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Signs of low DHEA

Signs of low DHEA

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is the most abundant steroid hormone produced naturally in the
body, mostly by the adrenal glands. It is often known as the ‘Mother hormone’ because so many
other important hormones are made from it. Looking at the hormone flow chart in our previous
blog on testosterone and weight loss, you will see that cholesterol is at the very start of the steroid
hormone cascade and is initially converted to pregnenolone, which in turn is converted to DHEA
and so on. So, some consider pregnenolone as the ‘Mother hormone’.
DHEA levels peak in the late 20’s / early 30’s (our lab has peak reference ranges 30-34 years for
women and men). Following this the levels fall fairly rapidly, more so for women than men.
Some of the benefits of maintaining normal healthy young DHEA levels may include:
· Immune function support – inflammation is responsible for many disease processes and
DHEA has been shown to improve immune function. In particular, systemic lupus
erythmatosis (SLE), an autoimmune disease demonstrated clinical improvement and
reduced flare ups with DHEA treatment.
· Maintaining cognitive function.
· Elevating mood and sense of well-being; i.e. some forms of depression can benefit from
DHEA. Some forms of schizophrenia can also benefit.
· Help with abnormal sleep patterns.
· Peri- and postmenopausal support – through its own benefits and conversion to other
steroid hormones down the cascade.
· Reducing fat mass and maintaining lean body mass – DHEA helps with metabolic
syndrome by reducing insulin resistance. This also benefits patients with type 2 diabetes.
· Maintenance of bone health (prevent and treat osteoporosis for women).
· Maintenance of healthy lipid levels and cardiovascular health.
· Improvement of erectile dysfunction.
There is no clear cut evidence that DHEA causes cancer, but since some cancers may be
hormone-mediated (in particular breast and prostate cancer), people with these conditions should
not take DHEA. Also, regular breast and Pap checks for women, and PSA / rectal examinations
for men, should be undertaken regularly when undertaking DHEA treatment.
In Australia, unlike the US, DHEA is prescription only. However, make sure that you consult a
doctor that is experienced in prescribing it. It is critical that it is monitored as it impacts on many
other hormones, which will also need to be monitored and possibly treated as well. Although
adverse reactions are uncommon, they can occur and should be dealt with promptly. For example,
some women will convert too much DHEA to testosterone. This can cause excess hair growth and
acne. Additionally, watch for over the counter supplements labelled as ‘natural DHEA’ made from
wild yams, as the main active ingredient in these supplements, diosgenin, cannot directly be
converted into DHEA in your body, and you will not be getting what you might think you are.