By Drs. Rich & Karilee Shames
(The following is an article on saliva testing by Drs. Rich and Karilee Shames, two of my favorite thyroid specialists.)
There's a lot of buzz out there right now about bio-identical hormones and new testing opportunities. As a Doctor-Nurse hormone balancing team for over twenty years, we have some helpful news that may make it easier for you to understand the best methods for checking your hormones.
When it comes to testing hormones, the conventional lab blood draw levels of your hormones in the body are often inaccurate and misleading. Why? Hormones don't float free in the blood; they are tightly bound to blood proteins (the binding globulins).
When tested with the older standard blood draws, hormone that shows up in the blood draw is not actually available to the tissues that use it. Hormones that are bound and unavailable to the tissues show up as a large part of your hormone test result. Therefore, a standard blood test is not accurate unless you also measure the level of the "binding proteins," and know the degree of affinity. In other words, what they are measuring is most often not the amount of hormone that is actually free and ready to go to work in your tissues.
A much superior way to test for these hormones (our sensitive messenger chemicals) is to check the amount that is unbound and ready to go to work in your body. This is called measuring the "free fraction," which is what saliva testing does. The steroid hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisone, DHEA) are much more reliable when tested for by this newer technology, using saliva rather than blood.
Even the NIH and World Health Organization have discovered and are now utilizing saliva testing for its ease, low cost, and superiority.
Regarding thyroid hormones, blood is a fine way to test for its levels in the body, but capillary blood by the new finger-stick technology (as opposed to the older "needle in an arm vein" technology) is a much more accurate measurement of your true thyroid status. You can even measure thyroid antibodies by this more sensitive method. Whether it's Free T4, or Free T3, and especially with TSH, blood spot finger prick technology is definitely better.
For example, TSH tests are most often drawn in the morning at conventional laboratories. The blood often sits around in tubes all day long until run by some large machinery at a central lab far from the draw station, generally in the evening. More often, blood is drawn in your doctor's office or at a small satellite lab, then courier trucks come and pick up the samples and deliver them elsewhere. The point is that during all of this time, sometimes many hours, fragile TSH molecules are degrading in the tube as a liquid. This results in the test showing a lower TSH than you actually have, which means, ultimately, that you don't get diagnosed until much later than you should. And once diagnosed, you don't get as high a dose of thyroid medicine as you truly need.
Far better is the new technology of finger prick blood spot testing. Several drops of blood from your finger are placed on a special filter paper. Once dry (within a few minutes) the level of TSH in that sample is fixed and solidly reliable for weeks! (It's only in a liquid form that TSH degrades rapidly.)
Best of all, however, is that saliva testing and finger prick blood assay testing are now available without a doctor's prescription. You can order online at CanaryClub.org, and a kit will arrive in the mail to your home. You provide the samples at your convenience and from the privacy and comfort of you own living space. Then you simply send the kit back directly to the lab in its prepaid mailer. Your results are mailed back to you within 7-10 days from the time the lab receives the results. Check the Understanding Your Results section for additional information.
Finally, if you would like further interpretation about exactly what these results mean for your own personal health status, consider a personalized telephone coaching session with Dr. Shames, a seasoned physician and hormone expert. Visit our website for more information.
Karilee H. Shames PhD, RN, A-HNC
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of four research studies on their treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.