How To Get Your Hormones Tested And What To Do Next
Last updated on by Alisa Vitti
So, youve been feeling less than great lately maybe the first sign was irregular or heavy and painful periods, or maybe it was some weight gain and acne either way, you know something is wrong and you want to feel better. Youre thinking it might be hormone-related. What now?
Many women take a trip to their OBGYN and ask for a hormone test. This is a great first step towards treating your health issues. But the results can be confusing and concerning without a little background information and preparation. Knowledge is power! Theres no need to be mystified.
Remember: no result received is static, the diagnosis you get can and will change with the right kind of treatment.
A Hormone Imbalance Can Cause Chronic Health Issues
When your hormones are in proper balance they help the body thrive, but small problems with hormones can cause serious and life-altering symptoms. Specifically, imbalances of sex hormones, thyroid hormones and adrenal hormones are common problems that can contribute to a host of chronic health issues. Unfortunately, conventional medicine often doesnt understand the significant role hormone imbalances play in many health complaints.
Why Have A Female Hormones Screen
The female hormones screen will test you for the levels of four separate important hormones. Hormones are chemicals produced by certain cells in our bodies. These chemicals are responsible for regulating a wide variety of processes including metabolism, digestion, lactation and reproduction.
The hormones tested for in this profile are all involved in regulating a womans reproductive cycle. If they are not in balance, this can indicate problems with certain glands such as the Pituitary and Thyroid glands. High or low levels of these hormones can also affect a womans ability to conceive and carry a foetus to term. So these hormones are important indicators of reproductive health.
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What Hormones Are Doctors Looking For
Dr. Sekhon explained that your doctor may take a targeted approach in hormonal testing, meaning they will test for one specific hormone that’s commonly associated with your symptoms rather than testing everything.
She added that your doctor should also fill you in on exactly what is being tested and why. “I think a huge movement in medicine right now is more transparency because people go to the doctor and sometimes get this whopping copay and they’re like, ‘I don’t even know what was tested!'”
If you have an irregular period, your doctor may call for a hormonal panel that tests for multiple hormones that play a part in the menstrual cycle and fertility, such as estrogen, progesterone, FSH, LH, and prolactin.
Dr. Kasper added that the hormones testosterone, thyroid, cortisol, and DHEAS are also commonly checked during hormone testing.
Regardless of what hormones are being tested, Dr. Sekhon believes that any doctor that is sending off a hormone test should be able to then read that test for you and explain what it means for your body. “If they can’t interpret what the test results mean, then they should really be sending you to a specialist who can,” she said.
Is It Time To Get Your Hormone Levels Checked
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James B. LaValle, RPh, CCN, a clinical pharmacist and board-certified clinical nutritionist based in Foothill Ranch, California. He is author of four books, including Your Blood Never Lies: How to Read a Blood Test for a Longer, Healthier Life and Cracking the Metabolic Code: 9 Keys to Optimal Health. JimLaValle.com
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Weve all had routine blood teststo check our cholesterol levels, blood glucose, thyroid hormone and other important health indicators. But theres a lot that you could be missing.
To get a fuller picture: Talk to your doctor about blood tests that check levels of hormones that are often overlooked. As chemical messengers that affect virtually every function in your body, these hormones play a crucial role in everything from your immune system and brain health to your sex drive, mood and energy levels.
The problem is, such hormone levels are usually tested only when a problem is suspected. But many integrative-health experts now recommend annual testing of specific hormone levels for adults over age 30, especially to learn more about*
Cortisol is the King Kong of hormoneslevels of all other hormones can be affected, in one way or another, by ones cortisol levels.
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Common Hormonal Imbalances Seen In Women
We have at least 50 different hormones in our body, and very complex symptoms can arise from them, Dr. Batur says. Having too much or too little of certain hormones causes symptoms and issues with your health.
Here are some of the most common hormonal imbalances seen in people assigned female at birth .
- Menopause: Its natural to stop menstruating as you age. But menopause causes changing levels of estrogen and progesterone, which can lead to a slew of symptoms, including some that begin in the lead-up known as perimenopause.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome : When your ovaries create unusually high levels of hormones of male hormones, your reproductive hormones become imbalanced.
- Thyroid disease: Your thyroid is a small organ in your neck that produces hormones that impact many organs in your body, but sometimes, it makes either too much or too little of these hormones. There are a few kinds of thyroid disease, which means there are many possible symptoms.
- Diabetes: This common condition occurs when your pancreas doesnt make any or enough of the hormone insulin or when your body doesnt use it properly. Diabetes is the most common hormone-related condition in the United States.
There are less-common hormonal imbalances, too, like Cushings syndrome and Addisons disease. Only a doctor can help identify which hormonal imbalance youre experiencing and what course of treatment is best.
