Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone made from cholesterol by the adrenal glands. It is called the “mother hormone”because it acts as a precursor to other hormones in the body such as estrogen, progesterone, cortisone, androgen and testosterone, to name a few. The fetus manufactures DHEA, which stimulates the placenta to form estrogen, thus keeping a pregnancy going. Production of DHEA stops at birth, then begins again around age seven and peaks when a person is in their mid-20s. From the early 30s on there is a steady decline (about 2 percent each year) until around age 75 and older when the level of DHEA in the body is about 5 percent of peak. It activates the immune system and promotes building up tissues.
|Eating an extremely low fat or no fat diet can wreak havoc with your hormones. A balanced diet with 20-30% of your total caloric intake derived from predominantly HEALTHY fat sources can prove very beneficial to your hormonal profile.|
Though the normal DHEA levels are 25 – 220 mol/L, or 1.9 – 7.6 ng/ml, a sharp decline in these levels can be observed along with aging. Mostly DHEA is produced early in the morning by the adrenal gland, gonads and the brain, and DHEA levels start declining as kidneys start clearing it up. Adrenal Stress Profile -salivary Test needs to be undertaken to measure the hormone level over a period of 24 hrs.
- Range of DHEA blood levels in adult women: 130 to 980 ng/dl
- Ranges of DHEA-S blood levels in adult women:
- Aged 31–50: 2 to 379 µg/dl
- Postmenopausal: 30 to 260 µg/dl
- Range of DHEA salivary levels in women: 40 to 140 pg/ml
DHEA has been touted as an “antidote for aging” and a “superhormone” that can help burn fat, build muscle mass, boost libido, strengthen theimmune system, prevent heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and non-insulin dependent diabetes, ease the effects of menopause, retard memory loss, help in the treatment of lupus, limit burn damage, combat stress and prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases.
Low DHEA Levels: SymptomsChronic fatigueReduced underarm or pubic hair growthDisappearance of hair on lower legsUnidentified weight gainLoss of memoryLow energy, low staminaMood swings during menstruation cyclesClogged arteriesLow sex driveJoint painHealth problems
Enhancing DHEA Naturally
There are very few large, well-designed human studies testing the health effects of DHEA supplements. For example, there is not enough scientific evidence to rate the effectiveness of DHEA supplements in treating adrenal insufficiency, metabolic syndrome, depression, HIV/AIDS, Addison’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, menopausal symptoms, heart disease, breast cancer, infertility, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In addition, there isn’t enough evidence to support the use of DHEA supplements as an anti-aging remedy or weight-loss aid. The NIH also cautions that DHEA supplements appear to be ineffective for boosting libido, enhancingmuscle strength in elderly people, protecting against Alzheimer’s disease and improving thinking in healthy older people.
While the studies are on, you can begin working on natural ways of boosting DHEA in the body.
- Regular Exercise plays an important role in increasing DHEA production in the body. Exercise has other benefits as well. Postmenopausal women with higher natural DHEA levels enjoy stronger bones, thicker skin, greater muscle mass, and lower incidence of chronic degenerative immune diseases. A study from Age and Ageing found that regular, moderateaerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, or biking increased DHEA production in older people. Each week, increase your walking time by five minutes until you are walking 60 minutes a day.
- Low Calorie Diet helps to increase DHEA. Such diet also plays an important role in longer life expectancy.
- Restricted intake of Carbohydrates can help raise DHEA levels in your body. Studies in humans and primates have shown that a decrease in carbohydrates leads to an increase in DHEA. Dr Nestler from the University of Virginia who has spent the last eight years doing multiple studies to show that DHEA levels are directly correlated with insulin levels, or I should say insulin resistance. The more insulin resistant you are, the lower your DHEA levels. He firmly believes this and has a lot of studies to back it up, that the decline in DHEA is strictly due to the increase in insulin resistance with age. If you reduce the insulin resistance, the DHEA rises.
- Keep Stress at Bay: Since stress suppresses DHEA levels, it is necessary to lead a stress-free life. The adrenal glands produce the hormones DHEA and Cortisol. Stress increases Cortisol levels. When Cortisol levels are high, DHEA is usually low. High Cortisol levels increase fat storage and decrease the natural production of other hormones. DHEA regulates glucose metabolism and balance. Low DHEA can cause an increase in insulin causing the body to store fat. Practicing yoga and meditation can help relieve stress.
- A Diet Rich in Omega 3 Fatty acids can raise DHEA levels significantly.
- Sufficient Rest or Sufficient Sleep is necessary for proper functioning of adrenal glands which produce DHEA. Overwork or late nights can cause dysfunction of adrenal glands.
Take care of your body if you want all the body organs to function properly. A balanced diet, regular exercise and sufficient rest are the key factors which can dramatically influence your health.