In today’s blog, we’re going to go through why saliva testing is better than blood testing when you want to check your hormones.
We’ve already touched on this here: Is Blood Testing The Best Way To Check Your Hormones?
But today it’s time to go deeper.
Now, normally if you go to your doctor and ask to have your hormones checked your doctor will want to do this with blood tests. But, when we’re thinking about hormones, we want to do saliva testing because it’s much more accurate for picking up the hormone imbalances we want to know more about.
However, before I get into it why saliva testing is so great let me introduce myself in case you’re new to my blog.
I’m Hayden Keys. I’m a naturopath in Miranda (southern Sydney) and I’m the naturopath that helped Sarah from Sarah’s Day get her hormones balanced and clear up her hormonal acne.
Now today what we’ll go through is similar to what I did with Sarah, and what I do with all my in clinic patients. It’s how to pinpoint the hormonal imbalances that drive your hormonal acne. Which, once we know these, we can then work out what specifically you’ll need to get your hormonal acne cured.
But first, let’s do a recap of blood testing (I went through blood testing in detail in my previous blog post). Blood testing is great for identifying diseases and major hormone imbalances in your body. It’s not so great for picking up the more subtle hormone imbalances that drive hormonal acne.
The reason why blood testing doesn’t pick up subtle balances is that the bloodstream carries your total hormone load. It carries all the active and inactive hormones out into the body. You can think of the bloodstream as a freeway. It’s the path along which everything is carried out to where it needs to go.
However, when we think about hormonal acne and what’s going on, we need to know what the hormone levels are like next to the cells, out into the tissue space, not in the bloodstream. We need to know how much hormone has diffused out into your tissues and is acting on your cells (which you can think of like houses).
We need to know how much hormone is being delivered to the house. That is, how much hormone is around the cell and how much hormone is stimulating the cell, and blood tests can’t tell you that. Blood tests can only tell you the total amount going out to your cells.
This is where saliva testing is superior because saliva is a fluid that’s coming out of your body. So, this means it’s going to have hormone levels very similar to what is next to your cells. This makes it ideal for revealing subtle hormone imbalances, as opposed to diseases and profound hormonal balance imbalances that blood testing picks up.
So, the beauty of saliva testing is it’s able to pinpoint imbalances that blood testing doesn’t reveal.
It’s also a superior method for testing because it allows you to be able to take multiple samples in one day. This is necessary when you need to check hormonal rhythms, like with cortisol. So rather than having to go back and forth to the lab all day for repeated blood tests, or to stay at the lab, you can collect the samples at home or at work.
Plus, there are no needles so it doesn’t hurt. It’s painless. It’s also very easy to do because you just do it at home or at work. You get the kit, you collect the samples (by spitting into the tubes) and then you post them back to the lab. That’s super, super easy.
Now here’s the test Sarah did. We checked cortisol, which is a stress hormone, DHEA, and we also checked testosterone as well.
When it comes to testing one of the big frustrations many of my patients have is that when they go to their doctor and ask for hormone testing the doctor does blood testing. Then when the blood test results come back the levels are ‘normal’, and so, the doctor goes “You don’t have a hormone imbalance, see, the blood tests are normal.”
Or worse… The doctors won’t check your hormones.
If you are in this situations, check our resource here: What to do when your doctor won’t check your hormones
But it’s very obvious that there is a hormone imbalance because they have acne along their jaw, or around their mouth, or on their chin, or on their cheeks, or it fluctuates with their period. All of which screams out this is a hormonal problem.
Plus they may have previously been on the birth control pill and it cleared up their acne. This too says the acne is hormonal because the pill works by changing your hormone levels. It pushes up your female hormones, pushes down your male sex hormones, and if this clears up your acne, well, that straight away says this must be a hormonal problem.
But, time and time again, when blood testing is done, it doesn’t pick up the imbalance that is obviously there. So patients, time and again, tell me how frustrated they are that no one can pick up what the problem is. And the only treatment options they’re given are the contraceptive pill or Roaccutane/Accutane, things they don’t want to take.
But saliva testing helps end the frustration because it picks up the imbalances that blood testing can’t find. I see it all the time. Patients bring in blood tests results that are ‘normal’, we do the saliva testing, and we pick up an imbalance that we knew was there.
This then allows a treatment plan to be set out to fix the hormone imbalance and clear up the acne. Because once you know what the hormone imbalance is, you can get very specific about what you need to do and take.
Do you need to lower testosterone?
Do you need to raise progesterone?
Do you need to boost estrogen?
Do you need to enhance your body’s ability to eliminate and clear estrogen out of your body?
Or do you need to lower or raise cortisol, your stress hormone?
Because you can’t really treat yourself properly, or pick out the right supplements you need if you don’t know what your actual hormonal imbalance is.
Here are some patient’s results so you can see what the hormone imbalances look like.
On the left, we’ve got a cortisol result, an Adrenocortex Stress Profile. This is where the cortisol level is checked four times over the day. This is why saliva testing is really good because you don’t need to go to a lab, you just fill up a tube at each of the four different times over the day. That’s super easy to do.
In these results, you can see this person’s levels were all high. They’re up in the red section. We’re able to see that there’s excess cortisol affecting this person.
On the right, the sex hormones (progesterone, testosterone and estradiol, which is a type of estrogen) were measured. In the top result, we can see that there’s low progesterone, but there’s also high normal testosterone (it’s right up near the top end of the range).
In the bottom result, you can see lowish progesterone again, very high testosterone, and also high estrogen. This person needs to improve their body’s ability to clear the estrogen because it’s building up. Plus they also need to get the testosterone down.
So by actually getting these results, we can pinpoint the imbalances, and once we discover the imbalances we then know what we need to do. Because, no doubt, you’ve already tried taking some supplements. But you might have found that there haven’t actually done a whole lot. This is most probably because you’re using the wrong supplements for your problems.
If you haven’t done the testing and you haven’t found out what the imbalance is, you’re not going to know what you should be taking.
So doing a saliva test helps you pinpoint your hormone imbalances so you know exactly what’s right for you. You’ll be able to select the specific herbs, vitamins, and minerals you need and create an individualised supplement program.
You’ll know whether or not you need supplements to lower testosterone, or raise progesterone, or raise estrogen, or balance out cortisol. You won’t be guessing anymore. Then you’ll start seeing improvements in your acne.
Whereas, if you don’t do saliva testing, you’ll just keep guessing at what you should take and not get anywhere.
Knowing what your problem is, knowing what the imbalance is, is critically important, and this is what saliva testing does for you.
For further reading also check our post called “Why Testing Your Hormones Is Critical If You Want To Eliminate Hormonal Acne“