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If you’ve been struggling with a health problem that your doctor hasn’t been able to get to the bottom of, saliva testing may help to solve the mystery. “It’s a good way to find out what’s going on with your male and female hormones, as well as your cortisol [energy] levels,” .

Description: It’s a good way to find out what’s going on with your male and female hormones, as well as your cortisol [energy] levels

It’s a good way to find out what’s going on with your male and female hormones, as well as your cortisol [energy] levels

Coates says she uses it to help confirm her medical suspicions of a patient’s symptoms. “With a blood test which tests for hormonal imbalance, 90 per cent of the time I can figure out what’s going on. But for some women, the blood test doesn’t indicate what’s going on with their biochemistry, and saliva test will take the research a step further.”

If you’ve had every test under the sun and they’ve come back normal and yet you still feel terrible, a saliva test may help you to discover exactly what’s causing your symptoms. “People can become convinced that they have something dreadful and undiagnosable,” says Coates. “A saliva test can put your mind at rest and can also help you to find out where best to spend your health dollar.”

Saliva testing can often be helpful for patients who are suffering from fatigue for which there’s no obvious cause. “Extreme tiredness could be caused by low iron or thyroid problems, but these traditional problems can be looked at using a blood test,” says Coates. “If the blood test is normal and a person is still tired, then we can look at whether their adrenal glands are producing appropriate levels of cortisol.”

“When we get people who are exhausted, they’ll have flat-lining cortisol levels throughout the morning and afternoon, rising during the evening,” she explains. “You can focus on the underlying cause, which is usually stress, and you can incorporate supportive treatments, such as herbal treatments or acupuncture.”

How it works

Doing a saliva test is very simple, but will vary slightly depending on which hormones you are testing for. For example, to test for female hormones and cortisol, a test kit of four test tubes is provided; on day 21 of your menstrual cycle (or any day of those women who are not menstruating) you fill the test tubes with your saliva: about 5ml in the morning, noon, afternoon and night. “It takes a snapshot of your hormones over the course of a day,” says Coates.

What happens next?

Once you know whether your body has too much or little progesterone, oestrogen or testosterone, it’s quite straightforward to finetune them using herbs, supplements of lifestyle changes. The cortisol team can also track your energy output throughout the day. “We can really tailor the treatment to a woman’s needs once we know the whole picture, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Coates.

Want to know more?

Healthyscope Pathology, NutriPath and Dorevitch perform the tests, or you can ask your GP. It costs from $20 per hormones and up to 20 hormones can be tested.

Description: It costs from $20 per hormones

It costs from $20 per hormones

“It confirmed my suspicions…”

Kelly Roberts, 32, works in administration. She had saliva testing after her GP recommended it following about of chronic fatigue syndrome. “I’ve been run-down for about a year. I decided to have saliva testing, which was a very easy process. I had to fill a small test of tube with my spit four times over the course of a day, and then posted these off to a laboratory for testing. The results were back in two weeks and were really helpful. They confirmed my suspicions and explained a lot about my symptoms. My nature path recommended lifestyle and diet changes: I eliminated sugar, caffeine, gluten, and alcohol, took supplements to support my adrenals, and did exercises to wind down at night”. Undoing adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue takes time and commitment, so I wouldn’t say I’m 100 per cent cured. Out of all the tests I’ve had done in the past two years through, this has been one of the most helpful.

Into the future

A University of Queensland research project is pioneering the use of saliva testing to detect, prevent and manage heart disease. It’s an easy and cost-effective way to detect heart disease prior to its onset

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