DHEA is a powerful hormone with many effects on the physiology of the body. Taking doses in excess of physiological needs is counter productive and will not lead to better health or energy than the ideal physiologic levels. People absorb DHEA to different degrees of efficiency and other factors also figure; such as body size - hence the quite broad range of potential dosage levels that can be utilised (as per the info in the previous tab). As emphasised in that information, one needs to pay attention and self monitor, keeping an eye out for side effects that can occur due to hormone imbalance. Trial and error of dose is required and it may take several weeks or longer to find the correct personal level.
It has been found that mice supplemented with DHEA live 50% longer
DHEA levels decline at approximately 20% per decade from the age of 25 (the peak of human DHEA production) until we are left with only about 10% or less of these peak levels by the time we are 70. It is partly for this reason that some writers consider DHEA to be the life/death hormone.
The Adrenal Hormone Tree
Several hormones produced by the adrenal cortex are produced one from the other. The main starting compound is cholesterol. Cholesterol is an essential nutrient and low cholesterol diets and especially cholesterol lowering drugs are simply bad for the health and have no cardiovascular disease protecting effect (see the cholesterol myth article here
). The ‘mother’ hormone; pregnenolone, is produced from cholesterol, this is converted to DHEA and progesterone. Progesterone helps produce cortisol. DHEA converts to Androstenedione and this in turn can help produce both cortisol and testosterone. The production of cortisol and other adrenal cortex hormones are mediated by the secretion of ACTH from the Pituitary gland in the centre of the brain. If this chain of events with its complex feedback mechanism does not operate efficiently at any stage, then hormone imbalance, usually insufficiency, occurs. Therefore, the reasons for DHEA, cortisol, testosterone or progesterone insufficiency can vary from person to person. Often boosting the mother hormone pregnenolone does not achieve raising of DHEA or cortisol levels sufficiently to overcome an insufficiency of those hormones. Raising DHEA however will often raise insufficient levels of cortisol and testosterone for example. Usually, if people suffer from adrenal fatigue more than one hormone needs supplementing to raise the levels of these hormones to optimum, hence achieving the best clinical result.
So how does one proceed if one is not relying on hormone assay tests but merely one’s own symptoms and age?
Below is an example of how one individual used DHEA.
I am 64 years old and I do not doubt I will have increased wellbeing by supplementing with DHEA, so I probe the dose, starting at 5 or 10 mg daily and raise over a few weeks to a target value for my age to bring up to youthful levels. 30mg a day will be the maximum level to aim for. However since I have life long adrenal fatigue and periodic bouts of severe asthma, if starting with DHEA I need to be cautious, since ultimately it is the hormone cortisol that must be supported in order to more or less guarantee that I do not have an asthma episode. During periods of adaptation, even to other hormones or nutritional supplements, higher than normal levels or cortisol are required (full details are contained in the article Health Restoration: The Necessity to Support Adrenal Hormone Output) In some cases the adrenals will be able to quickly raise cortisol levels with supplemental DHEA so protecting the body from an auto-immune attack or aggravation, but in other cases the cortisol levels will not rise sufficiently and the adaptation stress to the greater energy from the DHEA may precipitate an auto-immune attack. In this situation of supplementing with hormones and having an autoimmune disorder (tendency), or suspected adrenal fatigue, I can either keep a close eye on my condition and also take regular blood pressure readings to indicate cortisol output OR I could just go for the safety first approach and supplement with cortisol prior to DHEA.
It is a good guide to take regualr blood pressure readings if supplementing with DHEA or Cortisol, as detailed in the previously linked article.
The success of the appropriate hormone supplementation lies in ones overall nutritional status. The most foundational things for success are sufficient water and sufficient unrefined, high mineral, salt
such as Celtic
Ocean Sea Salt
. Please see the important article Removal of
blocks to health improvement
for a detailed guide to achieving optimum nutritional status.
The further back in the hormonal tree we can alleviate deficiency the better. In practice this means DHEA is the most broad acting hormone to boost. However, if we want to work more speedily or reliably on a pressing health concern, then the most immediate hormone implicated can be tried first (such as cortisol in the case of auto-immune disorders, or progesterone in the case of post-menopausal and pre-menstrual issues). In cases where testosterone seems to be indicated, such as lowered vitality in the over 55 year old male, it is not such an urgent issue so one may make a sensible choice to supplement with DHEA first and this often contributes successfully to testosterone sufficiency. Once one has reached and maintained a suitable dose of DHEA for a few weeks one is then in a better position to assess and test for effects of testosterone supplementation, and often the dosage required will be less subsequent to DHEA supplementation.
