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What You Need to Know About How to Use Saliva Testing

An image of kidneys highlighting their adrenal glandsYour body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response is your first line of defense when presented with any physical or psychological stress. Starting with the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, it gives rise to a series of actions that ready your body to deal with any given situation perceived as stress. The good news is that saliva testing may give you insight into how your NEM functions, your stress response, and whether you may potentially develop adrenal fatigue or other health issues.

Adrenal fatigue, a condition whereby your adrenal glands become overtaxed due to the continuous, elevated levels of cortisol production required to fight stress, could potentially result in many symptoms and health issues. These issues include hormone imbalance, heart disease, various autoimmune disorders, and more.

Different Saliva Testing Options

There are many types of saliva testing used to determine your NEM function.

Saliva Testing for Hormone Levels

Saliva testing based on checking on different hormones, to a large degree, gives you an indication of whether a problem exists.

They do not, however, give a clear indication as to what the problem is.

Only experienced clinicians can accurately determine the possible causes of the saliva testing results, and even then, mistakes can happen. This is largely because these tests only indicate the presence of a problem and do not show the root cause. There is also much variance in results.

You should not, therefore, view the results given by a computer as final. Rather, you should look at your results as a starting point to finding the root cause of an underlying issue.

These tests include:

  • salivary dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
  • salivary cortisol
  • pregnenolone
  • estradiol
  • progesterone

Essentially, these saliva testing results give insight as to how your NEM is functioning at a given time. When under stress, a rise or decline in certain hormone levels would give a qualified healthcare professional insight into how your body is dealing with stress.

Please do remember stress is not only psychological in nature. Physiological issues, diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors could also cause stress and influence your NEM.

Secretory IgA Saliva Testing

Found in your saliva, salivary immunoglobulin A, or SIgA, is your immune system’s first line of defense when making contact with foreign pathogens, viruses, and bacteria. SIgA, an antibody, protects the lining of your mouth, airways, and digestive tract against infections.

As such, SIgA is considered a reliable biomarker when discerning your gastrointestinal health with regards to allergies, leaky gut, candida, food sensitivities, and small bacterial overgrowth. These conditions are associated with adrenal fatigue. SIgA saliva testing could thus indicate the presence of adrenal issues. Those under a lot of chronic stress also tend to have lower SIgA production, causing your immune system in the gut to be reduced and a higher risk for infections.

Children and the elderly whose saliva testing show low SIgA tend to have a higher risk of developing various health issues that include periodontal diseases, caries, and upper respiratory tract infections. While there is no significant difference in SIgA production between men and women, individual differences seem to exist when determining infection responses and thus may indicate a risk factor.

Do note, however, that your saliva and serum SIgA levels have no bearing on each other.

SIgA production is highest during early childhood and starts declining after the age of six years.

SIgA versus IgA

SIgA works by preventing carcinogens, micro-organisms, and food protein from binding to absorptive cells surfaces. The antibodies attach themselves to these invading pathogens and trap them in your mucus. In so doing, they cannot move through your body. The toxins present in these pathogens are neutralized before your body excretes them via feces.

Your SIgA levels also play a role in addressing allergies and food intolerances by identifying acceptable, non-invasive foods and acting on foods deemed unsuitable in the same way it acts on invading pathogens.

Although related, SIgA and serum IgA are not the same. Blood tests checking your immunity and allergies often check your IgA together with immunoglobulin E (IgE) and immunoglobulin G (IgG). But the IgA and SIgA are independent of each other, with normal levels of one not necessarily meaning normal levels for the other. You thus need to test each independently.

People with low IgA show a propensity for immune-related issues like allergies, infections, and skin issues. Those most at risk of immune-related health issues include people suffering from chronic stress, those on the autistic spectrum, or those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Lower IgA levels indicate a weakened body with a limited ability to overcome infections. They may experience limited adrenal function and suffer from fatigue, crashes, relapses, and prolonged recovery time. These indicate an immune system struggling to cope.

High SIgA levels show a sub-clinical system infection or leaky gut. They are an individual marker pertaining to your NEM Stress Response regarding inflammation, detoxification, your immune system, and gastric system.

Salivary Alpha-Amylase (sAA) Testing

An image of bacterial infectionsSalivary alpha-amylase (sAA), a protein enzyme found in your mouth, plays a role in defending your body against bacterial infections. It is a possible biomarker involved in sympathetic (autonomic) nervous system activation.

