Saliva Is Nothing To Spit At

Let’s take a moment to be reminded at how amazing it is that our body has been made to care of itself.

Someday, instead of having to give a blood sample during your physical exam, the doctor might just ask you for a saliva sample. Saliva is an amazing fluid. Besides helping us moisten and digest food, saliva is able to speed healing and fight bacteria, fungi and viruses. Saliva is chemically almost identical to the clear part of your blood. It even has, in lesser concentrations, the infectious organisms found in your blood.

Let’s say, for example that you suddenly find yourself in a stressful situation. The level of the hormone cortisol will increase in your blood in response to the stress.¬†Within 20 minutes, that increase will be evident in your saliva. This means that someday saliva tests may replace blood samples. In the United States, saliva tests have been approved to diagnose AIDS, illegal drugs, periodontal disease, alcohol and premature labor. If the hormone estriol rises in a woman’s blood before 36 weeks of gestation, doctors know that the woman may go into labor prematurely. Saliva testing is also used to check hormone levels in women who are having a difficult time conceiving a child. Other countries have approved a saliva test for hepatitis B.

Judy Foreman, The spitting image gains credibility, Star Tribune, September 12, 1999, p.E3, Image: Salivary glands. Courtesy of Bruce Blaus. (CC BY 3.0)

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