Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Wisdom Wednesday: DHEA
DHEA is a hormone that is naturally made by the human body. It can also be made in the laboratory from chemicals found in wild yam and soy. The human body cannot make DHEA from these chemicals so simply eating wild yam or soy will not increase DHEA levels. However, the human body can make progesterone from wild yam when ingested, but not from topical creams or gels.
Supplementation of DHEA appears to be effective in persons over the age of 40 for a wide variety of conditions. However, the standard dosage of 25-50mg per day, is excessive (in my opinion) as the human body typically produces about 25mg per day when healthy.
I prefer a dosage of 5-10mg per day. Anything higher than that and you are using HRT (hormone replacement therapy) rather than reestablishing normal adrenal function. My concerns on dosage come from a study showing that at a dose of 5-12.5mg of DHEA daily, the telomeres attached to the nucleus of the cells of the body actually lengthen. Telomere length has been strongly tied to health and longevity. Higher daily doses of DHEA actually shortened telomeres.
DHEA is made from cholesterol naturally via two enzymes and is highly localized to the adrenal glands. It is also made in smaller quantities in the testes, ovaries, and brain. Circulating levels of DHEA in the brain can be 6-8 times higher than in the blood stream.
Adrenal production produces a large ‘pool’ of DHEA and the stable form, DHEAS that resides in the blood serum waiting to be used to further metabolism. DHEA tends to be converted into androstenedione and then multiple paths can be taken. In simple terms, the end product is either testosterone, progesterone, estrone, estradiol, or estriol.
Topical administration of a gel or cream appears to favor production of testosterone more than the oral ingestion and the DHEA cream seems to work better than the gel in the short term.
The benefits can be far reaching – research shows supplementation of DHEA results in reliable and significant increases in DHEA concentration in the blood. Studies on menopausal women show a subsequent increase in estrogen and testosterone with a decrease in SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin). The effects on progesterone are mixed, some studies showing and increase while others showed no significant influence. Decreases in menopausal symptoms are well documented in the research literature.
Most evidence suggests no increase in bone mineral density but that may be due to short trials (6 months). Longer trials have shown a small but unreliable increase in bone density.
In menstruating females an increase in fertility has been documented with DHEA supplementation.
In men, the decrease in SHBG results in an increase in free testosterone, although increases in total testosterone are unreliable. Despite these findings, no significant influence on erectile function have been found in persons with sexual dysfunction.
Clinically, as noted above, I use much lower doses than used in research. I am concerned that anyone can purchase DHEA in the health food store in dosages as high as 100mg per tablet. Of course I use the QA (Quintessential Applications) protocol to differentiate the need for DHEA from Wild Yam, Tribulus, Ashwaganda, Rehmannia, or any of the other adrenal adaptogens. The tonic licorice has also been shown to increase DHEA blood levels. Most commonly, I start with the adrenal adaptogens (and maybe some licorice) then shift to DHEA or quercetin when adrenal function improves but has not fully recovered.
The Bottom Line:
DHEA is a potent supplement to increase hormone production in the adrenal glands. If you are interested in this supplement, use it in low dosages with qualified nutritional supervision.