One of the natural steroids that our bodies produce is dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA for short! Dehydroepiandrosterone is also sold as a supplement to be used for several different health reasons. Actually, DHEA is a steroidal hormone that is essential for our health. This is because DHEA is a precursor hormone for both testosterone AND estrogen. That’s right, the male and female hormones are both derived from the same molecule. Pretty neat, right?
What is DHEA?
As stated above, DHEA is a precursor hormone, meaning that DHEA is converted by our bodies into other hormones, specifically testosterone and estrogen. DHEA is the highest-circulating hormone in our blood stream at any given time. It has a very important job! The precursor is produced in the outer layers of the adrenal glands from the cholesterol molecule. Another reason that we need at least a little bit of cholesterol in our diets.
In addition, DHEA is produced in smaller amounts by the ovaries and testes. As with most other hormones, DHEA peaks when we are young, in our 20s, and slowly starts to decline as we get older. Ah, the curse of old age – declining hormone levels.
Even though the adrenal glands produce DHEA, its production is controlled by the brain via a negative feedback loop, another common mechanism by which our bodies maintain hormonal homeostasis as much as possible. Negative feedback means that when DHEA levels drop in the blood stream, it triggers the brain to send a signal to the adrenal glands to begin production once again.
What DHEA Can Do For Your Health
There have been several scientific reports that suggest that DHEA supplementation may help with multiple diseases or conditions. These include:
- Addison’s Disease (adrenal insufficiency): characterized by the adrenal glands not producing enough of certain hormones we need. For example, the adrenal glands may overproduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and underproduce aldosterone (regulates the salt and water content of our cells). DHEA, which is produced in our adrenal glands, as well as being a precursor hormone, helps to alleviate this disease and increase the production of necessary hormones.
- Depression: In a National Institute of Mental Health study, 23 out of 46 patients showed a 50% decrease in depressive symptoms after taking DHEA supplements for just six weeks.
- Lupus: The John Hopkins Lupus Center states that DHEA may be effective in treating some of the symptoms of mild to moderate lupus, including hair loss, fatigue, joint pain, memory loss, and mild cognitive decline.
- Obesity: Testosterone is a hormone that promotes lean muscle mass production and fat loss. It would make sense that its precursor would also have an effect on fat loss.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: Low levels of DHEA have been linked with Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Crohn’s Disease
- Infertility: Because DHEA is the precursor for both testosterone and estrogen, the two most important sex hormones, it may boost fertility by increasing the levels of sex hormones – hormones that are necessary for reproduction.
- Menopause issues: DHEA can help to balance hormones for menopausal women by increasing the declining amounts of estrogen and testosterone that cause the adverse symptoms of menopause.
- Induction of labor: The precursor hormone has been shown to promote cervical ripening for childbirth labor. When given as a pretreatment in combination with oxytocin, a shorter induction interval was demonstrated in those patients when compared to those who did not have DHEA as a pretreatment.
High levels of DHEA in the blood stream are linked to hirsutism (unwanted/excessive hair growth) and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) in women. Children who have been diagnosed with congenital adrenal hyperplasia also display elevated DHEA levels. As you can see, this hormone plays a significant role in our bodies.
It’s no wonder that DHEA has had the nicknames, “mother of all hormones,” “fountain of youth” and “super hormone.” Consider speaking to one of our endocrinologists to see if a DHEA supplement might be right for you! It doesn’t hurt to learn more – and from the experts themselves, nonetheless. Call us or fill out our contact form to get chatting!
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