This great guest post was written by Dr. Serena Goldstein, a naturopathic doctor specializing in natural hormone balance! I encourage you to go check out her website!
What is DHEA?
You may not have heard of it, but DHEA (or dehydroepiandrosterone if you’re a scientist) is an important little molecule. This hormone is responsible for regulating many of your body’s functions.
DHEA is produced by your adrenal glands, which are located just above your kidneys. It is a “parent hormone” which is changed by the body into important hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Essentially, if your body is running low on DHEA, it will not have enough working material for proper endocrine function and can lead to multiple hormonal imbalances.
Decline of DHEA Production
The body’s production of DHEA declines naturally with age, usually starting around age 30. DHEA levels can also decline for the following reasons:
- There is too much stress in the body. Whether emotional or physical, stress causes resources in the body to divert from the production of sex hormones to the production of cortisol, which is also called the “stress hormone.”
- The body is not getting enough sleep. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is inversely related to cortisol; inadequate amounts of sleep can keep the body in a state of constant stress, and inhibit DHEA production.
- The body is not getting enough nutrients. This can be due to a bad diet or poor gut health, but the result is that our body is not getting the necessary fats it needs to synthesize the DHEA molecule and its predecessors. “Healthy Fats” which are found in foods like almonds and avocados are essential to the body since DHEA is made from cholesterol (the good kind).
Signs of a low DHEA level include fatigue, weakened muscles and bones, low mood or depression, joint pain, low or no sex drive, and getting sick often.
Should You Take DHEA Supplements?
DHEA has shown to have a positive effect on a wide variety of illnesses, such as depression, obesity, adrenal insufficiency, as well of a host of other conditions that are associated with aging, like osteoporosis. It also helps with hormone imbalances, as it is a precursor to many hormones that may alleviate these conditions. Some other benefits include:
- Improved Alertness
- Increased Weight Loss
- Low Libido
- Increased testosterone in postmenopausal women
Even though they replicate hormones that are found naturally in the body, DHEA supplements come with some concerns which need to be addressed. Research studies have both proven the benefits of DHEA and highlighted some of its shortfalls. For example, some side effect of DHEA supplements are:
Research has also found that DHEA may possibly be unsafe in quantities larger than 50-100mg per day, and when used for extended periods of time as long-term use can increase the likelihood of side-effects. It should also not be used by people who have hormone-sensitive conditions, as well as conditions that can be made worse by exposure to estrogen.
Basically, DHEA is a powerful hormone, No amount of googling and home research can amount to the advice that a medical professional can provide. Asking a doctor is the smartest thing you can do if you are considering DHEA supplements. But luckily for you, there are natural alternatives.
How to Boost DHEA Naturally
Reduce Stress: Laugh long and often. Keeping your stress levels low also keeps your cortisol levels low. You owe it to yourself to practice good self-care habits.
Get Enough Sleep: Who doesn’t need their beauty sleep? DHEA has often been associated with anti-aging, and sleep is a definite must for looking and feeling young and energetic.
Eat Enough Healthy Fats: Avocados, coconuts, olive oil, wild-caught salmon, walnuts -yum!
DHEA seems to have many benefits but is not for everyone, and has not been adequately studied for long-term use. It has also been compared to hormone replacement therapy, so caution certainly needs to be practiced. Fortunately, there are many ways to encourage DHEA production, and even more ways to achieve the same goal of full-body wellness.
Brown, G. A., Vukovich, M. D., Sharp, R. L., Reifenrath, T. A., Parsons, K. A., & King, D. S. (1999). Effect of oral DHEA on serum testosterone and adaptations to resistance training in young men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 87(6), 2274-2283.http://jap.physiology.org/content/87/6/2274.short
Gleicher, N., & Barad, D. H. (2011). Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplementation in diminished ovarian reserve (DOR). Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 9(1), 1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3112409/
Johnson, M. D., Bebb, R. A., & Sirrs, S. M. (2002). Uses of DHEA in aging and other disease states. Ageing research reviews, 1(1), 29-41. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12039447
Schmidt, P. J., Daly, R. C., Bloch, M., Smith, M. J., Danaceau, M. A., Clair, L. S. S., … & Rubinow, D. R. (2005). Dehydroepiandrosterone monotherapy in midlife-onset major and minor depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(2), 154-162. http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=208294
Stomati, M., Monteleone, P., Casarosa, E., Quirici, B., Puccetti, S., Bernardi, F., … & Genazzani, A. R. (2000). Six-month oral dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation in early and late postmenopause. Gynecological endocrinology, 14(5), 342-363. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11109974
Von Mühlen, D., Laughlin, G. A., Kritz-Silverstein, D., Bergstrom, J., & Bettencourt, R. (2008). Effect of dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation on bone mineral density, bone markers, and body composition in older adults: the DAWN trial. Osteoporosis International, 19(5), 699-707. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00198-007-0520-z
Women to Women. DHEA And Adrenal Imbalance. Women to Women. Retrieved from: https://www.womentowomen.com/adrenal-health-2/dhea-and-adrenal-imbalance/2/, Accessed Aug 29, 2016.
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