Testing Hormonal Changes with Everlywell At-Home Test Kits

Wellness

The Everlywell Women's Health kit comes with everything you need to test your hormone levels

I wanted to do a little more of an in-depth look at the Everlywell women’s hormone testing kits, as I see so many people concerned about symptoms that feel hormone related. As I have mentioned in previous emails, I myself am also having some concerns and questions about the hormonal changes I have started to notice in my own body. The time had come to attempt a deeper understanding of what is happening in my system.

Why Everlywell?

Everlywell is an online company that was created around the idea that people can and should be able to order their own blood work tests. The company has a variety of test kits including: Women’s Hormone, Metabolism, Cholesterol, Thyroid, Gut Sensitivity, and many more. 

They offer these at-home test kits for a significantly reduced cost compared to what you would pay through your insurance-based healthcare provider. For example, the Women’s Health Test is $249 ( I purchased it on sale for $169), and typically when run through a medical provider that test is going to cost $700 or more.

I personally love and have embraced, with my own business model, patient-centered and patient-led autonomous healthcare. Meaning, you as the client should have a lot more influence over what type of testing and care you are receiving. Oftentimes these ideals align more with cash-based care, as insurance-based care tends to muddy the waters as we all have experienced I’m sure. 

Everlywell is not the only company out there offering these online and patient-driven lab services — there are others that I am not as familiar with.

Timing aligned where I ordered a test and two other women I know also ordered tests, which is allowing me to do a little case analysis of my own. From my perspective I am curious about a couple of things:

  1. What symptoms am I and others having that I would attribute to hormonal changes and/or dysfunction?
  2. What do I think is happening and does the bloodwork match that hypothesis about myself?
  3. What do I recommend to myself and others for “treatment” or “support” based on the collaboration of both symptoms and lab work?

So often, even in my own clinic, an individual may come in and voice concerns about their hormone levels. Something has shifted — they don’t know what and they don’t know why. Most often I make a suggestion based on symptoms, not so much on bloodwork. I believe that is also the typical standard of care in most medical practices. 

Most general practitioners will suggest hormonal support in the form of birth control or synthetic prescription estrogen replacement. These recommendations often do not have bloodwork backing them; they are made solely on client symptom reports. Another, unfortunately, common response is being dismissed as “normal” changes or minimizing the negative impact on the patients daily comfort and satisfaction. 

There are a few select practitioners out there that do something called Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. They typically use a combination of symptom report and repeat blood and saliva testing over a period of time (typically every 4 months or so) to order an individually compounded hormone replacement cream for that client. I personally know of only a few individuals in Wisconsin who practice this way. It is also fair to say that they are all cash based.  Hormone replacement done correctly is a tedious process, and most MD’s working in traditional medical systems do not have the time or knowledge to manage this kind of care.

Taking the Test

So…back to ME:)  Here’s a list of the changes I have been noticing in my cycle and body over the last 8 months.

  1. Inconsistent cycle length 21 days then 30 days then 24 days (I had always been consistently 28-30 days)
  2. Spotting for two days prior to the start of my bleed
  3. Spotting at ovulation
  4. Increase in hormonal acne
  5. Inability to lose abdominal body fat
  6. Dry and brittle hair

My hypothesis of what was happening hormonally was that Progesterone was low.  

I did the Everlywell Women’s Hormone Test over the course of 1 full month cycle. This included two blood samples (Day 4 and Day 21 in my case) and 4 saliva samples taken on Day 21. I sent the kit in, it was received 3 days later, and processed in the lab over the course of about 8 days.  I then received detailed results via an online account. The hormones that were assessed in that test included:

  • Cortisol in the morning, noon, evening, and night
  • DHEAs (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate) – Hormone instrumental in the production of testosterone and estrogen  
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
  • Lutenizing Hormone (LH)
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone
  • Free T3
  • Free T4
  • TPO Antibodies
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
  • Estradiol

This is a pretty detailed and complete assessment of the cascade of hormone activity, and disruption of any one of these can have an affect on some or all of the others. What hormone levels are abnormal will also often tell you at which point there is a disruption. For example, an elevated FSH level means that the pituitary gland is pumping out more FSH in order to cue the ovary to release eggs and subsequently estrogen.