DHEA is also a precursor to the hormone estrogen.
Further discussion of these issues will be touched upon in articles on Testosterone and Progesterone supplementation. (please note that at the time of writing this article, these other articles were not written/online yet, however by the time you are reading this they may be. One can check the Product A-Z
menu for Testosterone and Progesterone and will find that any articles about these two hormones will be included there, if the products are now online).
Whilst pregnenolone comes before DHEA in the hormone tree, it's ability to convert to DHEA in most individuals is subject to individual experimentation. Therefore, in practice, DHEA is the immediate mother adrenal hormone and an insufficiency in this hormone will result in insufficiency in the other adrenal cortex hormones. This will result in an increased tendency to disease and premature ageing. The Baltimore longitudinal study found that men who had higher DHEA levels have significantly greater longevity compared to men with lower levels. Further, an Italian study found a direct relationship between functional independence in people over 90 years old and DHEA levels. DHEA also effects mood and mentality. DHEA supplementation has been found to help prevent depression and improve the mood in individuals with formerly low DHEA levels. Positive results include improved self esteem, mood and reduction in fatigue. In women low DHEA levels were found to be significantly associated with depression at any age.
The remainder of this article is comprised of some very interesting extracts from 2 scholarly works on the subject.
"The adrenal glands are responsible for the bodies hormonal response to stress - the "fight or flight” reaction. When the body is placed under a stressful situation, the adrenal glands respond by increasing the output of their hormones, including DHEA. This increased production is necessary for the body to adjust to any stressful situation such as infection, injury or illness. When the adrenal glands malfunction and decrease the production of their hormones, the body’s capacity to withstand disease and promote healing becomes compromised. In fact in severe disease states, DHEA and other adrenal hormones are known to have severely depressed levels. I have observed that physiologic doses of DHEA and other natural hormones are essential in treating these severe disease states. In addition, I have observed that it is necessary to maintain DHEA levels near their peak in order to achieve the best results”
RN: all autoimmune diseases, including asthma and allergies are also implicated
"In my practice I have found that close to 100% of patients with autoimmune diseases such as Chron’s, ulcerative colitis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and others have significantly depressed DHEA levels (Ed. All auto-immune diseases including asthma and allergies are also implicated) In addition most of these patients show clinical improvement upon using physiologic doses of DHEA. A study of patients suffering from severe lupus was conducted at Stanford University and it showed DHEA supplementation improved the patients disease status as well as reduced their needs for high dose steroids.
RN: high dose steroids are less effective and have serious side effects. The correct physiological doses are safer and more effective.
" Cancer patients, especially those with metastatic disease, have very suppressed DHEA levels. There is some controversy about using DHEA with hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast or prostate cancer........I have treated a number of cancer patients all with approval from their oncologist-with DHEA and almost all of them experienced dramatic clinical improvements in their condition. Cancer patients generally report feeling markedly better and having higher energy levels when supplemented with DHEA (When indicated). Due to my positive experience using DHEA, I predict DHEA supplementation, with its effects on improving the immune system will be a priority for most cancer patients in the future.”
"Most people respond positively to DHEA supplementation when indicated. A study by the university of California showed that using physiologic doses of DHEA was associated with a remarkable increase in physical and psychological well-being for the majority of men and women on the study (Effects of replacement dose of DHEA in men and women of advancing age Journal of clinical Endocrinology and metabolism 1194,78 1360-67) I have observed consistently low DHEA Levels in elderly patients as well as most individuals suffering from any chronic disease conditions such as Lupus, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis etc. In prolonged stressful states, such as chronic illness, Dr. Jefferies has shown how the adrenal glands may be under functioning by producing subnormal levels of DHEA and other hormones. He has published numerous articles and books describing the benefits of using physiologic doses of adrenal hormones to address the various chronic conditions mentioned above. It is well know that individuals with chronic conditions often appear to age quickly and have many clinical signs of advanced aging. DHEA supplementation can produce noticeable improvements in aging skin, less fatigue and improved muscle mass. Dr Alan Gaby, a well – known researcher on the use of natural treatments, has observed similar results, as have most of my colleagues who have experience in prescribing DHEA”.
The above 4 extracts are from The Miracle of Natural Hormones 3rd edition by David Brownstein, M.D
An Angeles woman in her mid-forties started on the DHEA plan and in two months had dropped four dress sizes, got off antidepressants, and was feeling better than she had since high school. A 61-year-old man told me of going from impotence and depression to vitality and sexual vigour in ninety days. And the DHEA plan also gave his 92-year-old father a new lease on life.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism states that: "Logic pleads in favour of oral administration of DHEA at a dose that provides so-called "young” DHEA levels in the blood.”
