Your hormones are trying to tell you something. In order to hear their message, you must be still and listen for the subtle signals your body is sharing with you.
Though no matter how in tune you might be with your body, sometimes it takes a little more than your intuition to understand exactly what your hormones are trying to say without the proper translator.
This is why testing hormone levels is key to discovering exactly what their message for you is.
Hormones is a topic that we discuss frequently here at Vitality Natural Health Care. I’ve shared insights on adrenal and thyroid health as well as the how to be sure that your female hormone levels are optimal, but there still seems to be some mystery around testing.
I often find that when patients come to me their doctors haven’t run all the tests needed to fully understand what’s happening with a patient. Whether you’re being seen at Vitality or another health care facility, I want you to have the knowledge you need to advocate for yourself when it comes to hormone health.
These are the tests you need in order to gain a full understanding of your hormones:
1. A Comprehensive Thyroid Panel
The thyroid tests that your doctor orders should include the following:
- Free T3
- Free T4
- Reverse T3
- Hashimoto’s Antibody Panel
- Iodine Urine Test
Often thyroid testing will include some of these elements, but rarely all. This combination of tests will provide you with the information you need to know if your hormones are balanced but will also indicate if there is an autoimmune issue, like Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease present.
Additionally, if there is cause for concern after testing, knowing your iodine levels will be helpful for treatment as this is sometimes a supplement used in treating thyroid issues.
Be sure to request testing of the free forms of T3 and T4, the active forms of thyroid hormone. Often doctors will order the total amounts, but as this includes both the hormones that are active and bound, it doesn’t provide a full understanding of the health of your thyroid.
2. Adrenal Saliva Test
To test the health of your adrenal glands I recommend a 24-hour saliva test. The saliva test measures your cortisol levels at four points throughout the day. Based on these measurements, we can determine whether or not your body is producing cortisol as it should be throughout the day.
In addition to testing cortisol, it’s important to also test DHEA and progesterone as they both impact adrenal gland function. When testing DHEA be sure the values that are being tested are the sulphate form of DHEA. This testing can be done using standard blood work.
3. Sex Hormone Panel
After 10 years of working as a naturopathic doctor, I’ve learned that there is more that goes into hormone balancing than meets the eye. In order to get an accurate understanding of hormone levels, it’s important to go beyond the standard testing and dig deeper.
With that in mind, these are the blood tests that I recommend and order when accessing sex hormones:
- Estradiol, estrone, estriol
- Testosterone, free and attached
- DHEA sulphate
These are baseline tests and fairly standard for men and women. The only difference is that I would also order a test of the prostate gland for men. When ordering these tests, it’s common for women to get them done at particular points during their cycle. For example, days 3-6 of their menstrual cycle when testing for estrogen and days 18-21 when testing for progesterone.
While there are definitely advantages to getting tested during those time frames, it is also possible to access hormone health outside of those time frames — there are certain values that are expected depending on the day of testing.
If the values of these tests are not optimal, I will order additional testing to ensure that you are able to metabolize and use the good forms of estrogen and testosterone as well as detox and remove the toxic forms.
These tests include:
- Sex hormone binding globulin
- Estrogen Metabolism
- Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
- Methylation Panel
In addition to these tests, I often like to assess whether my patients are aging well as this is related to hormone health. The testing that can give me an accurate picture of this is:
- IGF-1, a growth hormone
- FSH or follicle stimulating hormone
- LH or luteinizing hormone
Hormone balancing is an art and one that I know well after 10 years in practice. Through following this testing path, I’ve had such great success with helping my patients learn to understand and love their hormones.
If your doctor is only ordering the baseline tests, they are missing valuable information, which means you are missing valuable information. Hopefully, the information here will give you some of the tools you need to advocate for yourself and your health.