My Results

In my particular case, my hypotheses that Progesterone would show low in my bloodwork was incorrect. 

The test's out of range results show an elevated cortisol level in the morning and at noon.
The test’s out of range results show an elevated cortisol level in the morning and at noon.

What actually showed in my bloodwork was elevated Cortisol levels in the morning and earlier part of the day, before they leveled off to “normal” in the evening and night. The bloodwork did not explain any of the cycle shifts I have been experiencing. Is there a frustration emoji that I can insert here?

Now elevated Cortisol (stress hormone) over time will have detrimental effects on sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), but my lab work did not show that. So this is the point in a research study, where it would be stated that “further studies need to be done.”  A few things come to mind as potential influences:

  1. Error in the sample collection….meaning maybe I screwed up somewhere while spitting in the test tube or dropping blood on the paper.
  2. “Norms” are not actually that normal or indicative of an individual’s “normal.” In my case, I am having undeniable symptoms of sex hormone disruption despite the fact that my bloodwork is testing in a “normal” range.
  3. The internal hormonal climate is so variable from month to month, that one month’s sample is just not broad enough to make any definitive conclusions.

There is an impulse to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”…meaning do I dismiss the lab work? Do I dismiss my own symptoms and body wisdom? Or do I need to find a way to integrate both of these pieces of information to move forward in a health-focused manner? Probably that last option. Honestly, it has taken me a week or so of just being frustrated that I wasn’t offered a clear understanding or even a clear path forward for myself.

If I sit with my bloodwork a bit, the big takeaway was Elevated Cortisol, and actually it was quite elevated. Cortisol is the “stress hormone” and the generic suggestions in the lab work talked about reducing stress. Stress can be many things…emotional…physical…psychological. I personally do not feel excessively stressed in general. However, in the last year I have increased my physical body stress. I am a crossfitter and have increased the intensity and frequency of my workouts. I typically work out 3-5 days a week, and CrossFit is meant to create stress on the body for growth of muscle, endurance, agility, etc.  

Working out has helped my mental health and stress management, and I’m not willing to cut it from routine. I am, however, trying to be thoughtful about ensuring I have enough recovery time and resources. I am focusing on getting enough restful sleep for physical replenishment (for me that is ideally 7-9 hours of sleep), supplementing my diet with recovery focused foods such as high protein, collagen, and electrolytes. I am also adding in a general herbal hormone support (The Women’s Tonic from Herbs by Mama).

In a perfect world, I will be consistent with these additives and practices and then retest my hormones in about 4 months. I’ll keep ya posted:) 

Olivia’s Insights

Updated April 4

Olivia Chasteen, of Mama Earth Wellness, shared some of her insights after I published this post last month. Olivia provides herbal remedies, wellness consultations, herbal courses, and workshops to support people on their wellness journey.

“The progesterone levels quoted as normal were likely based on the expectation that you ovulated on cycle day 14. So if you were having a short cycle or a long one — or even if it was 28 days but your luteal phase was not 14 days long, your tested progesterone levels were being compared to levels from a different part of the luteal phase. Progesterone normally has a typical curve in that it rises over a few days after ovulation and then starts dropping in the days prior to menses, so comparing numbers is really only beneficial if you were in the right part of your luteal phase if that makes sense. Spotting in the days prior to menses, the hormonal acne, and having dry hair are all typical symptoms of low progesterone as you probably know.

“Spotting at ovulation is more “normal,” though obviously if that is a new thing for you, your body is trying to say something. Ovulation spotting often happens because estrogen dips temporarily after ovulation and so some of the endometrial lining will slough off because it is not being sustained by estrogen.

“Having elevated cortisol levels does correlate to carrying extra abdominal weight. Especially if the body is having trouble making enough estrogen for any reason, the body wants to put on fat because outside of the ovaries, estrogen is also made in the adrenals and in fat tissue. When the adrenals are already working hard, that job falls solely on the fat cells (which is part of the reason why post menopausal women have a terribly hard time losing weight). The other thing with cortisol is that it shares the same precursors as progesterone. So the body will actually rob the building blocks needed to create progesterone if the adrenals need the material for more stress hormones instead.”

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.

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