DIY health tests seem to be popping up everywhere. These convenient home kits provide an opportunity for average people like you and I to do a little digging into our health and wellness. It is pretty empowering, really, to be able to take charge of our health, and gain insight into the ‘missing pieces’ of our health puzzle that traditional healthcare often overlooks. From the comfort of your home, you can spit in a tube and find out your DNA ancestry, prick your finger and discover what foods you might be sensitive to, and now you can even mail away a urine-saturated piece of paper to find out the state of your hormonal health. These urine tests can be quite informative in identifying the various metabolites your body produces throughout its daily processes.
Metabolites are small molecules that are produced by metabolic reactions in cells. These reactions can occur as part of normal cellular processes, such as energy production or biosynthesis, or in response to external stimuli like stress, infection, or exposure to drugs and toxins.
Metabolites can be classified into two broad categories: primary and secondary. Primary metabolites are essential for cell growth, development, and reproduction, and include molecules like amino acids, nucleotides, and carbohydrates. Secondary metabolites, on the other hand, are not essential for basic cellular processes but often have important functions in communication, defense, and adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Examples of secondary metabolites include antibiotics, pigments, and plant-derived compounds used in medicine and agriculture.
Metabolites are the naturally occurring byproducts of metabolism, which, simply put, are the constant happenings by our body’s cells that keep us functioning.
There are two forms of metabolism (1):
- Catabolic metabolism, where the body takes the nutrients we consume and uses them for growth and development
- Anabolic metabolism is where the body breaks down more complex substances to create new molecules, creating energy and waste.
Within these two types of metabolism are numerous metabolic processes. If you’re familiar with biology, you might recognize a few of them, such as glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, Kreb’s cycle and the Urea cycle (2). These different pathways are responsible for creating the metabolites that keep us moving and grooving. Some familiar metabolites include cortisol, dopamine, estrogen and testosterone.
Metabolites are identified through bodily fluids like blood and urine. Both mediums are studied for different things, although there is some crossover, such as testing hcG for pregnancy, which can be found in urine and blood. Between the two, urine is more easily accessible for the average person like you or I, which makes at-home tests so appealing.
Urine vs. Blood
First and foremost, urine testing is far more convenient and accessible than drawing vials of blood, which you need a professional for, whereas you can easily collect your urine. Urine is also a great medium to test because it is a form of waste, which provides a great picture of how our body is detoxing and getting rid of things. This is important because how hormones are broken down and processed in the body can impact your long-term health (3). For example, if the test reveals an excess of something, it could indicate an increased risk for disease and would be worth exploring further.
Test At Home
Vivoo is one company that offers convenient, at-home testing. The process involves the use of a urine test strip that is dipped into a collected sample. The strip contains several sensors that detect various metabolites, including pH, hydration, liver and kidney function, ketones, free radicals, inflammation, and more(4).
Once the strip is dipped in the urine sample, it is scanned using a smartphone app, which provides personalized health recommendations based on the test results, often within minutes.
Vivoo’s personalized health recommendations are based on your test results and can include things like hydration tips, dietary suggestions, and lifestyle changes. This test is a solid option for the average person to be able to interpret independently but has limitations with the number of markers included in the test.
The DUTCH test, short for the Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones, gives a much more complete picture. It was created in 2012 by Mark Newman, a hormone testing expert. His goal in creating the DUTCH test was to provide a convenient yet thorough testing method to “arm providers with the best tool possible to illuminate what’s going on in someone’s health.” (5)
As its name suggests, the DUTCH test is comprehensive and provides an extensive profile of sex and adrenal hormones and their metabolites, including estrogen, testosterone and cortisol.
The DUTCH test is easy to use; you must collect 4-5 dried urine samples over 24 hours and mail them away. Results are then sent to you via a detailed report that you can interpret using the guides outlined on their website (6) or use their database to contact a DUTCH-trained practitioner in your area for assistance.
Here is a sample DUTCH test report that you will receive upon completion. CLICK HERE
As you can see, it is indeed quite extensive! Unless you have a background in health sciences, it can be overwhelming to make heads or tails of the information presented. It is highly recommended that you work alongside a DUTCH-trained professional to interpret your results and provide clear guidance on the following steps with a personalized wellness protocol. A functional medicine practitioner or naturopathic doctor would be able to assist you, or you can search for a practitioner in your area on the DUTCH website database.
Metabolites to Watch For
Out of the thousands of metabolites, three extra informative ones are cortisol, reproductive hormones and melatonin.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenals and is the body’s primary stress hormone, influencing how we handle everyday life. Cortisol is worth testing because chronically high levels are linked to various ailments, including infertility, anxiety and sleep troubles. (7)
Reproductive hormones like estrogen and testosterone can cause concern if they are in excess, as high levels are strongly linked to cancers like breast cancer(8).
Melatonin is the hormone responsible for our sleep-wake cycle, helping us feel alert in the morning and sleepy at night. In this case, low levels are problematic as they can contribute to sleep troubles, mental illness and overall malaise (9).
Science is continually evolving; metabolites from things like drugs and even BPA from plastics are also identifiable through urine. Additionally, neurotransmitters can be tested through urine. Still, studies conclude that this should be done with other neurotransmitter testing as a urine test is not all-encompassing on its own(10).
Remember, there are thousands of metabolites in the human body! No one test can cover them all, but if you are interested in a convenient and informative opportunity for an independent health analysis, an at-home urine test is a solid option. You know I am all for taking charge of your health!
- Biology Online. (2021, July 28). Metabolite Definition and Examples – Biology Online Dictionary. Learn Biology Online. Retrieved November 17, 2022, from https://www.biologyonline.com/dictionary/metabolite
- Voet, D., & Voet, J. (n.d.). A general overview of the major metabolic pathways. Universidade Fernando Pessoa. Retrieved November 17, 2022, from http://homepage.ufp.pt/pedros/bq/integration.htm
- Metabolites. (n.d.). Human Metabolome Database. Retrieved November 17, 2022, from https://hmdb.ca/metabolites
- Vivoo | Listen To Your Body’s Voice. (n.d.). Vivoo. Retrieved November 20, 2022, from https://letstalk.vivoo.io/hc/en-us
- Newman, M. (2022, April 19). Podcast: S1E1. DUTCH Test. Retrieved November 20, 2022, from https://dutchtest.com/podcast/season-one/hormones-and-hormone-testing-an-origin-story/
- Find a DUTCH Provider. (n.d.). DUTCH Test. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://dutchtest.com/find-a-dutch-provider/
- Watson, S. (n.d.). Cortisol: What It Does & How To Regulate Cortisol Levels. WebMD. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol
- Levy, J. (2016, March 23). Cortisol Levels: 6 Ways to Lower Naturally. Dr. Axe. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://draxe.com/health/cortisol-levels/
- Hardeland, R. (2012). Neurobiology, Pathophysiology, and Treatment of Melatonin Deficiency and Dysfunction. NCBI. Retrieved November 21, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354573/
- Ailts, J., Ailts, D., & Bull, M. (2007). Urinary Neurotransmitter Testing: Myths and Misconceptions. NeuroScience, Inc. https://www.knowbalance.com/storage/app/media/EffectiveHPATesting.pdf