Why Do People Take Dhea
A number of studies have found that DHEA supplements may help people with depression, obesity, lupus, and adrenal insufficiency. DHEA may also improve skin in older people and help treat osteoporosis, vaginal atrophy, erectile dysfunction, and some psychological conditions. But study results are mixed and often contradictory.
Low DHEA levels are associated with aging and a number of diseases, such as anorexia, type 2 diabetes, and HIV. In older men, having low levels of DHEA is also associated with a higher chance of death. However, it’s not clear that using DHEA supplements will help lower the risks of getting any diseases.
DHEA is used by some people who want to “reverse” aging and boost immunity, cognitive function, and muscle strength. For now, studies don’t back up these uses. DHEA has been studied as a treatment for other conditions, ranging from cardiovascular disease to menopause to Alzheimer’s. The results have been unclear.
What Are The Risks Of Taking Dhea
- Side effects. Most side effects are mild, like headache, fatigue, insomnia, and congestion. Because DHEA affects hormone levels, it can cause other symptoms. Women may have abnormal periods, acne, or mood changes. They might also take on masculine characteristics, such as facial hair or a deeper voice. Men might develop more breast tissue, high blood pressure, and other problems.
- Risks. Using high doses of DHEA may not be safe. People who have heart problems, liver disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid problems, polycystic ovary syndrome, and a history of clotting problems should not use DHEA. DHEA may increase the risk of some cancers that are affected by hormones, like cancers of the breast, ovaries, and prostate.
- Interactions. If you take any medications regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using DHEA supplements. They could interact with blood thinners, anticonvulsants, hormone therapy, and drugs for diabetes and heart or liver problems.
Because DHEA is a powerful hormone, it is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Causes Of High Levels
As noted by the National Institutes of Health, DHEA is at its highest in early adulthood, but sometimes higher-than-normal levels can occur regardless of age. Adrenal disease is the main cause of high DHEA levels, according to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Adrenal tumors — either benign or cancerous growths that attach themselves to the adrenal glands — may cause an overproduction of the DHEA hormone. Adrenal hyperplasia, a swelling of the gland, can also cause high levels of DHEA.
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What Is This Test
This test measures the level of dehydroepiandrosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate in your blood. It may also be used to check how well your adrenal glands are working.
DHEA is a hormone made by your adrenal glands and to a lesser degree by the ovaries and testes. DHEA is changed into DHEA-S in your adrenal glands and liver.
In both men and women, the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone depend on DHEA. DHEA also has a role in the making of insulin growth factor-1 . IGF-1 helps with muscle growth and insulin sensitivity.
How Do I Get Ready For This Test
Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking a DHEA supplement or any supplement marketed as an “athletic performance enhancer.” Be sure your healthcare provider know about all other medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don’t need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.
Changes In Dheas Levels
DHEAS is secreted by the adrenal glands and is the most abundant circulating steroid hormone in humans. It is converted into either estrogen or testosterone in the body.
DHEAS throughout stages of development:
- DHEAS is secreted by a developing fetus in large quantities while still in utero.
- Within a few weeks after birth, these levels drop by roughly 80%.
- DHEAS rises again shortly before the onset of pubertya time that is known as adrenarche.
- Following adrenarche, DHEAS levels increase, peaking around age 20 to 30, then declining over the next several decades.
- In young females, early adrenarche is linked to an increased risk of PCOS.
- In females, moderately high levels of DHEAS can cause symptoms of hyperandrogenism, one of the primary symptoms of PCOS.
Extreme elevations of the hormone may indicate another cause, such as an androgen-producing adrenal tumor.
How Long Do You Have To Take Dhea Before It Works
The DHEA levels in your body will respond fairly rapidly to supplementation. This is especially the case with an improvement in libido. But the majority of DHEA benefits will take longer. Plan to supplement for at least two months before looking for any other significant changes.
We can’t completely control what our bodies do as they age. But we can offer them extra support through the food and supplements we consume. Talk to your doctor and see if DHEA might be a good addition to your lifestyle.
About the Author: Megan Grant has a degree in communications from University of Michigan. She has been writing professionally for 15 years, with a focus on nutrition, fitness, and general health. A lifelong competitive athlete, she’s fascinated by how the human body responds to food and movement.
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Dhea And Athletic Performance
DHEA supplements are sometimes used by athletes because of a claim that it can improve muscle strength and enhance athletic performance. That’s because DHEA is a “prohormone” — a substance that can increase the level of steroid hormones such as testosterone.
