American women (men too) are always looking to find a way to turn back the biologic clock. We all would like to look like the women in Cosmopolitan and Vogue Magazines. If your goal is to look younger, feel better, and improve energy level, then you might consider the benefits of DHEA.
DHEA, dehydroepiandrosterone, is a hormone produced in the adrenal gland, the small triangular structure that sits on top of the kidneys. DHEA is made by the adrenal glands and is then converted to androgens, estrogens and other hormones. These are the hormones that regulate fat and mineral metabolism, sexual and reproductive function, and energy levels. DHEA levels increase until our mid to late 20′s then gradually decline. 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). DHEA is called the “mother hormone” — the source that fuels the body’s metabolic pathway.
When DHEA levels are low, your body does not have enough working material for proper endocrine function. This throws off your hormone production and you feel a general sense of malaise, along with other symptoms of hormonal imbalance — how severe depends on how many other demands are being made on your body at the same time.
There is a growing body of evidence that healthy levels of DHEA may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, osteoporosis, depression, heart disease and obesity, but there is still no clear-cut consensus. There may be some increased risks associated with DHEA for women with a history of breast cancer — all the more reason to take DHEA under medical supervision.
Symptoms of low DHEA include extreme fatigue, decrease in muscle mass, decrease in bone density, depression, aching joints, loss of libido, and lowered immunity.
DHEA is stated to be possibly effective for these conditions:
1. Aging Skin – Taking DHEA orally seems to increase epidermal thickness, sebum production, skin hydration, and decrease facial skin pigmentation in elderly men and women
2. Osteoporosis – Taking DHEA orally 50-100 mg per day seems to improve bone mineral density (BMD) in older women and men with osteoporosis or osteopenia.
3. DHEA is also thought to contribute to a sense of well-being when used by those with adrenal and/or androgen insufficiency.
4. It may also support lean body mass in postmenopausal women.
DHEA has many potential benefits but does also have some side effects, which include hair loss, hair growth on the face (in women), aggressiveness, irritability and increased levels of estrogen. Calcium channel blockers may increase DHEA levels and those using calcium channel blockers should avoid supplementation. Anyone with a history of hormone-related cancer such as estrogen sensitive breast cancer should definitely avoid DHEA due to the probability of increased estrogen levels.
If you don’t feel DHEA is appropriate for you, it may be possible to increase the body’s natural production of DHEA with regular exercise and restricting the number of calories you consume. Calorie restriction is associated with a longer life span and the increase in DHEA production may be partially responsible. In fact, there are many studies that show you can improve your DHEA levels naturally by maintaining a body mass index of 19-25, getting adequate rest and exposure to sunlight, exercising regularly (including sexual activity), and fostering more “downtime” in your life — but more on that in a moment.
Without a medical test it’s impossible to know what your DHEA levels are. Using blood tests, your doctor can check for estradiol in the follicular phase (usually days 3–9 of a menstrual cycle); progesterone in the luteal phase (days 14–28); DHEA-S; and both free and total testosterone levels.
Treatment With DHEA Supplements
If tests indicate the need for DHEA supplementation, you may start off with as little as 1-5 mg, twice a day. The dosage can be slowly increased to 10–12 mg per day. Most doctors do not suggest any woman exceed 25 mg per day if capsule forms are used. Once balance has been restored and symptoms even out, most women produce enough DHEA on their own.
Bottom Line: Many women are suffering from hormone imbalance. Decreased DHEA can be a cause of many problems affecting middle age women and can even impact her libido and her energy levels. DHEA should never be taken casually or unsupervised, but its benefits are real for the women who need it.