What is Naturopathic Hormone Testing?
When it comes to hormone testing, in naturopathic medicine we look at functional levels of hormones that optimize health. We take a detailed view of hormones, looking at levels with a deep knowledge of what they should look at for specific days of the cycle, by patient age and by condition.
The types of tests we use
There are several ways that our naturopaths measure levels of hormones.
The most common way our naturopathic doctors measure hormones is through blood testing. Not only does blood testing offer a vast array of different hormones that can be tested, it is an evidence-based method for diagnosing hormonal conditions and understanding levels of hormones in the blood.
Many hormones can be accurately tested through blood, ranging from complete thyroid panels (TSH, free T3, free T4, Anti TPO, Anti TG, Reverse T3), estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, pituitary hormones, cortisol and more. For example, the diagnosis of a hormonal condition like PCOS is made through blood tests and clinical presentation. Urinary or salivary testing cannot confirm the diagnosis of PCOS.
Blood testing is both convenient for patients, and comprehensive in the information it provides for your naturopathic doctor.
A custom blood panel can determine levels of hormones along with other selected markers that could be impacting your condition. Levels of iron, vitamin D, liver enzymes, blood sugars, white blood cells, autoimmune markers, inflammation and many more testable elements influence hormonal health.
Blood tests can also be individualized by the naturopathic doctor to patient needs. For example, if a patient is on a medication that depletes vitamin B12, the ND would create a blood panel to look for B12 deficiency along with hormone tests relevant to their condition. The way we approach lab testing in a naturopathic practice is truly comprehensive and individual to each patient’s needs.
As naturopathic doctors, we provide private requisitions for blood hormone tests through Ontario labs such as Lifelabs and Dynacare.
Urinary Hormone Testing (DUTCH)
Urinary hormone metabolites (DUTCH test) is popular with patients and is a test that our naturopathic doctors use to analyze specific types of hormone imbalance. The DUTCH test is an excellent way to see levels of the major hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and 4 different time points of cortisol with a convenient urine test that can be completed at home. This test is particularly popular for the perimenopausal transition where specific imbalances are typically seen. This test also includes several organic acids which provide information on nutritional status, antioxidant levels and neurotransmitters.
Saliva Hormone Testing
Salivary hormone testing is accurate for levels of cortisol and its pattern of secretion through the day. It is not as accurate for testing levels of many other hormones including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Hormonal health conditions should NOT be diagnosed through saliva testing.
When our naturopaths use saliva testing for cortisol, they typically order diurnal (4 point) cortisol, allowing us to see the “cortisol curve” or how a patient’s cortisol levels change at 4 different time points in the day. As cortisol should follow a specific pattern based on time of day, this test provides an understanding of the brain-adrenal axis and its relationship to overall health in the patient.
Other Types of Naturopathic Blood Tests
As previously mentioned our naturopathic doctors frequently order a wide array of non-hormonal blood tests including vitamins, minerals, and markers for metabolic, cardiovascular, autoimmune, inflammatory health and more. We can order most lab tests available through standard Ontario labs as needed per patient.
Functional Medicine Lab Testing
We also offer specialized functional medicine lab testing including the following. We also offer many more functional medicine tests, please ask us if you would like more information on a specific test.
Organic Acids Testing
Our Naturopathic doctors often run urinary organic acids testing for patients with neurological conditions, mood disorders, or chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia.
Organic acids are metabolic intermediates produced in pathways of central energy production, detoxification, neurotransmitter breakdown, and intestinal microbial activity.
Accumulation of specific organic acids in urine often signals a metabolic inhibition or block. This abnormality may be due to a nutrient deficiency, an inherited enzyme deficit, toxic build-up, or drug effect.
GI Map and Comprehensive Stool/Parasite Testing
A stool test for gastrointestinal function that includes analyses of digestion, absorption, bacterial balance, gut infections such as yeast, viruses, h pylori antigen and parasites. It provides PCR analysis of the levels of bacteria in your intestinal microbiome.
This profile is recommended for patients with GI-related symptoms, such as indigestion, dysbiosis, SIBO, constipation, and diarrhea and can allow your naturopath to develop a comprehensive gut repair program specific to markers of concern.
Food Sensitivity Testing
We are asked frequently by our patients about naturopathic food sensitivity testing. Food sensitivity is a complex concept since reactions to food can arise through multiple mechanisms.
Sometimes, food sensitivity is not an immune reaction, but is related to intestinal infection such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or functional problems such as poor motility and weak enzyme, biliary or stomach acid production. Our naturopaths can help you understand whether or not food sensitivity testing makes sense for your condition so you do not spend funds on the “wrong” test.
When food sensitivity testing is indicated for a given patient, it is done through the blood. We offer a variety of IgG food sensitivity panels including omnivorous, vegetarian and add-on panels.
Food sensitivity testing should always be analyzed with an experienced provider to determine the difference between “tolerance” and “intolerance” for the food in question. This is because one subtype of IgG antibodies, IgG4, actually helps protect against IgE food allergies. However, many IgG antibodies form complexes with antigens (like those from food) that trigger inflammation and can cause a variety of symptoms.
Purpose of Naturopath Hormone Testing
Naturopathic hormone testing is essential when it comes to understand levels of hormones in the body and their relationship to the patient’s overall health.
With a well-chosen panel, many undiagnosed conditions can be properly diagnosed and treated. Another benefit of hormone testing is that progress can be tracked through changes in patient data over time. This allows naturopathic doctors to adjust treatment protocols for patients according to their responses.
Can a naturopath help balance hormones?
Our naturopathic doctors focus specifically on hormonal balance and in treating hormonal conditions in their practice. We have a deep knowledge of hormone levels at different timings in the cycle, through different life stages and especially of how the different hormones affect each other.
Once we have an understanding of where a patient’s hormones sit and what the imbalances are, we can provide treatments to help regulate levels. Since most hormones are interrelated in their function, all of the hormones should be considered when implementing any treatment.
How can I get my hormone levels checked?
Your naturopathic doctor will thoroughly review your health during the first visit and determine which tests are most relevant and will provide trackable information on your progress. Once you receive the list of tests from your ND, you may book an appointment at the lab to have blood drawn. In reproductive-age patients, these tests may be requested on specific days of the cycle, and in certain cases the time of day to test may also be specified.
How much does hormone testing cost?
Hormone testing costs vary greatly depending on the type of the test. As an example, a basic marker for inflammation through blood could cost $7, whereas comprehensive stool testing can cost $500 or more. Your ND will always let you know about test costs and help you work within your budget. In certain cases, your MD may agree to run some blood tests under OHIP, if they also feel they are warranted for your care.
Can I test my own hormone levels?
In Ontario, lab testing is highly regulated and only certain licensed healthcare providers can order labs. Unfortunately you cannot test your own hormones in Ontario without the support of a licensed provider like a nurse practitioner, naturopathic or medical doctor.