At Home Testing for Hormone Imbalances
I spent a good twenty minutes yesterday morning spitting into a small plastic tube, LOL 🙂 Since I chart my cycles, I knew that I was seven days past ovulation — the best time to test for two hormones I sought further information about — progesterone and estradiol.
Saliva testing is more reliable than blood tests especially for testing progesterone and it can easily be done at home without a prescription. (Though at first it was a little messy, LOL).
I purchased a saliva testing kit from Dr. John Lee’s site. The kit sat in the bathroom for months! I kept forgetting to administer it on the seventh day past ovulation. But yesterday I finally remembered.
I wanted to test the levels of these two hormones as an imbalance between progesterone and estradiol plays a role with endometriosis and fertility. After charting my cycles, and noting my symptoms throughout my cycle, I am aware that I have symptoms of a hormonal imbalance, but I’ve never tested my saliva to see what’s off.
What are Progesterone and Estradiol?
Progesterone is a steroid hormone made by the ovaries when the body ovulates. It is also made in smaller amounts in the adrenal glands and in even smaller amounts in some nerve cells. It is manufactured in the body from a steroid hormone called pregnenolone and is a precursor to most of the other steroid hormones.
Progesterone helps the female body regulate its menstrual cycles. It is essential for creating and maintaining pregnancy. Low progesterone can cause miscarriage. According to Dr. John Lee, progesterone’s most important role is to balance or oppose the effects of estrogen.
The ovaries produce three different types of estrogen: Estrone, Estradiol and Estriol. Estrone and Estradiol are the most concentrated and therefore the most potent. They stimulate cell growth of the uterine lining in the body’s preparation for pregnancy in each menstrual cycle.
In excess, Estrone and Estradiol are bad. Because they stimulate cell growth they can also stimulate cancer cell growth (especially in the breasts and reproductive organs). They also feed endometrial cell growth in the case of endometriosis.
Progesterone is very important because it does the opposite of estradiol.
According to Dr. Lee, estrogen dominance means there’s not enough progesterone to balance the effects of estrogen. Estrogen dominant symptoms can come from not having enough progesterone or from having too much estrogen.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone and Estrogen Dominance
I revisited one of the first books that I read when I started my natural healing journey called called Hormone Balance Made Simple by Dr. John Lee. In the book he provides different symptoms for hormonal imbalances and provides tests to help determine what the issue may be.
The Hormone Balance Test is also available on his website.
The following is Dr. Lee’s lowdown on hormonal imbalance between progesterone and estrogen.
Symptoms of low progesterone:
- Early Miscarriage
- Painful or lumpy breasts
- Unexplained weight gain
- Cyclical headaches
- Hot flashes & Night Sweats
Symptoms of excess estrogen:
- Puffiness, Bloating
- Cervical dysplasia (abnormal pap smear)
- Rapid weight gain
- Breast tenderness
- Heavy bleeding
- Mood swings
- Migraines (especially premenstrual)
- Foggy Thinking
- Red flush on the face
- Gallbladder problems
- Aches and Pains
- Hair loss
- Memory loss
- Night sweats
Wow. The list for estrogen dominance is REALLY long. Easy to see why having a proper amount of progesterone to balance all the estrogen is key and why eliminating excess estrogens from the body is also key.
Unfortunately a lot of these estrogens come from our environment so they are harder to avoid. Dr. John Lee writes briefly about endometriosis stating that it is “probably caused by xenoestrogens (estrogens that are foreign to the body such as plastics or pesticides) in the womb, made worse by estrogen dominance.”
There are other factors that can cause hormonal imbalances including diet, especially one consisting of lots of sugar and carbs, lack of healthy fats and oils like Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, lack of fiber and lack of needed nutrients found in healthy foods.
Lifestyle practices like poor sleep, lots of alcohol, smoking and taking birth control all play a role in hormonal imbalances and stress management is also a huge factor.
What are Balanced Levels?
According to Dr. Lee, a normal range of estradiol in premenopausal woman is 2.5 – 3 picograms per milliliter (pg/ml) and in menopausal women it is usually about half that at 1-1.5 pg/ml. Anything higher than this indicates an imbalance.
A healthy ratio of progesterone to estradiol is at least 200 to 1.
Therefore a saliva progesterone test to be at least 500pg/ml in a premenopausal woman with an estradiol level of about 2.5-3 and at least 200pg/ml in a menopausal woman with an estradiol level of 1.5-3. Anything lower than this indicates a progesterone deficiency.
Dr. John Lee was a big component for bio-identical progesterone cream to help with hormonal imbalances. This is not a method that I have tried personally, but I do know that fellow endo sisters have had success with this method.
Dr. John Lee provides further guidance for dosing in his book, and suggests that women with endometriosis take amounts of progesterone found in a three month pregnancy.
On the Positive Side?
I am curious to see what my results are. I think this is the first step towards a better understanding of what’s going on in the body and gives focus on what to work on — i.e. stimulate progesterone or decrease/eliminate the bad estradiol!
This test is also a concern for me in consideration of the miscarriage I went through a couple of months ago. My inkling behind this tragedy was that my body isn’t producing enough progesterone. If this is the case, then I will look further into supplementing so that I can maintain my next pregnancy.
What about you…. Have you tried doing a self administered saliva test for your hormones? Have you had success correcting imbalances with progesterone cream or other methods? I’d love to hear from you….
i had blood tests done for estradiol and progesterone. I’m on Natazia after having severe, infiltrated endo cysts and liesions removed from rectum, kidney ureters, low back nerves, bladder, and left side removal
Of ovary and fallopian, etc.
My estradiol blood test is 123 and progesterone is .2, despite being on natazia birth control and skipping inactive, taking pills every day. Your numbers in the article are a different measurement. Please advise what my numbers mean.
Hi Michelle – Best to have your doctor advise you on your numbers, but when on birth control you’re essentially stopping the communication with your ovaries and their natural sex hormone production, so your numbers are going to be skewed.