Testing Hormones

Here at The Natural Nutritionist we’re hugely interested in your hormone health. After all, appetite control, craving control, satiety, fat loss and so many benefits of LCHF stem from achieving hormone balance. Yes, fat loss results from hormone balance. When the benefits of LCHF aren’t evident within a few months, further investigation into why is paramount.  It could be due to nutrient deficiencies and/or digestive challenges, yet in many cases these issues are compounded by hormone imbalances.   

In the case of hormonal imbalance, there are often warning signs. For females these include hot flushes, lack of libido, stress, worry, menstrual irregularity, amenorrhea, PMS, excess cellulite and quite possibly a combination of all. For males it may be a lack of energy, lack of libido, grumpiness, irritability, weakened erections or falling asleep after dinner.  So, how do you know if hormone imbalance is standing between you and LCHF success? Testing. As we always say, ‘test don’t guess’.

What to test? 

The most popular hormone test conducted at TNN is the Baseline and Adrenal Salivary Hormone Profile or DUCTH (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones). These tests looks at sex hormones and stress hormones. There is an out of pocket fee associated with doing such comprehensive profiling, but the information received, and the subsequent specificity of your treatment protocol is by far worth it.  At the other end of the spectrum is a blood test. It’s a great place to start, but unfortunately important elements can be missed. Which include: 

Time of the month: for pre-menopausal women, hormone testing should be conducted on day 21 of the cycle, or midway through the luteal phase if the cycle is longer than 28 days.  This is when we expect the most visible difference between oestrogen and progesterone. 

Time of day: for a true understanding of cortisol regulation (or dysregulation as the case often is) a trend over the course of a day is used. This means reading cortisol levels at four times: between 6 – 8am, midday, 6pm and 10pm. There can be some variances according to the testing that you do, so be sure to follow the test instructions provided when it comes to testing. 

The mode of testing: saliva or urine are used over blood because they identify the free and available hormones, rather than the protein bound hormones found in blood. It also allows freedom to test on the most relevant day of the month and/or time of day. A test tube of saliva can be gathered quite easily anywhere and anytime, yet the same can’t be said for a vial of blood. 

The number of hormones tested: it’s common to have progesterone and oestrogen tested in females, but when doing a more comprehensive profile all three oestrogens are tested as well as progesterone, testosterone, DHEAS and cortisol. For men, two oestrogens are tested, as well as testosterone, DHEAS and cortisol. DUTCH offers even more.

Why go the extra mile?

Put simply, hormones are an orchestra. They all need to be on song to have the best effect and one ‘off note’ can start a chain reaction to spoil the rest. Let’s use the example of stress. Stress leads to cortisol production and chronic stress leads to chronic cortisol production.  An upregulation in cortisol production will lead to a subsequent downregulation in progesterone production. Low progesterone will lead to comparatively high levels of oestrogen, which is when classic symptoms of oestrogen dominance surface. These include not only fat loss resistance, but water retention, breast swelling, irritability and moodiness (particularly prior to menstruation), anxiety and heavy or clotty periods. 

In this example, without the visibility of cortisol over the course of a day, all three oestrogens and progesterone, the cause of hormone related symptoms could easily have been missed and even worse, not treated. Just this one example clearly demonstrates how through testing we have knowledge and with knowledge comes power. 

What’s involved?

  • For females, set a reminder to collect your samples on Day 21 of your cycle (where day 1 is the first day of your period) or half way through the luteal phase. If you have an irregular cycle, work with your practitioner to determine the best day. For men and post-menopausal women, choose any day of the month. 
  • On the day of collecting, you’ll need to set aside about 15 minutes at four points: 6 – 8am, midday, 6pm and 10pm. 
  • Each collection will require you to collect urine on a filter paper or produce a saliva sample into a test tube. It can be a difficult generating the amount required, so I recommend thinking of food, looking at food or perhaps scrolling through some the recipes on our website (any excuse, hey). 
  • You’ll send your samples for analysis and your practitioner will receive results within two – four weeks. 
  • 12 hours prior to testing cease hormone creams and avoid alcohol. If you use troche, cease three days prior to testing.

This article has purposefully not detailed how to naturally balance hormones as this is something already documented in Hormone Control 101

If you’re ready to quit the guessing game and truly understand what hormones are standing in your way, book in for a complimentary 15-minute consultation with one of team here at TNN.  You might also be interested in our Creating Healthy Hormones program.

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