What is DHEA?
DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone is the most common hormone in our bodies and is referred to as the “mother” hormone. The DHEA hormone is synthesized from cholesterol and secreted by walnut-sized adrenal glands situated just above your kidneys.
Without DHEA your body cannot produce other hormones like estrogen, progesterone,
testosterone or cortisol, as DHEA functions as a precursor to male and female sex hormones.
DHEA production peaks in your mid-twenties with the average adult producing roughly 25mg of DHEA per day. In most people however, production of DHEA gradually declines with age and by the time many adults reach their seventies they produce on average 20% of what they did in their twenties.
What happens when we don’t have enough DHEA?
In addition to DHEA, your adrenals also make the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and with most adults having to cope with chronic stress and environmental toxins, this results in the inability to produce enough DHEA to support a healthy hormonal balance. This imbalance often leads to symptoms such as:
The answer however is not ‘one size fits all’ and DHEA is not a stand-alone solution. It is therefore critical that your doctor understands your individual situation and your overall physiological and emotional health in order to prescribe the appropriate dosage.
Once the adequate levels of DHEA are restored, your body will be able to produce the hormones it needs, resulting in the correct balance for optimum well-being. Remember that too much DHEA, or converting DHEA into too much of one hormone and not enough of another, can also negatively impact your health.
The benefits of DHEA
DHEA is highly regarding by most anti aging specialists for its ability to slow the aging process and lead to longer life. According to the Mayo Clinic there is strong scientific evidence to prove that DHEA is particularly successful in the following areas:
“Evidence suggests that higher DHEA levels may be linked to higher bone density, particularly in women who have undergone menopause. Research reports that DHEA supplements may help increase bone density”.
“Most studies on the use of DHEA for depression support its use for this purpose. Recent research reports that high DHEA levels may be associated with successful treatment of major depression.”
“Most studies on the use of DHEA for fat or weight loss, support its use for this purpose.”
“There is good evidence supporting the use of DHEA for adrenal insufficiency, a condition in which the adrenal glands do not make enough hormones. Studies suggest that DHEA may improve hormone levels, health, and quality of life in people with adrenal insufficiency.”
Possible side effects associated with DHEA
DHEA is safe for the majority of people when used as directed by their doctor. Some side effects can however occur but are normally associated with high doses. These include acne, insomnia, oily skin, abdominal pain, hair loss, irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations.
One should also be aware of the following precautions:
Do not use DHEA in doses higher than 50 - 100mg per day unless prescribed otherwise.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take DHEA as it can cause higher levels of the male hormone androgen that may be harmful to the baby.
Patients with liver conditions should NOT take DHEA.
Diabetic patients should closely monitor their blood sugar when taking DHEA as it affects how insulin works in the body.
Patients with cholesterol problems that have a low HDL level should consult with their doctor before taking DHEA.
Patients with hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer should not take DHEA.
To book an appointment to assess your hormone health, call ZippHealth at 011 792 1616.