Your Guide To Hormone Testing
Most of us don’t think much about blood tests — they are something your doctor may periodically order for you, and that’s that. Or perhaps, you only think to get a blood test when you're not feeling well?
Part of being the CEO of your body and being empowered in your health is having the information you need to know what’s going on in your body.
For years, many of us had no idea what our blood results really were and we took our doctors word for it that we were “in range” without having any idea what that meant. I'd call this: sitting in the passengers seat of your health.
We've all been there & it doesn't feel great, am I right?!
But this changes today my friend!
I'm here to help you to feel empowered to jump in the drivers seat and finally take control of your health - cause that's where the magic happens.
There are many different types of laboratory tests that can tell you important information about your body and help you to feel your absolute best.
But you need to know which tests to request, how to interpret your results and the different between a functional medicine doctor (or naturopath) and a conventional doctor when it comes to interpreting your results.
Trust me - there is a BIG difference, so read on.
When it comes to testing your hormones it can all feel very confusing.
To test or not to test is a question I get all the time.
But getting regular lab testing done, even if it's once a year, is an important part of every person’s health journey whether you're just starting out, or you're maintaining a state of optimal health.
Because you're able to actively monitor your health, get valuable insight into any underlying imbalances, as well as track whether or not current treatments are working for you.
When it comes to hormonal imbalances - testing can really help you identify what may be driving your symptoms and help you create a targeted, root cause approach to healing.
Now, I have a question for you..
Have you ever received test results back only to be told by your doctor that, "everything is normal", yet you feel terrible & anything BUT normal? How could you be losing hair, experiencing heavy periods, feeling fatigued & experiencing all of your symptoms if everything were normal?!
If your doctor tells you your lab results are normal, and this results in the dismissal of your symptoms - it’s time to get another opinion.
When it comes to testing I recommend seeing a naturopathic and/or functional medicine doctor.
Why does it matter if testing is performed by a functional medicine practitioner or a conventional doctor?
Well, not all blood work tests are created equal.
Lab results can be looked at via a pathological lens or a functional lens.
When looking at results through a pathological lens, a conventional doctor looks for numbers that fall outside of a VERY WIDE range of markers.
So a doctor can often be very quick to deem someone "normal" if they are anywhere within that very wide range; plus the numbers do not correlate with the persons symptoms and how they may be feeling, or functioning.
On the other hand - a naturopathic or functional medicine practitioner specialises in interpreting lab results via a functional lens which is within a much TIGHTER range, looking for patterns within the results, and also taking into consideration the patient’s current symptoms, and in depth health history.
It’s when you look at a patient holistically in this way (not just relying on test markers alone) are you able to find the root cause, and then determine the action to correct the underlying dysfunction.
The most powerful thing you can do is get regular testing done to monitor your levels whilst living an intentional lifestyle that works to prevent disease so that you avoid receiving a diagnosis that could have been prevented earlier on.
So, if you are someone that has been left confused with no answers by your doctor’s presentation of your lab results - I recommend taking your labs to a naturopathic physician who has training in functional laboratory assessment to have a deeper look into what’s going on.
For me personally, I get tests done every year to help me identify my own baseline of health, in other words - I know what my normal is - so that I’m able to monitor it over time, tracking my markers to see if anything changes.
I find testing SO empowering because it gives you data on your body that enables you to make informed decisions towards improving your health.
You shouldn’t need a medical degree to understand how your hormones work so I have created an in-depth 'Guide To Hormone Testing' which is available to you as a bonus download in my full course Master Your Cycle.
In this Guide you will learn:
- What each hormone does & why its important
- The specific tests to request from your doctor
- The best time of the month/day to take the tests (this is the most common error!)
- The test levels to aim for, for optimal health (these are not the same as a conventional doctor's "normal" ranges)
- How to interpret what your results are saying
This is such important information to help you to understand your body & more effectively chat with your practitioner about the best plan of action toward healing based on your results, without the guesswork.
What Hormone Tests Should I Get?
What tests to get is going to depend on your current health and history, so chatting with your practitioner is recommended.
However for guidance, I recommend including the following tests as a great place to start when gauging the health of your menstrual cycle and hormones.
Pituitary hormones: Luteinizing hormone (LH) in synergy with Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulate follicular growth and ovulation. Testing FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone) will help you understand the communication between the brain and the ovaries, and how your hormones are responding.
