on releasing glucose into the blood, which paralyzes recovery and renewal.
The release of cortisol when facing an emergency is normal and once the situation passes, your body returns to normal. The problem occurs when there is chronic stress and your cortisol levels are consistently elevated in response. Symptoms of elevated cortisol levels include:
Glucagon is another stress hormone. It’s synthesized in the pancreas and plays a role in the metabolizing of carbohydrates. It causes the liver to release glucose when needed during stressful situations or when glucose levels in the body drop. This is a common issue for diabetics.
The pituitary gland secretes prolactin. It plays a role in lactation. If it’s released in unhealthy amounts, it interferes with sex drive and the menstrual cycle.
A saliva test helps you assess your stress hormones and determine if there is a problem. Hormone replacement or hormone therapy is rarely needed. Most of the time, when your saliva saple and saliva test reveals a problem with stress hormones, it’s that the levels are too high and need to be reduced.
The thyroid gland also plays an important role in the production and release of thyroid hormones. It’s an essential part of the endocrine system that’s located in the front of the neck. There are two thyroid hormones responsible for the regulation of weight, energy levels, body temperature, hair, nail, and skin growth. They include:
Thyroxine (T4) production is regulated by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The body signals the hypothalamus to release thyrotropin-releasing hormone, which stimulates the pituitary gland to release the thyroid-stimulating hormone.
Triiodothyronine (T3) maintains brain function, muscle control, and heart and digestive functions. It also affects the metabolic rate and bone health.
Thyrotoxicosis is a condition that occurs when someone has too much T3 in their bloodstream. It usually results from an overactive thyroid gland, also known as hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is common when the thyroid is inflamed, there is a benign tumor, or someone has Graves’ disease.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive. This is caused by some medications, Hashimoto’s disease, or pituitary inflammation or tumors. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Issues with your thyroid hormones require medical attention. Using a saliva test might help you identify an imbalance, but you’ll need to work with a doctor to correct the problem. Left untreated, thyroid hormone issues can lead to serious medical concerns.
Your saliva test results are a starting point for figuring out why you aren’t feeling your best. Your doctor will administer a blood test and hormone panel to confirm the results. This measures the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. Hormone replacement therapy is usually needed for people with imbalanced thyroid hormones to improve thyroid function.
At-home saliva hormone tests are an effective way to test hormone levels. They are a jumping-off point for dealing with health issues and allow you to assess your situation in the privacy of your own home. Once you receive the results of your at-home test, you can review those results with your doctor and determine how to proceed.
Hormone testing helps you assess your overall health. It gives you a foundation on which to improve things and make lifestyle changes. But you should discuss your results with your doctor. Imbalance hormone levels can be a sign of a serious medical condition. Whether you don’t feel your best, you have concerns about thyroid function, you feel foggy or weak or tired, or you believe you might have a serious health problem, a saliva hormone test gives you information you can use to better understand your hormone balance.
Cleveland Clinic. “Endocrine System: What Is It, Functions & Organs.” Cleveland Clinic, 2020, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21201-endocrine-system.
Hiller-Sturmhöfel, S, and A Bartke. “The Endocrine System: An Overview.” Alcohol Health and Research World, vol. 22, no. 3, 1998, pp. 153–64, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761896/.