Hormone Testing
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Hormone Testing and You

By Leifson Ball, RPh
February 2, 2010

brought to you by Bellevue Pharmacy, a ProjectAWARE sponsor

Normally we don’t think about hormones when we are young. They keep us youthful, happy and healthy, but as we age the hormones gradually begin to decrease. The hormones that were keeping us happy and healthy before begin to be unbalanced in our bodies. That balance was critical to our physical and emotional well being. Now we feel tired, gain weight and begin to forget things. Andropause in men and menopause in women begins to impact our lives. Hormone balance is important for age related concerns such as breast cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. To understand what hormone or hormones we are lacking, we need be tested.

Hormone testing is an important tool to determine our optimal hormone balance. Our hormones govern many of our physiological functions such as sexuality, reproduction, thyroid function, bone density, cholesterol and certain aspects of normal brain function. When we think of hormones we generally think of the sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. There are other hormones to consider also such as cortisol and dehydroepaindrosterone (DHEA). So how do we take back control of our hormone balance? First, working closely with our healthcare practitioners is very important. To understand what is going on, most professionals will review your symptoms and have laboratory work done to see which hormones are out of balance. This will give your healthcare professional an overall picture of what needs to be addressed. There are three types of hormone tests. These tests are: urine, blood and saliva.

The urine test is the oldest and the simplest method of hormone testing. Hormones appear in large amounts in the urine, more than in blood or saliva. To measure hormones in urine you must collect all urine produced in a 24 hour period. If all of the urine is not collected this may cause the test to be unreliable. Also, any type of kidney impairment may cause the levels to be unreliable. Urine tests only measure the total amount of hormones produced for the day and not the high and low levels that can occur throughout the day.

Blood testing is probably the most common test utilized. When we think of blood testing, many think of pain and needles. Testing now requires smaller blood samples because of improved testing techniques. Blood tests measure hormone concentrations in the serum or plasma part of the blood. This test looks for the protein bound and unbound hormones in the serum. Limitations for the blood test is that it can be considered a snapshot in time and that hormone levels can change over the course of the day. Blood testing evaluates all circulating hormones regardless of their availability to our body. Blood testing is still the mainstay of all laboratory testing.

Saliva testing is one of the latest methods of evaluating hormone levels. This method can be done at home with out a visit to a lab or a doctor’s office. Hormones that can be tested include: progesterone, estrogens, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol - all with a simple morning saliva sample. Saliva testing measures the free or bioavailable hormones in the blood stream that are unbound by serum binding proteins and are available to the body to use. Measuring of the free hormones is what is important for determining hormone balance. The limitations for saliva tests are that it is a snap shot of what your hormones are at that time of the day.

However, there are kits that can collect samples throughout the day, week or month showing the hormones highs and lows. The World Health Organization has approved this method as an accurate, convenient and noninvasive measurement of hormone levels.

Hormone testing is a means to evaluate and maintain proper hormone balance. If you are having symptoms of hormone imbalance (depression, fatigue, anxiety, low sex drive, hair loss, facial hair growth, weight gain), please contact one of our consulting pharmacists 800-728-0288 or visit us online at www.bellevuerx.com. Our consultant pharmacists are available to work with you and your physician to determine the correct dose based on your symptoms and lab levels. No matter which test your health professional will use, the information along with your symptoms will help to determine if hormone treatment is right for you.

References:

1. Saliva Testing Kits & Hormone Education
2. Test My Hormones Home Lab Tests
3. Safe Menopause Solutions
4. Women's International Pharmacy
5. Clinical value of 24-hour urine hormone evaluations
6. Aeron Life Cycles Clinical Laboratory

 

For questions and further information, contact Bellevue Pharmacy.

 

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