Find out Your Hormone Levels and Get Relief
By Ann Melin, Lead Health Coach at Hormone Detox Shop
What do childbirth, hunger, building muscle, dry skin, and running from a bear have in common?
Hormone levels impact every aspect of the human experience. They alter our emotional states, regulate hunger signals, modulate our stress responses, control blood sugar levels, support sexual function, and harmonize our connection to the moon and the tides.
In this article, you’ll learn what hormones are, why testing hormone levels is so useful, our preferred method of testing hormone levels, and how we create customized protocols for our clients for hormonal relief.
What Are Hormones?
The dictionary defines a hormone as “a regulatory substance produced in an organism and transported in tissue fluids such as blood or sap to stimulate specific cells or tissues into action.”
Hormones are fast-acting chemical messengers that provide the body with information about how to respond to internal and external stimuli.
I think it’s important to recognize that our hormone levels are always adjusting in an effort to promote balance and homeostasis. Unfortunately, most of us live in less than balanced or optimal circumstances. Toxins, stress, foods, infections, illness, and the bacterial colonies in our guts are just a few of the things that can alter our hormone levels.
Women are particularly impacted by monthly hormonal changes that coordinate fertility and menstruation. Many women are plagued by irregular cycles, painful periods, infertility, excess bleeding, and so on. As we age, we must endure more dramatic hormonal shifts that can cause many troubling symptoms.
And, not to leave out the men, research suggests that 80% of men develop some sort of prostate problem by the time they reach the age of 80: problems that are often related to hormones.
When you are experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance such as low sex drive, forgetfulness, moodiness and more, it‘s extremely helpful to learn your hormonal levels.
Why Hormone Levels Testing is So Valuable
As I discussed in a recent blog, getting actual data about your hormone levels is a crucial part of determining appropriate and effective approaches to achieving balance. Symptoms can give us some insight but they can also lead us astray. Too many people are playing guessing games with their hormones. Unfortunately, this approach can sometimes make things worse rather than better.
When we know what your hormone levels are, we can customize protocols to support hormone production when necessary and/or facilitate detoxification and clearance of hormones when necessary.
Testing for Hormone Levels
Most of our clients at Hormone Detox Shop reach out with symptoms and signs of hormonal imbalance. There are many ways to gather information about hormone levels, but they are not all equal in what kinds of information they can offer.
Today I’m going to tell you why we use the DUTCH (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones) from Precision Analytical and why we run this test with almost all of our clients. But first, I’ll explain why most of the testing methods for hormone levels may not be reliable.
The Problems with Serum Hormone Testing (a Hormone Blood Panel)
Most traditional medical doctors will evaluate hormone levels through blood and serum with a hormone blood panel. While these methods provide accurate results, the picture is often muddied when you scratch the surface.
Adrenal hormones (particularly cortisol) are problematic to evaluate in serum. Cortisol is a stress hormone that fluctuates according to a circadian rhythm throughout the day. For this reason, you can get dramatically different results depending upon the time of day when a blood draw occurs. Another factor is that having blood drawn is a stressful event for many people so the cortisol level at the time of a blood draw may be skewed by the impact of the event itself.
Moreover, serum provides us with a single cortisol result that includes both bound and unbound cortisol. Unbound cortisol is also referred to as “free” cortisol. Free cortisol represents a fraction of the overall cortisol level but is the only form of the hormone that is bioactive, meaning it’s the only form of the hormone that can actually impact cellular function.
And, if these weren’t already reasons enough, a single point cortisol test doesn’t offer any insight into an individual’s circadian rhythm and how well the body is adapting throughout the day.
The Problems with Saliva Hormone Testing
The saliva test for hormone levels has been used by many functional medicine practitioners over the last few decades. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have been conducted validating the use of saliva tests for hormone levels, particularly for conducting a cortisol level test.
Saliva testing remains a valid option for cortisol (adrenal) testing and Precision Analytical (our favorite hormone testing company) even has a Cortisol Awakening Response test through which they measure cortisol levels in saliva.
