Why your blood work and serum hormone tests can be normal, yet you experience symptoms of hormone imbalance…
» Why your blood work can be normal, yet you experience symptoms of hormone imbalance…
The “your hormones are normal” story is something that I am VERY familiar with. When you hear this, I’m pretty sure both you and your gynecologist know that this is the “get out of jail free card” for your doctor. There is no need to investigate what is happening with you when there isn’t really any proof that your hormones are out of whack. How can the blood work be so out of sync with what your body is experiencing?
Why Blood & Serum Hormone Tests Do Not Reflect Your Symptoms
Sally is 37-years-old, a mother of two and working part-time from home. She exercises a few times a week, tends to skip meals, but considers herself pretty healthy. In the last four months, Sally started noticing hot flashes a few days before her period came. What used to be one or two days of moodiness started stretching out to a week and a half of serious Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde. Her periods would start a few days earlier than expected with brown staining for three days and then the heavy downpour began. Sally asked her gynecologist to run some blood work to see what was going on with her hormones. She was thinking about having a third child but was now worried that these symptoms meant an early menopause. Her doctor called her back and told her that “her hormone levels were normal” and that her symptoms were very typical for someone her age.
Why blood and serum hormone tests do not reflect your symptoms:
- These tests don’t measure everything you need to know about your hormone levels. Standard tests measure “free” hormone in the bloodstream — the small amount of hormone that is available to enter the tissue to do work — as well as “total” hormone — the major form of hormones that travels in the bloodstream attached to a carrier protein. These attached hormones that make up the majority of hormones in the blood are not readily available to be used by the cell.
- Blood and serum results won’t tell you whether your body is safely and effectively breaking down hormones. Hormones that are not being broken down properly will, in turn, stimulate or inhibit hormone receptors throughout your body. You may also be re-circulating hormones that should have been removed from your body to begin with.
- These tests won’t tell you if the balance of estrogen and progesterone is normal. Sometimes symptoms are not related to the amounts of hormones, but the balance between hormones. Estrogen dominance is an example of a common problem that causes hormone imbalance symptoms like PMS, heavy periods, breast tenderness, mood symptoms and irregular periods.
- Female hormone symptoms may be related to adrenal hormone issues. The adrenal gland is a small organ that sits on top of the kidneys. It releases stress hormones like cortisol and DHEA, as well as adrenaline. It produces sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. When the adrenal is not functioning properly or if it is working too hard, it will not be able to support normal sex hormone function. Single blood samples of cortisol are useless since cortisol levels vary throughout the day. We get no information on the actual amount of cortisol in our body, whether the rhythm is normal or how these stress hormones are being processed in the body.
- Blood and serum testing cannot effectively track hormone replacement therapy. In my experience, you have to be on extraordinarily high levels of hormone replacement to show any shift in blood levels. Additionally, the route of administration, or the way you take your hormones (oral, vaginal, skin, etc.) will impact the results.
Why I Recommend The DUTCH Test To Diagnose Hormone Problems
Why I recommend the DUTCH test to diagnose hormone problems…
The Dutch test stands for Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones. It addresses all of the issues we can’t accurately identify through blood. It tells us whether or not the adrenal gland is directly involved. It looks at cortisol rhythm, estrogen and testosterone metabolism and 9 key hormone levels:
What Can A Patient Find Out By Using The DUTCH Test?
What can a patient find out by using the DUTCH test?
- You can accurately assess your estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels compared to blood. The DUTCH test give us a complete picture of how the adrenal and female reproductive hormones are working (or not working) together.
- If you suffer from fatigue or sleep issues, checking adrenal hormone levels and their rhythm can more effectively guide treatment.
- If you are on hormone replacement therapy, you can more accurately monitor levels and figure out how to adjust your therapy to make it safer and more effective.
- You can check if the balance between estrogen and progesterone is shifted, a condition known as estrogen dominance. This is a common cause of premenopausal issues like PMS, and irregular cycles. It worsens menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and weight gain. It can be the cause of fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS, ovarian cysts, infertility and miscarriage.
- You can see if you are metabolizing or “breaking down” estrogen correctly. If your liver is not metabolizing estrogen effectively, you can develop severe hormone imbalance symptoms, but you could also be putting yourself at risk for estrogen-related cancers like breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
- Low testosterone and DHEA levels can be responsible for feelings of fatigue, weight gain, low libido, painful joints and muscles, bone loss and mood issues like depression and anxiety.
- If you have sleep issues you can correct low melatonin levels or determine if supplementing with melatonin is worth doing.
What Can Your Doctor Do With These Results?
What can your doctor do with these results?
A lot!! Once we figure out the exact imbalances in your hormones, we can structure a program suited to your needs. As always, the framework of a hormone balancing program begins with the following “prescriptions:”
- Finding the right nutrition plan that will work best for your unique physiology
- Addressing the lifestyle factors and behaviors that will balance stress levels (and your adrenal system) — this includes looking at exercise, sleep patterns and stress reduction techniques
- Choosing the right nutrients, supplements and/or hormone therapy to support your needs
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