When To Test Thyroid Labs
We cant discuss testing for hormone imbalances without looking at the thyroid. Thyroid testing is best down first thing in the morning and can be at any point in your cycle. We typically add these in when we are testing for other hormones.
Its important to stop any supplements with biotin at least 72 hours in advance as it can skew results.
At a minimum, I would suggest looking at:
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How And When Will The Patient Find Out The Results
Results are returned to the doctor or specialist nurse who is looking after the patient. They may be contacted immediately to discuss the results or wait until they are next seen in clinic.
Results must be interpreted in the context of other medical details. With endocrinology in particular, the same numerical result may signify health in one person, but a problem in another. Patients should discuss results with their doctor rather than trying to interpret them themselves.
Routine results are produced within one working day providing additional measurements are not required, for example, if it has to be double-checked. Results on samples sent to reference laboratories for special tests may take one to four weeks to return.
Testing For A Hormonal Imbalance
Although a hormone imbalance may bring some obvious symptoms, thatâs not always the case. For example, it can be challenging for someone to decipher whether the depression theyâre experiencing is related to a life event or if itâs instead because of hormone levels that are affecting their mental health. Thatâs why consulting with a healthcare provider is a good idea any time you arenât sure whatâs going on with your health.
Hormone testing may also be worth considering if youâre curious to learn whether you have a hormonal imbalance. Everlywell makes testing your hormones easy with at-home test kits that come with everything you need for collecting your sample and sending it to a lab . Plus, you can view your results on our secure, online platform in an easy-to-understand format. This can be a simpleâbut powerfulâway to see if hormones are balanced in your body and learn your personal levels.
As an example, consider a Womenâs Health Test to check for a hormonal imbalance in women.
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Free Thyroxine And Free Triiodothyronine
Thyroid binding globulin is a protein that transports thyroid hormone & makes it so your body cant use it. When thyroid hormone is bound it is measured via blood test as Total T4 & Total T3.
Your cells use Free T4 & Free T3. This is why we measure both of these markers in addition to TSH.
Your T4 is inactive and T3 is active. T3 is involved in your mood, menses, metabolism, and gut motility.
Saliva Testing For Hormone Levels
In the body, almost all hormones circulating in the bloodstream are bound to carrier proteins. Unlike blood-based tests, saliva diagnostics can measure the amount of free, unbound hormones that are available to act in the body. Salivary concentrations represent the hormone levels that are most likely to impact the body. By measuring these levels, providers can determine which hormones are available and present in excess and where there may be a deficiency.
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How To Get Your Hormone Health In Check
Let me start by saying I am not an expert in balanced hormones. I am, however, a black belt level expert in unbalanced hormones. Everything Im about to share with you quite literally comes from my own experience and the things that helped me out of my hormone hole, so I hope there is something here that can help you, too.
So. The H word. Whats the big deal? What do hormones affect? In short, everything. In fact, your hormones and gut health can have a bigger effect on your health than anything else, even if your diet is sparkling clean. Hormones are your bodys chemical messengers, and if they are off, your quality of life can be greatly affected . Your mood, weight, muscle tone, fertility, sleep, skin health, metabolism, sexual function, bowel health, anxiety, depression, and productivity , are quite dependent on hormone and gut health.
Your mood, weight, muscle tone, fertility, sleep, skin health, metabolism, sexual function, bowel health, anxiety, depression, and productivity , are all dependent on hormone and gut health.
Without further adieu, here is an acronym to help you on your journey toward becoming the flower in your hair, Enya-listening, zen woman that has been patiently meditating behind your mood swings waiting for her debut:
Plant good seeds, reap the fruit of healthy hormones!
Why Do You Usually Recommend The Test To Be Done On Day 3
Hormones varying during menstrual cycle, therefore traditionally advice is to take day the sample on day 3. However, if it is not possible to take your sample at this time, as there are ranges for different phases of cycle, then day 3 sample is not an absolute requirement. If your sample is taken at another point in your cycle your results range will be adjusted accordingly.
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Causes And Symptoms Of Hormonal Imbalance
When the endocrine system is functioning smoothly, its precise and timely release of hormones works to promote optimal health and function. The glands in this system assist in nearly every critical bodily function. So, if there is a problem with one or more glands, hormonal imbalance can occur, causing a variety of problems, some more serious than others. These changes can be detected by undergoing a hormone imbalance test, which is an opening door towards getting the right kind of treatment to address your hormonal imbalance symptoms.
When To Test Cortisol
We cant always get a full picture of whats going on with your hormones without looking at the adrenals, which produce the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol is involved in your stress response, hair loss, blood sugar regulation and more. In time of stress, the body will shift into preferentially making cortisol over progesterone. Read more about the importance of cortisol here.