However, when choosing a single test (such as the DUTCH Complete) to get a big-picture view, urine provides additional information such as metabolized cortisol levels, which can differ significantly from free cortisol levels allowing for additional insight.
Although saliva is useful for measuring cortisol, it is rather poor at evaluating sex hormones, particularly estrogens. Saliva contains very low levels of estrogens, making it difficult to accurately assess using this method of testing. I have worked with many women who believe their estrogen levels are low after running a saliva test only to find that they have excess amounts of estrogens when accurately assessed using a DUTCH panel.
Additionally, the DUTCH test can provide insight into sex hormone metabolites so that we can discern how well the body is using and clearing these hormones, and this is something that available saliva hormone testing simply cannot do.
The Problem with a Wet 24-hour Urine Test
A wet 24-hour urine hormone test involves peeing into a jug multiple times throughout the day in order to get an average single result for cortisol and sex hormones. While it can provide useful information, it has many of the same drawbacks as serum testing; including lack of cortisol rhythm evaluation and lack of differentiation between bound and unbound cortisol levels.
Why We Use the DUTCH Test
Precision Analytical has analyzed the pros and cons of all of the following testing methods described above and has come up with a way to offer the best of all worlds. Dried urine testing allows for ease of collection, evaluation of bound and unbound cortisol, four-point cortisol testing for circadian rhythm assessment, accurate sex hormone determination, and reporting of sex hormone metabolites. And, because it is a urine test, Precision Analytical has been able to add on several organic acids to make the test even more comprehensive!
The DUTCH test evaluates adrenal and sex hormones, including 4-point cortisol testing (throughout the day), DHEA, three estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, and several metabolites of these hormones. Additionally, it evaluates melatonin levels and several organic acid markers that provide insight into neurotransmitters, nutritional status, toxicity, and oxidative stress.
Once we have all the information on your hormone levels from your DUTCH test results, our health coaches are poised with data that supports the development of personalized protocols that support your specific health needs in your aim to restore hormone balance.
While trying to treat symptoms is understandable and even useful at times, there is no substitute for being able to customize your personal plan of care through the blending of objective data correlated with your symptoms.
Hormones are a tricky business and symptoms of high estrogen might mirror low estrogen symptoms or high progesterone symptoms or low cortisol symptoms! It’s impossible to know for sure until you test.
Our personalized protocols are developed by your health coach and integrate a blend of herbs, supplements, dietary modifications, lifestyle habits, evaluation of cleaning and personal care products, exercise suggestions, and stress relief strategies.
While there are several ways to evaluate hormones, not all methods are created equal and different methods should be chosen based upon what the clinician and client wish to assess. At Hormone Detox Shop, we are focused on providing cutting-edge functional medicine testing for women struggling with hormonal difficulties.
If you want to increase your energy, improve your mood, regulate your periods, promote fertility, reduce menstrual pain, or relieve symptoms associated with menopause and perimenopause, the DUTCH test is our preferred method of evaluation.
The wealth of accurate information provided by a DUTCH panel allows us to make better suggestions with regards to your care which we believe leads to better clinical outcomes.
Run a DUTCH and Review Your Results!
For a limited time (though January 31st), we are going to offer a DUTCH Complete test with a half hour interpretation & supplement recommendation as an a la carte service. You can see your results and have them professionally analyzed all for $395.
Please note that this includes the fee for a one-day DUTCH Complete test and a half hour test analysis and supplement recommendations based on your test results with Bridgit.
This test can be run by men or women, at least a few years out of puberty, so about ages 16 and up. There is no upper age limit to run this test. There is no rush to run your test but it does need to be purchased by Jan. 31 for this trial offer.
In this video below, Ann Melin shares more about the DUTCH test and how she interprets it.
Ann Melin is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Clinical Nutritionist, a Clinical Master Herbalist, and a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner, and has been in the field of health since 2001. We are extremely blessed to have her as our Clinical Director and Lead Health Coach for Women’s Wellness Collaborative as she has extensive experience in running labs and creating holistic protocols based on the principles of functional nutrition. She lives in Vermont.