I will present evidence that the body’s decline in DHEA production does in fact produce a very well known disease called death. In fact, declining production of DHEA may be a genetic trigger for the aging process both as an effect and as a contributing cause of senescence. The reason it took so long to figure this out is that DHEA, like vitamin E, has a wide range of activity. It’s not localized in one particular tissue, nor does it have one specific receptor site. DHEA is everywhere in the human body, so researchers could not see the forest for the trees.
Beyond the professional restraint that is expected of a scientist, it was perhaps the shared feeling that all this extraordinary news was just too good to be true. One group stated this clearly: We must be sceptical of a single steroid that can cause weight loss in obese animals, correct blood sugar concentration in diabetic animals, decrease blood cholesterol, prevent atherosclerosis, enhance the activity of the immune system, depress tumor formation, and improve the memory of aged mice.
Studies showing that DHEA dramatically decreases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer; extends the life span of animals up to 50 percent; enhances sexual function; cures impotence; and boosts memory and cognition. The anti-obesity effects were some of the best news. DHEA is not simply an appetite suppressant; studies were showing that it alters metabolism to accelerate fat burning and foster gains in muscle mass. I would have been surprised if anyone involved in these breakthrough studies was not taking the drug.
DHEA can make your later years energetic and passionate, as opposed to the progressive decrepitude most people.
DHEA Decline and Death: Cause and Effect.
" You know that in mammals, levels of DHEA correlate directly with average life span. You know that DHEA is the precursor to many other vitally important hormones, especially sex hormones. Your colleagues are telling you that DHEA is critically important to immune function, brain biochemistry, cardiovascular health, and the maintenance of muscle and bone. You’re intrigued by the steep decline in DHEA that bottoms at around age seventy-five. Then you remember that the present life span is around seventy-five, and you start to put two and two together. What is your revelation? Right! You postulate that there may be a cause-and-effect relationship between the declining production of DHEA and death. But what is the nature of that relationship? That’s the sizzle in this whole line of inquiry, and here’s your reasoning: Given: The only function of a hormone (or any biochemical) is survival. Given: Survival of the species is the primary concern. Survival of the individual is important only insofar as it helps ensure survival of the species. Cold but true. Decline in DHEA levels with advancing age.
Thus: A hormone essential to reproductive function tends to peak when the organism is healthy and strong. THUS: This hormone will decline when the organism is past its prime. THUS (and here’s where it gets interesting) It may be that the decline of this hormone is not an effect of aging but an actual cause. The ancient message embedded in our genes, in other words, might very well be this: DNA to brain: This organism is past its reproductive prime. It is therefore of little use to the survival of the species. Decrease the production of DHEA so that the organism will die in approximately five decades.
In addition, recent research with human volunteers suggests another way in which DHEA may help prevent and even dissolve abnormal clots. After taking 50 mg of DHEA for only twelve days, a group of men showed an enhanced ability to dissolve fibrin, another structural component of blood clots. The dramatic decrease in platelet aggregation in male subjects after the addition of DHEA Reprinted by permission of The Annals of The New York Academy of Sciences from "Dehydroepiandrosterone Inhibits Human Platelet Aggregation In Vitro and In Vivo” by RL Jesse, et al., December 29, 1995, 774, pp. 281–
DHEA and Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition in which a person is unable to control the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood. It’s one of the major causes of death in the United States and results from a dysfunction in insulin metabolism, not simply, as many people think, from an insulin deficiency. Type I diabetes is usually related to insufficient insulin production, but type II diabetes (adult-onset diabetes) is far more common and stems more from a decreased sensitivity of the body’s cells to the insulin molecule. This is termed insulin resistance and whether it leads to diabetes or not, most of us suffer from some degree of insulin resistance as we age. As you will see, this has profound effects (none of them good) on a number of tissues, organs, and systems in the body. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity, and a sedentary lifestyle makes it worse. Weight gain, which is common as we grow older, also contributes directly to insulin resistance, as do stress and a high-sugar diet. More than a decade ago researchers found that the administration of DHEA to diabetic mice could restore insulin sensitivity and literally "cure” the Condition
When is the best time to take DHEA supplements? A: Since DHEA levels don’t change much throughout the day, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re taking more than 25 mg, there is some advantage to splitting the dose between morning and evening. Many men report enhanced sexual arousal about 30 minutes after an evening dose.
