Testing Steroid hormones – What Does it Mean?

If there is a deficiency in the steroid hormones of your body, it can lead to issues such as increased stress levels, reduced sex drive, and difficulty in conceiving, as well as being potentially connected with more controversial issues such as adrenal fatigue.

To address these issues, individuals need to be tested to accurately assess current levels of various hormones in the body.

Traditionally, blood tests have been widely used, but the use of saliva testing has now been widely implemented. It’s thought that the results of saliva testing are often more accurate.

steroid hormones Photo by Maaike Nienhuis on Unsplash

Understanding Steroid Hormones

It’s important to understand what steroid hormones do, to fully appreciate how vital accurate testing is. The steroid hormones in your body are sex hormones and stress hormones.

  • Oestrogen which develops and regulates the female reproductive system.
  • Progesterone which regulates the menstrual cycle and prepares the female body for conception and pregnancy.
  • Testosterone which is the primary sex hormone in men but is also present in women in smaller amounts.
  • Cortisol which is the main stress hormone in the body.
  • Aldosterone which regulates blood pressure by controlling water and salt levels in the body.

You can see why it’s so important to identify and treat issues with any of these steroid hormones.

Why Blood Testing is Not Always Accurate

Around 95% of the steroid hormones in the body are bound to proteins which makes it difficult for them to escape the bloodstream and be used in the body. The problem with using a blood test to determine the levels of steroid hormones in the body is that it counts all hormones that are present, including those that are bound. The Free Androgen Index can be used to estimate the level of free hormones, but this is a very close estimation, not a precise figure.

Saliva Testing for Steroid Hormones

Measuring steroid hormones in saliva means that all of the steroids measured are free as they have already left the bloodstream. The levels that are present in saliva help to form an accurate picture of the levels throughout the body.

In the past, saliva testing has been used mostly for research purposes, especially stress-related research where the stress hormone levels in patients could have been abnormally affected by the administering of a blood test. The situation has changed a lot over the last few years, and saliva testing for steroid hormones is now commonplace away from the world of research.

Why Saliva Testing Has Become More Popular

One of the main reasons that saliva testing has become popular is that it’s a lot easier and less stressful than testing blood. The patient can receive a tube in the mail, spit in it, seal it and return it. The saliva can then be tested in the lab. This means that levels can be checked for different times, such as early in the morning when cortisol levels should be at their highest, or at specific points in the menstrual cycle, to determine what is causing a problem with conception.

These advancements in testing steroid hormones can only be good news for people who need to have their hormone levels identified, and any necessary action taken, as soon as possible.