DHEA, the abbreviation for dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone produced mainly in the adrenal glands, but also in the testicles, ovaries, and brain. Once it is produced, the bloodstream moves DHEA throughout the body’s tissues and cells. A partial amount of the hormone converts to testosterone and estrogen as well. Because of this, DHEA is known as the “mother of all hormones”, since it is not only needed for the creation of sex hormones (androgens and estrogens), but is the foundation for many other necessary hormones.
DHEA naturally produced by glands near the kidneys changes in the body from a hormone known as androstenedione into the primary male and female sex hormones.
Decrease in DHEA Levels
After about age 30, DHEA levels begin to decrease in the body. This is especially true for women.
Lower levels of DHEA may be associated with:
- The presence of hormone disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- Immune disorders
Certain medications such as, corticosteroids, oral contraceptives, and drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders could reduce levels of DHEA.
Because DHEA is so critical to the delicate balance of hormones in the body, any deficiency can lead to an imbalance of other hormones, including estrogen, testosterone and cortisol.
Benefits of DHEA
There is evidence to support the positive effects of DHEA including:
- Increased testosterone levels
- Restored muscle mass
- Improved body fat ratio
- Improved memory
- Boost in immune system
- Promotion of flexibility
- Raised endurance levels
Current research for possible treatment of certain disorders is underway including:
- Hormonal disorders (menopause)
- Sexual function
- Severe injury
Supplementing With DHEA
DHEA may be taken in tablet form, by chewing gum, under the tongue, in drops, in skin cream, and in capsule form. The majority of supplements are synthesized in laboratories from Mexican wild yams. Because over-the-counter products can vary it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional before choosing to supplement with DHEA.
Side Effects of DHEA
DHEA has been known to cause certain side effects in both sexes related to other hormones.
Increased unnatural hair growth
Smaller breast size
Increased genital size
Reduced size of the testes
Low blood pressure
Change in mood
Levels in other hormones, cholesterol, insulin
DHEA may also increase the risk of certain cancers including prostate, breast and ovarian cancer.