Your body naturally produces the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in the adrenal gland. DHEA helps produce other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Natural DHEA levels peak in early adulthood and then slowly fall as you age. A synthetic version of DHEA is available for oral use, as a tablet, and a topical cream. Frequently thought of as an anti-aging therapy, DHEA is also claimed to ward off chronic illness and improve physical performance.
DHEA is also used to slow or reverse aging, improve reasoning in older people, and slow down Alzheimer’s disease. It may also be used by athletes and others to increase muscle tone and mass, strength and energy. The hormone is also used by men who wish to treat erectile dysfunction (ED), as well as by healthy women who may have low levels of certain hormones that impair their sexual activity or those women who are looking to ease menopausal symptoms. Some people use it in the systemic treatment of osteoporosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, depression and low levels of steroid hormones. It may also improve chronic fatigue syndrome, schizophrenia as well as slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, it is used to prevent breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
- Age: According to researchers in geriatrics, a disturbance of the balance between the production of cortisol and DHEA is responsible for numerous health problems related to stress and age. Several studies have revealed that the hormone produces a feeling of general well-being among older people. In addition, taking it increases the resistance to stress.
- Immune system: DHEA has a direct effect on lymphocytes and stimulates interleukin-2, one of the most important communication proteins in immune regulation. It also supports the immune system and makes the body resistant to infections.
- Improved quality of life with chronic disease: Very low levels of this hormone have been found in patients with atherosclerosis, hypertension, memory and concentration problems, excess weight, metabolism, chronic fatigue, cholesterol, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Very low levels have also been found in patients with ery- matosus lupus (an autoimmune disease), osteoporosis, depression, and asthma. Taking the hormone helps to alleviate the symptoms of these diseases.
- Cancer: DHEA cannot cure cancer and should not be taken as a substitute for an established cancer treatment, as studies on its effects are not yet complete. However, numerous studies have been able to demonstrate that the onset of cancer is directly related to low levels of this hormone. In the clinical trials carried out, it has been possible to avoid the development of several types of cancer.
PRECAUTIONS TO CONSIDER WITH DHEA:
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: The hormone may not be safe when taken orally during pregnancy or lactation. It may lead to higher levels of the male hormone known as androgen. This could be detrimental to the baby, which is why pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are discouraged from using it.
- Conditions sensitive to hormones such as uterine cancer, endometriosis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or uterine fibroids. This hormone can affect the action of estrogens in the body. Therefore, if you have any medical condition that may be aggravated by exposure to estrogen, do not use it.
- Liver conditions: The hormone is believed to worsen liver conditions. Do not use it if you happen to have liver conditions.
- Diabetes: This hormone can affect the activity of insulin in the body. You are advised to check your blood sugar level carefully before taking the hormone if you have diabetes.
- Depression and Mood Disorders: It is feared that patients with a history of depression as well as bipolar disorder may have certain mental side effects if they use DHEA. This is because it can cause mania (impulsivity and excitability), irritability, and sexual inadequacy in people with mood disorders. People with mood disorders are advised to talk about the hormone with your healthcare provider before they start to use the hormone. Also, one should pay attention to any changes on their moods as soon as they start to use the drug.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Taking DHEA may worsen this condition. Do not use it if you have polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Cholesterol problems: This hormone could decrease “good cholesterol” (high-density lipoprotein, HDL). If your H.D.L level is already too low, discuss with your healthcare provider before you start taking it.
ADVERSE REACTIONS AND SIDE EFFECTS
DHEA is deemed safe for most people when used for a few months. Even then, it can cause certain side effects like:
- Acne, stomach ache, high blood pressure and hair loss.
- Some women may have facial hair growth, changes in the menstrual cycle, and a more severe voice after taking it.
- The hormone is possibly unsafe when used in larger amounts and for longer time spans.. As a result, avoid using it in doses greater than 50-100 mg/day or for an extended period of time. Use of higher doses or long-term use of DHEA may increase the risk of side effects.