Cortisol Saliva Test

Saliva testing for cortisol is a diagnostic procedure that measures cortisol levels by using a saliva specimen. This is relatively new technology as typically the blood or serum samples are used to measure cortisol levels in human body.

Cortisol is a steroid found in the body and is the major glucocorticoid secreted by the adrenal cortex. It is more commonly known as the stress hormone, which plays a role in the regulation of the stress responses in the body. Cortisol is responsible for the regulation of glucose levels in the blood and also helps the metabolism of fat, carbohydrate and protein. It is involved in the functioning of the immune system, which includes anti-inflammatory actions and also plays role in blood pressure regulation, in heart and blood vessel contractions, and in activation of the central nervous system.

Purpose of Test

The cortisol saliva tests are conducted to measure cortisol levels, which can be used as an indicator of adrenal fatigue and in diagnosing diseases such as Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, adrenal hyperplasia and carcinoma. It can also be used in assessing for symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, anxiety, insomnia, depression, to name a few. High cortisol levels can mean that the memory, immune system, and sugar metabolism are being affected and possible Cushing’s syndrome, while lower than normal cortisol levels can mean Addison’s disease.

Testing procedure

Cortisol has a role to play in our biological clocks or the diurnal rhythm of our bodies. Our biological clock is responsible for telling us when to go to sleep and when to open our eyes and wake up. If you have healthy levels of cortisol, the largest dose of it is released in the morning. If an individual has Cushing's disease, the highest release of cortisol is at night. Also, levels are constantly changing and differing depending on the time of the day, so cortisol saliva tests can be performed several times throughout the day. The test procedure involves swabbing the mouth with cotton swab and letting it stay there for a couple of minutes until it is saturated, after what the swab with the saliva specimen is placed in a test tube.

Pros and Cons

Saliva swabbing is not invasive and much easier procedure as compared to taking blood samples, which involves use of a syringe, a tourniquet and a possible squirming patient, however not everyone in the health and medical field has accepted the cortisol salivary test and recommends it as a diagnostic tool, considering it as an alternative medicine.

cortisol saliva test

Until recently, cortisol levels are being measured via blood tests, because for most hormones measuring salivary samples produces inaccurate results, which do not correspond to actual levels, evaluated via blood testing. For this reason, saliva tests are not recommended as a diagnostic tool in most cases, but for cortisol, the blood and saliva samples have admissible correlation and can, therefore, both be used as a diagnostic tests. According to research of Linköping University from Sweden cortisol response in saliva is even more pronounced than in a blood sample and has a closer correlation with the adreno-corticotrophic hormone.

The results that are produced by modern cortisol saliva tests are accurate, reliable and credited by the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization.


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