There is little evidence to show that DHEA has any effect on enhancing muscle strength. Its use is banned by sports organizations such as the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
There are risks associated with using any pre-steroid enhancer. And the higher the dose, the greater the risk. Possible side effects include:
- Permanent stunting of growth
- Aggressive behavior, known as “roid rage”
- Mood swings and other psychological symptoms
Men can sometimes experience such symptoms as:
- Breast enlargement
- Reduced sperm production
Special Precautions And Warnings
When taken by mouthupset stomachWhen applied to the skinPregnancy and breast-feedingDiabetesblood sugarHormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroidsHigh cholesterolhealthcareLiver problemsDepression and mood disordersPolycystic ovary syndrome
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Who Needs Dhea Supplements
After the age of 25, you might consider testing your dehydroepiandrosterone levels because levels may start declining at this point. Follow your DHEA levels yearly, and when you see a big drop off, that’s when DHEA supplements can be your anti-aging ally.
A DHEA blood test will look at how much your body is producing, and typically will be tested alongside sex hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Urine hormone testing for dehydroepiandrosterone is also an option, although the results are less validated than blood testing.
Not sure if DHEA supplementation is right for you? Take our hormone health quiz!
How Is Dehydroepiandrosterone Controlled
Dehydroepiandrosterone production is controlled by the brain in a negative feedback loop. This means that when dehydroepiandrosterone levels in the body fall, the system is ‘switched on’ and, as levels rise, it ‘switches off’ again.
The system is ‘switched on’ by corticotrophin-releasing hormone being produced by the hypothalamus. This travels to the anterior pituitary gland and causes it to release adrenocorticotropic hormone into the bloodstream. Both of these hormones cause the adrenal glands to produce dehydroepiandrosterone. When dehydroepiandrosterone levels rise, the body shuts off production by stopping corticotrophin-releasing hormone and adrenocorticotropic hormone.
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What Happens During A Dheas Test
To draw the blood, a provider:
A Word Of Caution About Over
There are a lot of DHEA supplements out there being sold over the counter.
Supplements designed to increase your hormone levels, including DHEA, generally dont work.
In fact, such supplements can actually be very bad for you, so even if you think that your DHEA levels are low, taking a DHEA supplement is probably not the best idea.
So start by looking at testosterone and estrogen levels. Have a complete test done of all your hormones, and let your medical provider determine what the appropriate treatment should be.
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Treating Hormone Imbalances By Restoring Balance
Theres really no need to rely on DHEA to treat your symptoms.
Testosterone or estrogen can be supplemented directly, producing better and faster relief from the symptoms that youre feeling.
In some cases, this can be done by treating a medical cause of the hormone imbalance.
In other cases, there is no cure, and hormones need to be introduced from outside the body through Hormone Replacement Therapy to bring hormone levels back to normal.
Generally, its not a single hormone thats problematic DHEA is no exception to this pattern.
If any of your hormone levels are too high or too low in relation to the others, you will likely experience symptoms.
The goal of any hormone replacement therapy should be to restore balance among all your hormones.
Thats why we want to look carefully at what your body is doing.
Its important to determine as definitively as possible whether youre experiencing low or high DHEA symptoms, or if your symptoms are caused by another hormone being out of balance.
Then, we can make suggestions for treatment based off of those initial tests.
Finally, we want to see how your body reacts, to monitor any changes in your health, and then to decide if more of one hormone or less of another is the direction to move.
Where Is Dhea Found: Natural Or Synthetic
Your body is already producing dehydroepiandrosterone in your adrenal glands. Men also produce more in their testes and women in their ovaries. Plus, science tells us that your brain makes DHEA as well.
While wild yams as a source of dehydroepiandrosterone are natural, the specific processes to create the supplements themselves take place in scientific laboratories. Special techniques are used to confirm that the molecules in the supplement are identical to the DHEA that your body is already producing.
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Dhea And How It Impacts Mood
One promising research result showed that DHEA supplements show promise for easing mild to moderate depression.2 In studies performed by the National Institute of Mental Health, treatment with DHEA supplements helped relieve mild to moderate depression that often occurs in middle-aged women.7,8,9
DHEA has been shown to provide possible antidepressant effects. In a recent study, DHEA significantly decreased depression. Patients already on antidepressants and additionally treated with DHEA showed a 50% decrease or greater in their depressive symptoms.3-4 These results, and many other studies, suggest that DHEA treatment may have antidepressant effects in some patients with major depression.
In addition, with increased energy, many persons with low-level depression or mood disorder report improved outlook. DHEA, by improving energy levels, may improve mood by enabling the user to become more active.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know
DHEAS levels are normally high in both male and female newborns. They drop sharply shortly after birth, then rise again during puberty. DHEAS concentrations peak after puberty, and then, like other male and female hormones, the levels tend to decline with age.
