Hormone Series – Part V: DHEA

happymanwomanIn our series on hormones, there is one that most people don’t even realize is a major player in not only their health but their wellbeing, too. That is DHEA or Dehydroepiandrosterone, a natural steroid made from cholesterol primarily by the adrenal glands. Studies show that DHEA may help with systemic lupus, and may decrease cholesterol. In long term studies, it reduced insulin resistance and also helped relieve depression.

DHEA functions to boost the immune system in auto-immune disease. It is contraindicated in patients that have testosterone or estrogen related cancer.

A low DHEA level may be an indication of adrenal fatigue. Symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Decrease in muscle mass
  • Decrease in bone density
  • Depression
  • Aching joints
  • Loss of libido
  • Lowered immunity

DHEA supplementation must be tested on a regular schedule as it may, in men, convert to estrogen. Although readily available over the counter in health food stores, it is a powerful hormone that should be monitored.

In “DHEA and Adrenal Imbalance,” Dr. Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP, states that “The average adult makes about 25 mg of DHEA per day (some more, some less) with dwindling production as we get older. Men at all ages have more DHEA than women. Natural DHEA production is at its highest in your twenties: by the time we reach seventy we only make about 20% of the DHEA we had when we were young. DHEA is a very powerful precursor to all of your major sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. (Its molecular structure is closely related to testosterone). We call it the “mother hormone” — the source that fuels the body’s metabolic pathway.”

Dr. Pick goes on to say, “Besides DHEA, your adrenals also make the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenal exhaustion from coping with chronic stress — from (among other things) poor nutrition, yo-yo dieting, emotional turmoil, and job-related stress — means your adrenals are bone-tired from pumping out cortisol and they simply can’t manufacture enough DHEA to support a healthy hormonal balance. One thing we do know is that adequate levels of DHEA are needed to ensure your body can produce the hormones it needs when it needs them. In that balanced state your mood is stable and you feel clear-headed, joyful and vigorous. DHEA is the best “feel-good” hormone we know. And it works quickly and effectively when taken with the right combination of support.”

Now, there is evidence to show that healthy levels of DHEA may fight Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, osteoporosis, depression, heart disease and obesity, but there is no clear cut evidence until further studies are done

A DHEA-Depression Study was done and reported by Miranda Hitti in WebMD Health News. “The study was small and brief. It included 23 men and 23 women age 40 to 65 with mild to moderate depression starting in midlife. Two DHEA doses were used. For three weeks, patients took a lower dose — 90 milligrams per day. For the other three weeks, they took 450 milligrams of DHEA daily.

In 23 participants, DHEA cut depression symptoms by 50% or more. A similar reduction was seen in 13 subjects after taking the placebo. Men and women responded similarly. Treatment with the supplement was associated with an increase in testosterone blood levels in both men and women. Taking DHEA for 6 weeks also significantly improved sexual function scores, compared to the scores after taking the placebo or before the study started.”

Do you suffer from symptoms similar to the ones above? If so, which ones and how long?