High dose DHEA has been observed to cause palpitations, especially when combined with stimulant herbs or caffeine. If you are going to supplement with DHEA, it is best to start with a low dose (10–15 mg), make sure the product does not contain stimulant herbs, and to reduce or eliminate your intake of caffeine
DHEA and osteoporosis
Recent studies strongly suggest that DHEA plays an important role in maintaining bone mass as women grow older. One study of postmenopausal women found that DHEA levels were directly related to bone mineral density (BMD). In women less than sixty-nine years old there was a striking correlation between DHEA levels and the strength of their bones. When scientists see that kind of information, they immediately wonder if there is a cause-and-effect relationship or just an association. To find out, the next step would be to give animals some DHEA and see if it strengthens their bones. They did, and it does. DHEA administration caused a significant increase in BMD in laboratory rats. What’s more, researchers learned something new: DHEA can be converted to estrogen by bone cells. This in effect would produce many of the same bone-preserving benefits of estrogen replacement therapy.
DHEA builds energy and muscle mass
DHEA can decrease your recovery time after a workout and dramatically improve muscle repair and synthesis. This stems from the ability of DHEA to raise levels of the repair biochemical IGF-1. Gerontologists have known for decades that IGF-1 decreases as we age, and they used to consider it part and parcel of the aging process. "Oh, well, the body gets old. It can’t repair proteins. It falls apart and dies. That’s life.” Now scientists are wondering if this type of decline is really inevitable. Recently, a team of researchers gave 100 mg of DHEA to a group of men in their late fifties.(ed. 50 mg would be well sufficient and less likely to create hormone inblance over the medium to long term) After only thirty days they documented an astounding 90 percent increase in IGF-1. This translates into greater muscle gains for athletes over thirty, better muscle maintenance for anyone over fifty, and, just as important as these anabolic benefits, decreased risk for heart disease. IGF-1 stimulates the production of nitric oxide (NO), which dilates blood vessels, improves circulation, and helps prevent the formation of abnormal clots. Another benefit people taking DHEA often notice is a marked improvement in muscle definition as soon as they start strength training. An excellent study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences concluded:
The leanness effect: There is plenty of scientific evidence that DHEA helps reduce body fat. One study observed the effect of DHEA on genetically obese mice. The DHEA-treated mice ate normally but achieved and maintained thinness; they also lived longer than the control mice. In another study, when middle-aged obese rats were given DHEA-supplemented food, they lost weight. This "leanness” effect has also been observed in studies involving humans. In fact, a study with human volunteers in 1988 showed that DHEA supplementation resulted in a 31 percent reduction in the percentage of body fat in 28 days. Isn’t that what every dieter has always wanted and never experienced? Now it’s possible.
DHEA and immunity
There is just not enough information to know with certainty the full range of medical benefits of DHEA. We do know that maintaining DHEA at prime peak will strengthen bones and decrease the risk for osteoporosis. Prime peak levels of DHEA will optimize energy production, and that energy will not be limited to skeletal muscles. Energy will also go to the brain, nervous system, immune system, and adrenals. In scientific terms these functions are up-regulated to a higher level of efficiency and power. You can see the upward spiral of capability increasing action, action producing strength, strength producing confidence, confidence improving attitude, and attitude changing lives. With DHEA, it can be done.
Jesse Hanley, M.D., the medical director of Malibu Health and Rehabilitation in Malibu, California, has been prescribing DHEA for five years with remarkable results. She says, "I’ve seen many of my patients with CFIDS, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, adult onset allergies, average adult fatigue or burnout, and weak digestion—to mention a few ailments—heal deeply with DHEA administered to keep within physiologic blood levels. I use a dose from 5 to 50 mg per day and check blood levels every three to six months depending on the condition and response. I also check liver functions and free testosterone levels every six to 12 months.” Dr. Hanley adds, "On numerous occasions, I have seen patients whose natural DHEA levels started to rise after one to two years of feeling good. These people began to require less and less DHEA supplementation. I believe this may be the result of adrenal healing.”
The ability of DHEA to enhance immune function was a major focus of this book. I highlighted the stimulation of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) as a likely agent since that is one of the body’s main repair and rebuild bio chemicals. New research just published in the Journal of Gerontology lends powerful support to this scenario. In this study, men with a mean age of sixty-three years were given 50 mg of DHEA for twenty weeks. Results: Blood levels of DHEAS increased three to fourfold within two weeks. IGF-1 increased by 20 percent. Immune activation was determined by: Increased monocyte production (see this page) Increased B-cell production Very significant increase in B-cell response to an antigen (enemy) Very significant increase in T-cell response to an antigen Increases Interleukin-2 production, leading to improved cytokine balance Increased NK cell production Increased NK cell activity No adverse side effects
The above extracts are taken from The DHEA Breakthrough by Stephen Cherniske, published by Random House