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What is DHEA and Its Function?

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What is DHEA and Its Function?

DHEA, short for Dehydroepiandrosterone is the most abundant circulating steroid hormone in humans.  It is produced primarily in the adrenal glands, brain and ovaries. There is a big difference in hormones that you buy, and you should always be aware that supplements are not regulated by any organization, and you should look to getting high quality, Pharmaceutical Grade Hormones as much as possible. 

DHEA is the first sex hormone to decline during stress because when the body is under stress, it needs to make more cortisol.  So the Pregnenolone pathway that focuses on producing Cortisol will be favored, instead of the pathway that favors DHEA.   

And because of this preferred pathway to make more cortisol under stress, chronically stressed individuals will be low in DHEA.

DHEA increases our sense of wellbeing, and is vital in providing our bodies energy.  Though it is a main energy source for us, it is only about ½ as strong as Testosterone in terms of the energy it provides our cells.   DHEA supports the immune system, just as Testosterone does, and thus it also decreases allergic reactions.

And as all Androgens do, DHEA Increases bone growth. Increases muscle strength and lean body mass, decreases the sensation of pain, and promotes weight loss.

So what do we need to know about DHEA when it comes to supplementing with it?

Interestingly, one of the reasons it is probably still over the counter, is that it does not increase Testosterone in MEN.  However, it does increase Testosterone in WOMEN.  In fact about 50% of DHEA supplementation converts to Testosterone depending on your stress levels.  The more stress you are under, the more DHEA is needed to build levels since your own Pregnenolone is being driven down the Cortisol pathway.  However, you can increase your Testosterone levels with DHEA alone.

Supplementing with DHEA is very safe when your DHEA levels are lower than 30 year old levels.  In fact, midlife women feel best when they keep their levels are closer to 30 year old levels.  This is not considered excessive at all.  So for instance.  If you are 50 years old and you keep your levels closer to a 30 year old level, then yes, your level will be high for your age at 50 years old, but it will simply be a normal physiologic level of a 30 year old. 

Be aware that If you stop taking DHEA supplementation your DHEA level will decline again.  You might recall me saying that when you are 50 years old, remember that your organs are 50 years old too.  And they will produce DHEA like a 50 year old Adrenal Gland.

Now Levels higher than a 30 year olds natural levels is a bad idea and I don’t recommend doing that.  It’s important to always stay within physiologic reference ranges. 


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