Cortisol blood tests are best performed in the morning, along with Adrenocorticotropic hormone , because this is when levels are highest. ACTH is produced in the pituitary gland and helps your adrenals to function. For a more comprehensive picture of adrenal function, a 4-point salivary or urinary cortisol is best. Cortisol can be tested at any time of the month.
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When Is The Best Time To Test Other Hormone Levels
Your sex hormones arent the only ones you may need to look at to understand the cause of your hormone symptoms.
When to Test InsulinIf youre trying to get to the bottom of a PCOS diagnosis, you will need to evaluate insulin. If you have a family history of diabetes or your clinician suspects insulin dysregulation, this is a test they will likely order. Typically, insulin is tested while fasting along with blood glucose. Because of this, the test is commonly done first thing in the morning. It is recommended that biotin be stopped at least 72 hours before testing. Fasting insulin is a good place to start, but you may need to do a glucose challenge as well. Finding out what your insulin looks like after you eat can also be helpful. Your doctor will help determine the right tests for you.
When to Test DHEADehydroepiandrosterone is a crucial anti-aging hormone the body can convert into estrogen or testosterone. It is an important marker of adrenal function and is a hormone that declines with age. DHEA can be tested at any time of the month and is typically done alongside a cortisol test.
*The goal here is to measure at minimum TSH, Free T4, and T3 so you get a picture of what the brain says, how the thyroid responds, and the the bodys ability to activate the thyroid hormone you actually use.
From the research, it appears progesterone, progestin, and topical estrogen do NOT elevate TBG. It is oral estrogen which influences the increase in binding proteins.
How To Check Estrogen Levels
This article was medically reviewed by Aimee Eyvazzadeh, MD, MA. Aimee Eyvazzadeh is a Fertility Specialist and the Founder of The Egg Whisperer Show, a fertility care program focusing on fertility education based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has been featured in magazines such as People, Forbes, and Marie Claire, and she has been featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and CNN. She earned an MD from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001, completed an OB/GYN residency at Harvard Medical School in 2005, and finished a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at University of Michigan, where she also completed an MPH. This article has been viewed 9,443 times.
Estrogen is a hormone that affects the reproductive system and the development of secondary sex characteristics . Estrogen levels can also impact your mood and the health of your skin, bones, liver, and heart.XResearch source Whether you are pregnant, trying to conceive, concerned about a possible hormone imbalance, or taking hormone-based medications, you may need to keep an eye on your estrogen levels. Visit your healthcare provider to get your levels tested, or ask your healthcare provider to order an at-home test kit for you.
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The Pill And Your Thyroid
Its important to note that the pills role in elevating TBG, Sex Hormone Binding Globulin & Cortisol Binding Globulin is well recognized. In fact, it is how researchers can verify who is & isnt actually taking the pill in clinical trials.
Its also listed in prescriber handbooks as a change we expect to see in labs. When TBG goes up, total thyroid hormone levels go up and free thyroid levels can go down.
Now, if you thought that total thyroid hormone was what the body utilized & that is all you measured then you might think, thyroid function is improved on birth control. However, FREE thyroid hormone is what you use, and not bound thyroid hormone .
This is why I test thyroid hormones in my patients before they start the pill and we continue to monitor symptoms & labs to ensure it is working best for them. Yes, some of my patients decide to use the pill for birth control or other reasons and I support them in doing that.
From the research, it appears progesterone, progestin, & topical estrogen do NOT elevate TBG. It is oral estrogen that influences the increase in binding proteins.
If you want a deep dive into the Birth Control-Thyroid Connection, then you can read all about it in this article.
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Your Female Hormone Test List: The Results Are In
Theres likely no best method when it comes to evaluating your hormone levels. Dried blood-spot and dried urine testing are likely the preferred methods when you want multiple measurements of your hormone levels, such as in cycle mapping. This can be useful in evaluating menstrual abnormalities and non-specific symptoms of a hormonal imbalance.
These are also the preferred methods for women on hormone-replacement therapy, as they can measure hormone metabolites. However, these tests can be expensive and time-consuming, and arent necessarily indicated in all situations.
If youre looking for a quick, inexpensive, and accurate way to diagnose an endocrine or reproductive disorder, serum blood testing is likely a safe bet. Furthermore, certain methods like saliva testing arent suitable for young women, but can be very helpful in diagnosing infertility.
In short, there is no one size fits all option when it comes to hormone testing, and its best to speak with your healthcare provider about which method is best for you. If youre considering hormone testing, and would like assistance in addressing the root cause of your chronic health symptoms, reach out to our functional medicine clinic today.
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