What is DHEA?
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced primarily by the adrenal cortex, but it is also secreted by the testes and the brain. It is the most prevalent steroid hormone in the human body. DHEA also serves as a precursor to androgen hormones (also known as "sex hormones") - the hormones that regulate the development and preservation of male characteristics. Even more so than testosterone, men rely on DHEA to maintain their edge. Because DHEA is a precursor to androgen hormones (including testosterone), men depend on it to retain their masculinity.
The majority of the symptoms men face during andropause are attributed to low testosterone or “Low-T”. What most men don't know is that the decline in testosterone is actually linked to waning levels of DHEA, especially DHEA-S (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate). Typically, DHEA levels begin to taper off around the age of 30 and continue to gradually decline throughout a man's life, creating a number of issues that can affect their health and well-being.
Effects of DHEA
While low DHEA levels are often the result of age-related hormonal imbalance, they can also occur as the result of the following:
- Dysfunctional pituitary gland
- Glucocorticoid use
- Adrenal gland disorders (like Addison's disease)
As is usually the case, DHEA exists in a very delicate relationship with other hormones. A change in DHEA levels can alter the levels of other hormones, especially cortisol. Therefore, the symptoms of low DHEA levels closely resemble symptoms of high cortisol levels. Low levels of DHEA are a form of adrenal insufficiency and can cause symptoms that include:
- Loss of strength and muscle mass
- Aching joints
- Reduced mental function
- Decreased sex drive
- Impaired immune function
- Diminished levels of sex hormones
- Erectile dysfunction
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of osteoporosis
On the other hand, adequate DHEA levels can help:
- Increase testosterone levels
- Restore muscle mass
- Improve the body fat ratio
- Improve memory
- Boost the immune system
- Improve bone mineral density
- Promote flexibility
- Raise endurance levels
- Reduce the risk of sexual dysfunction
While high levels of DHEA in men are rare, it can still happen and is often indicative of a more serious health issue. Here are some of the common diseases that can result in high DHEA levels in men:
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Adrenal tumors (cancer does not have to be present)
- Adrenal carcinoma
Since DHEA is a precursor to testosterone, many men will take DHEA supplements to boost their testosterone levels. DHEA supplements are also sold over the counter, so many men see them as a cheap alternative to proper DHEA therapy. DHEA supplementation is a convenient, readily-available form of DHEA treatment. As with any supplement, you should consult a medical professional before taking DHEA so that you can avoid the symptoms of high DHEA levels. This unsupervised DHEA treatment can result in high levels of DHEA, which can lead to the following symptoms:
- Hair loss
- Sleep issues
- Loss of "good" HDL cholesterol
- Increased blood pressure
Since unsupervised DHEA treatment can lead to debilitating symptoms, it is best to undergo DHEA therapy under the guidance of a trained medical professional. Before any kind of treatment can take place, it is necessary to get a reading of the various hormone levels in the body. While DHEA levels are most commonly measured in blood levels, it is also possible to measure hormone levels through urine.
Having that base measurement of hormone levels can be invaluable to a medical professional who specializes in integrative and preventative health care. All BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioners have undergone rigorous training in integrative medicine, so they know how to treat the patient instead of just treating the symptoms. That approach is vital for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), because everything from strength, dose, and the type of hormones used will vary from one individual to the other. The hormones themselves have been meticulously designed from natural origins to mimic the chemical structure of the hormones in the human body. Why rely on synthetic hormones that have been pre-filled for everybody when you can use bioidentical hormones that are made-to-order based on your hormone level assessment? Contact your local BodyLogicMD-affiliated BHRT practitioner today to feel your best again!