Your autonomic nervous system signals control sAA secretions via your salivary glands. Much literature suggests your body releases sAA in response to stress. This could result from physiological circumstances like heat, cold, or exercise, or from psychological reasons like the stress experienced while taking a test.

Studies do not, however, indicate a correlation between sAA and cortisol levels during stressful conditions. This suggests that the sAA difference seen may mean the protein enzyme’s stress response is independent of the stress response experienced by your HPA axis.

High sAA levels indicate a body undergoing high levels of stress. By measuring and comparing your sAA and cortisol levels, you could gain valuable insight into the different interactions between your HPA axis and autonomic nervous system in response to different types of stress responses or different psychological conditions. Regarding the NEM stress response, these comparisons may give valuable insights into the Cardionomic, Neuroaffect, and Hormonal systems when encountering stress.

Interlukin-1 Beta (Interleukin-1ß or IL-1ß) Saliva Testing

Interleukin-1 beta is a cytokine protein also referred to as a leukocytic endogenous mediator, lymphocyte activating factor, or leukocytic pyrogen. Manufactured in different cells, cytokines include monocytes, dendritic cells, fibroblasts, and macrophages.

As a pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-1 beta is involved in your inflammatory response during times of chronic or acute inflammation, or when your body experiences constant low-grade inflammation such as with obesity. Interleukin-1 beta thus reliably indicates the presence of inflammation.

Your body usually releases interleukin-1 beta after exposure to antigens or when an injury takes place. Although released throughout the body, it is also secreted in your saliva because of the presence of immune cells in your mouth.

Four-Point Cortisol Saliva Testing

Four-point cortisol saliva testing tests cortisol levels four times during the day. This allows for an accurate mapping of your cortisol levels throughout the day and gives a good indication of your adrenal function. Simply doing one saliva test does not give an accurate reflection of your body’s cortisol production because it only shows your cortisol levels at one point during the day. Normally, your cortisol levels rise and decline at different times of the day.

Also for best results, you should repeat the test after a few months, usually between three and six months. Doing so gives a better understanding as to your body’s cortisol production and levels over a given period.

Your first saliva test in the morning shows your free cortisol output. The lunchtime test shows your cortisol adaptability. The mid-afternoon test indicates any metabolic issues like blood sugar imbalance.  And the evening level indicates your baseline cortisol function.

On the bright side, you can collect specimens yourself using a saliva collection kit and take it for testing.

A Point to Remember

Please take note that your NEM’s various markers are not individually definitive. Each points to a different function and only gives an indication of your body’s response to stress.

In other words, each of these tests, taken by itself, does not give you a clear indication of how your NEM responds to stress. You cannot rely on an individual test to make a concrete diagnosis.

For clinical reasons, you should rather use different tests and make comparisons. You should also consider your medical history and your various stress symptoms before coming to a conclusion. You have to take into account the whole picture to come up with an answer to the root cause of your problems.

Why You Should Test Your NEM Response

Your body is built to handle stress. This it does via your NEM stress response. But it is only built to adequately handle stress of short duration. When long-term stress comes into play, you have a constantly activated NEM stress response with little time left for recuperation. This may, in the long-term, have a negative effect on your adrenal function and result in different symptoms that seemingly have nothing in common.

The various symptoms experienced could stem from:

  • An image of a woman holding her inflamed abdomenHormone circuit dysfunction
  • a compromised Bioenergetics circuit
  • an overtaxed Detoxification circuit
  • an Inflammation circuit that cannot cope
  • a dysregulated Neuroaffect circuit
  • a Cardionomic circuit affected by various of the above

And we are often totally unaware that these put us at risk of developing health issues that could potentially have serious consequences.

Because your HPA axis and NEM stress response respond to and address stress, testing their function gives you an indication about the state of your adrenals and any potential health issues that may further develop. Saliva testing is your first indicator of how your body deals with stress.

In Closing

Saliva testing gives an indication of your body’s response to stress. If worried about this response, here are a few things you can consider.

  1. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about saliva testing.
  2. Give your healthcare practitioner a clear indication of your medical history.
  3. Explore any possible factors contributing to your stress levels.

Do remember that one type of saliva testing does not give an accurate diagnosis. You may need to do a few different tests and take your medical history and other contributing factors into consideration. This helps with making a concrete diagnosis as to the root cause of any issue.

If you would like to know more about saliva testing, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Saliva testing tests various compound levels in your saliva. While your results may indicate the possibility of adrenal fatigue, diagnosing the condition is more difficult and takes many more factors into consideration. Saliva testing is, however, a good place to start when worried about this health issue.

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