The theory and science behind saliva hormone testing

Remarkable insights into health and disease are offered through analysis of saliva

Dr. Joe (N) Mania PhD and
Dr. Sidney Golinsky R.Ph. MD. PhD, FACA.

Experts agree that diagnosis and prevention of disease using saliva assays is about to enter a period of explosive growth as more and more laboratories and medical practitioners gear up for this new technology.

Unlike blood testing, saliva analysis is looking at the cellular level (the biologically active compounds) and saliva is therefore truly representative of what is clinically relevant. Blood analysis, on the other hand, is looking at compounds as they travel through the blood serum, most of which are protein bound.

Physicians experienced in saliva analysis are able to predict, diagnose or prevent many health problems and diseases.

Small molecules freely travel through the cells and into saliva ducts and it is these small molecules that can be assayed in saliva. Hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, DHT, DHEA, androstenedione etc) are all very small molecules and all can be tested in saliva. It is hormones that largely determine your health and how you feel. A saliva assay can make information available that may be obscured when looking for information in the blood.

Unlike blood analysis, saliva assays will always report a substantial increase in hormone levels when hormone creams are applied to the skin. This phenomenon opens up some serious medical issues and a dilemma for many doctors.

There is a common controversy within the medical fraternity when a doctor conducts blood tests both before and after the application of hormone creams to the skin and finds no difference in hormone levels. The obvious but very wrong conclusion is that hormone creams do not work. There are a number of studies that explain this discrepancy.

One of the most compelling is a published, double blind, randomized study where 40 women scheduled for breast surgery for the removal of a lump were divided into 4 groups of ten to study the effects of topical hormones when applied to the breast. For 10-13 days prior to surgery, one group received a placebo; one group received only natural progesterone. (Ref: Chang and Fournier et al. Fertility and Sterility April 1995-785-91).

At the time of surgery, a blood sample was taken and a sample of breast tissue was also taken from the breast approximately I cm from the lump. In each case the blood analysis reported hormone levels that were statistically unchanged, but amazingly, when the tissue was analyzed, there was up to 100 times more hormones in the tissue of those that used a topical hormone than those that used the placebo.

The tissue analysis is telling us that the hormones reached the cells where they are needed whereas the blood analysis offers no evidence of this fact. What this study tells us (as does a saliva assay) is that when a physician claims there is no evidence that the creams are working; they are looking for the evidence in the wrong place – in the blood serum. Serum is polar while most hormones are non polar. It is no wonder that blood testing shows little or no change in hormone levels when hormone creams are used.

A factor of significance when assaying saliva is that hormones at the cellular level are found at very low levels; hence results are reported in Pico grams. Only a small number of medical testing labs have so far developed the technology to assay hormones at these low levels. Usually, the labs who have succeeded tend to keep their technology a closely guarded secret. The technology however is improving all the time. The new technology test equipment is extremely sensitive and easily measures the low levels of hormones found in saliva.

If you do not feel right, then something is wrong. If your hormones are low or out of balance, then you will not feel good. Hormones are needed to keep you happy. Saliva testing will identify hormonal status and hormonal imbalance. Intervention with natural hormones can change a persons feeling of well being for the better and can substantially reduce the risk of almost all of the diseases of western society. The risk of prostate cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, weight problems and a host of other less serious health conditions can be determined and often prevented when acting on information provided from a saliva assay.

Breast cancer, for example, is extremely rare amongst women who have good levels of progesterone.

A physician, when trying to track down the cause of excess weight, or extreme tiredness, may treat the patient for hypothyroidism. Whereas, if the physician was to look deeper and look at a saliva assay, he may find that the adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisol. Cortisol is a permissive hormone, it gets everything ready for the thyroid hormone at the tissue level so that the thyroid can come in and activate metabolism. The problem that is causing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism may not be thyroid, but cortisol at the tissue level.

Just a few of the many health issues and diseases that can be diagnosed through saliva and helped resolved or prevented through hormone supplementation include but not limited to are: acne, cholesterol, male pattern baldness, cancer, fibroids, stress, weight problems, sexual dysfunction, headaches, heart problems, heart palpitations, allergies, cold body temperature, sleep problems, inability to absorb calcium, difficulties in conceiving. In fact it is hormone supplementation that has become the centerpiece of those growing number of doctors who have joined the emerging science of anti-aging medicine.

Starting about 6 years ago, the revolution of natural progesterone began to gain momentum and women around the world are now experiencing remarkable changes in their lives when they use natural progesterone cream to balance their hormones to offset the problems of estrogen dominance.

Harvard trained Dr. John R. Lee, through his books, his lectures and his unselfish dedication started this revolution and now women and their doctors are realizing the benefits of natural hormones. Especially progesterone and the use of saliva assays to get to the truth of what is going on in a person’s body.

The levels of some hormones, especially those that effect energy and sleep, vary throughout the day (a consequence of the circadian rhythm) and important information about what is going on in the human body can only be determined by checking such hormones levels at certain times of the day.

Melatonin, for example should be checked at about 3 am in the morning, cortisol should be checked at about 7 am and possibly at other times throughout the day as well. In the case of pre menopausal women, Progesterone should be checked on about the 21st day of their cycle. It would not be an easy task to find a doctor who can make himself available to draw blood at these odd times and hours so as to create a valid health profile to act upon. A saliva assay not only solves this problem but also in many cases provides much more accurate and meaningful information than blood tests.

Individuals will often order a saliva assay to establish a baseline before embarking on hormone supplements. More frequently, however, a saliva assay is ordered to pinpoint the cause of a problem. While saliva kits can be ordered direct, we encourage individuals to work with their doctors. A growing number of doctors are gaining experience with analysis of saliva results, but to many, it is still a new science.

It is very helpful to both the laboratory and the doctor if, with the saliva sample, the patient provides details of their problems – a statement of what is bothering them. This information can be reviewed by the laboratory against actual results. It is often very clear from saliva results why the patient is experiencing the problems they are reporting. Saliva analysis is a diagnostic tool that will often enable the doctor to identify the actual cause of many health problems and diseases.

While most doctors are more likely to treat (and suppress) symptoms with drugs and not investigate the actual cause, saliva analysis helps the doctor to recommend a course of action to correct the root cause of a problem. Resolving the root cause will usually involve a natural solution. It is those doctors who either have an open mind or who have converted to alternative medicine who are usually best able to work with their patient to address the cause and not just the symptoms.

The cost of testing saliva is typically less than a blood analysis – about $30 per hormone. Saliva testing offers convenience and is non invasive. There is no pain, and an individual can draw the sample at the correct time, in the privacy of his or her own home.
The saliva test kit comprises a collection tube, instructions, a requisition form and a prepaid FedEx LabPak when the kit is sent to physicians. The steps required include rinsing the mouth with water and collecting the sample before the mouth is contaminated with toothpaste and food. It is simply a case of removing the cap from the tube and providing spit.

Once the sample is collected and the paperwork is filled out, it can be dropped into the mail and the results will be available within 3 weeks. Actual laboratory turnaround time is 72 hours or less. If the saliva sample is not immediately sent to the labs, keep it refrigerated. Saliva, nevertheless, is very stable at room temperature and will last for many weeks.

The theory and science behind saliva hormone testing

For detailed information on the science behind saliva hormone testing, Drs. Gillson and Zava have written a paper on Salivary Hormone Analysis. This fully referenced paper details the theory and science behind saliva hormone testing.


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