DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone produced naturally in the adrenal glands. It is converted according to need by the body into estrogen, female sex hormone and testorene, male sex hormone. It is also produced in the gonads and the brain. The body then converts DHEA into specific hormones to sustain mental and physical well-being. According to researches, the levels of DHEA in the body start to decrease by the time we reach 20 and continue to decline as we grow older. That is the reason why a lot of studies have been dedicated to studying DHEA and its role in maintaining youth.
a. Animal Sources
DHEA is produced in ones body, rather than coming from many animal sources, although it will be found in brain, some organs, and blood.
b. Plant Sources
Although DHEA is produced naturally by the body, the hormone can also be synthesized from wild yam and soya. Diosgenin, a compound that occurs naturally in wild yams and soya can be converted into DHEA by laboratory procedures.
Benefits and Therapeutic Effects
DHEA, if taken by mouth has been proven to help people with weak bones (osteoporosis) and multiple sclerosis. The hormone helps in increasing the bone mineral density in older men and women.
It is also used as a supplemental drug for people with depression, schizophrenia, and chronic fatigue syndrome issues. From a study that was done by the Archives of General Psychiatry, it was confirmed that DHEA helped in lessening depression and anxiety of people that are mentally-incapacitated.
People looking to improve sexuality also use DHEA to improve libido and treat erectile dysfunction.
It is also known to ease the symptoms of menopause in women.
Signs of Deficiency
Some people diagnosed with breast cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and osteoporosis has been known to have low levels of DHEA.
The recommended dose based on studies would generally be between 25 to 50 mg per day for postmenopausal women and aging men. There is a risk of getting side effects if the dosage being ingested would be higher than the recommended. Although for people with weak bones, doctors would normally suggest a 50 to 100 mg dosage per day.
A trip to your doctor is always recommended before starting any supplementation of your diet.
Side effects and/or Toxicity
Based on medical studies, using DHEA in higher doses for a long period of time can raise the chance of side effects. The other known side effects include high blood pressure, irritability, excitability, stomach aches, hair loss, and even body acne as described by some long-term users. Women who have been using DHEA have also exhibited some changes in their menstrual schedule, including facial hair.
DHEA is also not recommended to be used by pregnant women and those currently breastfeeding. The high level of androgen can be harmful for the fetus or baby. Also, diabetic patients must carefully monitor their blood sugar if they are using DHEA.
Caution must be exercised also when a patient is using DHEA since the hormone is known to cause impulsiveness, irritability, and mood disorders. It is important to check with your physician first before taking DHEA.
DHEA has been proven to enhance health and longevity. Taking it to reverse or delay some age-related changes in the body is definitely a good move towards a healthier life.
However, caution must be exercised in using it and recommended dosages by your healthcare provider must be followed strictly.