People taking DHEA supplements will have elevated blood levels of DHEAS. Certain antidiabetic drugs , prolactin, danazol, calcium channel blockers, and nicotine may also increase DHEAS levels. Drugs/hormones that may show decreased levels include insulin, oral contraceptives, corticosteroids, dopamine, hepatic enzyme inducers , fish oil, and vitamin E. It is important to inform your healthcare provider when taking any of these medications or supplements.
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Dhea And Bone Loss Prevention
One thing we hear too much about is women in their later years breaking their hips. The question always is did their hip break and then they fell or did they fall and then they broke their hip. While it doesnt really matter, it does express the need for healthy bones and to prevent osteoporosis.
There is strong evidence to suggest that by ensuring optimal levels of DHEA, we may help to slow bone loss and guard against the crippling effects of osteoporosis.10 We have known for a long time that DHEA supplementation can slow age-related bone loss, and increase bone mass. By doing so we can promote bone health and guard against age-related bone deterioration and possible fractures.10
Fast Facts On Dehydroepiandrosterone
- DHEA is an endogenous steroid hormone, produced by the adrenal glands, gonads, and brain.
- Its role is not fully understood, but it plays an important part in the synthensizing estrogen and androgen.
- The World Anti-Doping Agency classes DHEA as a banned substance in sports.
- Eating yams and soy does not increase DHEA in the body.
- DHEA has been tested for use in many diseases, including depression, osteoporosis, and lupus, but there is little evidence to confirm its benefits.
- Side effects can include additional hair growth in women and breast growth in men.
- People with heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and other conditions should not use DHEA.
DHEA is an endogenous steroid hormone. This means it is naturally made by the body, and it spurs specific tissues or cells into action.
It is also known as androstenolone, 3-hydroxyandrost-5-en-17-one and 5-androsten-3-ol-17-one.
DHEA is one of the most abundant steroid hormones in the human body. It is produced by the adrenal glands, the gonads, and the brain.
It is normally found in the form of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate . The body holds DHEAS in reserve and converts it to specific hormones when needed.
It is important for creating estrogen and androgen sex hormones and contributes to the development of so-called androgenic effects, or masculinization. These changes include the production of oilier skin, changes in body odor, and the growth of armpit and pubic hair.
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Is A Dhea Supplement Right For You
When it comes to DHEA and DHEA supplements, you may immediately think of bodybuilders. Thats because DHEA is considered a pro-hormone tied to longevity, lean muscle mass and a strong body.
But DHEAs uses go far beyond improving someones body composition it also helps improve bone density, promotes heart health, controls cholesterol levels, fights fatigue and improves production of important sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen.
What Causes Low Dhea
Although DHEA levels decline naturally with age, they may also be lowered by conditions such as:
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Chronic Inflammation Decoded
- Autoimmune diseases such Addisons disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
Unfortunately, some of the medications used to treat symptoms of these illnesses can also deplete DHEA in the body. These drugs include:
- Corticosteroids, including dexamethasone , methylprednisolone , and hydrocortisone
- Pain medications, including opiates and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen
Do not, however, attempt to adjust the dosage of your medication on your own. If your DHEA is low, your doctor will suggest the best way to remedy the problem.
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Dhea Interactions And Risk Factors
DHEA supplements may be harmful to people with health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and prostate cancer. They also carry a list of potential interactions with various medications .
What To Expect When Getting A Dhea Test
Dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands, which are the small glands located on top of your kidneys. DHEA is a key hormone because it forms other important hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, and also supports various other biological processes. Levels of DHEA peak around your mid-20s and then gradually decline with age, according to experts at Mayo Clinic.
Though produced in your adrenal glands, your brain is in charge of controlling the production of DHEA. For instance, when your system signals it is low in DHEA, your body uses a process called negative feedback that switches on the production of DHEA. Once your DHEA levels reach balanced levels, this feedback mechanism then switches off, per Endocrine Society.
DHEA is a vital precursor hormone because health experts believe it supports optimal health and well-being, with some published studies suggesting that DHEA may improve energy, libido, and other brain functions. Additionally, DHEA may play a role in reducing body fat, enhancing immunity, building muscle, and managing emotions, according to Harding Medical Institute.
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Risks And Side Effects
DHEA is a powerful hormone and therefore works differently than other vitamins, minerals or supplements. Hormones are not easily excreted through urine and can cause problems when they are taken or produced in excess amounts, since all hormones need to balance each other out and work together. DHEA doesnt have the same effects in everyone, and its important to keep in mind that it has a very complex biochemistry, making results somewhat variable and unpredictable.
DHEA supplements are not for everybody, and its important to follow directions carefully.