Estradiol (E2): Estradiol the most predominant form of estrogen. However, when transitioning into menopause, estrone (E1) becomes the most predominant form. This is important to understand when looking at test results as depending on the phase of your life you’re in, your estrogen levels and type of estrogen will vary. If you’re in a phase of life when you should be having periods, check your estradiol (E2).
Progesterone: Plays an important role in maintaining pregnancy, preparing the body for conception and regulating the monthly menstrual cycle. Testing for progesterone may help determine if you are ovulating efficiently, or if there is any deficiency present.
Prolactin: A hormone made in the brain that can disrupt ovulation if it’s too high and cause irregular cycles or missing periods. Prolactin is a hormone that's responsible for lactation, certain breast tissue development and milk production.
Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG): this hormone binds to estrogen and testosterone helping control the amount and balance of sex hormones available to the body. SHBG may be related to insulin function, affecting conditions like metabolic syndrome and PCOS.
Free & total testosterone: Testosterone is produced in the ovaries and the adrenal glands. Testosterone help regulate mood and supports the health of female reproductive tissue and bones.
DHEA: the hormone that is helpful in determining whether the adrenal glands are functioning properly. It is also the parent hormone to testosterone and estrogen. Low levels of DHEAS in the blood are linked to decreased pituitary and adrenal function, which can cause many health problems for women, including weakness and fatigue, difficulty in controlling weight, menstrual irregularity, and infertility.
Vitamin D: Acts like a hormone in the body and is very important for healthy, regular, pain-free menstrual cycles & optimal fertility, along with optimal energy levels and stable mood.
Cortisol: A vitally important hormone made by your adrenal glands that when in excess or deficiency greatly impacts your menstrual health & fertility.
Insulin: An essential hormone produced by the pancreas. Its main role is to control glucose (blood sugar) levels in our bodies. When there is a dysregulation of blood sugar, it is a driving cause of hormonal imbalances.
Should I Test My Thyroid?
If you’re getting tests done to discover what’s driving hormonal imbalances you need to be addressing your thyroid.
Conventional doctors do not generally perform comprehensive thyroid analysis, they only test TSH which doesn’t give the full picture of thyroid function, so this is where a functional practitioner is necessary.
Testing for thyroid is essential if you:
- Have a family history of thyroid disease to discover your potential risk
- Have been diagnosed with high TSH levels
- Are struggling with losing weight/gaining weight, fatigue, low mood or other low thyroid symptoms yet the doctors only test your TSH levels
- Currently taking thyroid medications
At a minimum, talk to your practitioner about testing TSH, Free T4, and T3, and discuss potential testing for the following:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): a brain hormone which signals your thyroid to produce T4 (& a little bit of T3).
- Free Thyroxine (T4) and Free Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroid binding globulin (TBG)
- Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and Thyroglobulin (TgAb) antibodies: common antibodies to see with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
- Thyroid Receptor Antibodies: seen in cases of hyperthyroidism or Graves disease.
- Reverse T3: considered inactive thyroid hormone that can be elevated in times of stress, both physical and emotional.
How Do I Test My Hormones?
The three main methods of testing your hormones include blood, saliva, and urine testing, and they all have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Many hormones can be tested accurately via blood tests, also known as serum tests which will give a good baseline. The following included:
A practitioner recommended option for at home testing is the DUTCH Hormone Testing:
DUTCH is Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones, a revolutionary model of hormone testing using four simple, dried urine collections in 24 hours to give a comprehensive assessment of sex and adrenal hormones and their metabolites.
You can order this test for yourself online, but it’s important to have a licensed healthcare professional interpret your results for you. When you are testing insulin, adrenals, brain, and thyroid, your doctor can order these labs for you.
You can look into DUTCH testing here.
When To Test Hormones?
The “when” to test your hormones is where the confusion and most error occurs.
Unfortunately many doctors don’t take into consideration “when” to test hormones, so often results are an incorrect representation of what is actually going on!
Your hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the month, so you need to test specific hormones at different times of your menstrual cycle for accurate results.
This is why when it comes to hormone testing, I usually recommend seeing a qualified functional practitioner or naturopath, or provide your doctor with a print out of the guide I provide in Master Your Cycle requesting specific tests.
Gone are the days of guessing "whats wrong with you?" or "where to start" on your journey to fixing your hormones & improving your health. Understanding hormone testing, discovering your baseline & actively tracking your health with testing helps you to become the expert of your own body!