DHEA is secreted by the adrenal gland, is a precursor to other hormones and is derived from cholesterol. It is a building block necessary to make estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. (Remember that any hormone derived from cholesterol or sterols is called a steroid. DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are all beneficial natural steroids.) DHEA raises testosterone slightly in women, but not men.
Benefits of DHEA replacement
Increased anti-oxidant activity, immunity (thereby acting to fight cancer), mood (anti-depressant), insulin sensitivity (protects against diabetes), energy, bone density, memory/brain function and lifespan.
Decreased cardiovascular risk (by increasing breakdown of lipids), cholesterol, abdominal body fat, osteoporosis, insulin requirements (in diabetics, as does testosterone), fatigue and muscle weakness.
Protects against cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, sleep loss and progression of the aging process (in lab animals). DHEA has been shown to have a significant effect in treating connective tissue disorders such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE). Pharmaceutical DHEA will soon be available as an FDA-approved medication to treat Lupus.
Who might consider DHEA use?
Anyone who would like any of the benefits noted above, anyone with low levels, anyone over 40 years old, anyone with chronic disease or Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE). FDA approval is pending for a DHEA medication (prasterone) for use in treating SLE.
Potential side effects of DHEA
Acne is the primary side effect. Hair growth in unwanted areas may also occur. Younger women may not tolerate these side effects. If acne occurs, discontinue the medication until the acne clears. Then restart the medication at the same dose. If the acne recurs, stop the medication. When the acne clears, restart the DHEA, but take it every other day. If the acne recurs yet again, you may need a lower dose. Testosterone should be continued, however.
Who should NOT use DHEA?
Anyone with sex hormone responsive cancers (such as breast, ovarian, uterine and prostate).
How is DHEA supplied?
DHEA is available over-the-counter (OTC). Unfortunately, many of the OTC products come from foreign countries and contain contaminants and preservatives. They have a short half-life of approximately 6 hours, which means that it needs to be taken 3 times daily. DHEA is available as a prescription of a sustained release oral capsule in a micronized form. This form allows complete absorption and a sustained level over 24 hours. This pure pharmaceutical grade product is available only by prescription from a compounding pharmacy. Typical dosage for men is 50-100 mg and for women is 10-25 mg taken once daily.