DHEA and Hormones-Why You Need To Proceed with Caution
In this article, I want to talk about a common problem seen in our office with people who start treatment with DHEA hormones because they feel fatigued, have a thyroid problem or have been told they have adrenal fatigue syndrome.
Hormonal balance involves an intricate combination of many factors. It is easy to fall into the line of thinking that if you had your cortisol levels tested and they were low, than the simple remedy would be to take DHEA. Simply adding a hormone like DHEA, and not changing other factors, is not the way to achieve good hormonal health. Let me explain why…
DHEA is one link in a chain of hormones that is working in your body all the time.
Tinkering around with that hormonal activity requires an understanding of how changes in each, can affect your entire body. It is also a good idea to understand the physiological and emotional factors that can affect this delicate balance of hormones.
Lets use menopause or surgically induced menopause as an example. After menopause or a hysterectomy, your body turns to your adrenals as the main hormone producer. When that happens in women, DHEA conversions often begin to favor testosterone production over that of estrogen and progesterone.
The increased testosterone can create irritability, anger, short temper, and even hair growth in unusual places. Without thorough testing of the entire androgen pathway you could be missing some vital clues to your hormonal imbalance. In some cases, taking DHEA supplements may even increase the likelihood of these symptoms. Imbalances can also occur by tipping the scales in favor of estrogen production.
When this happens, irritating PMS-like symptoms can present themselves (See our article on estrogen dominance). Issues like these are the very reasons that you shouldn’t experiment with DHEA supplementation on your own. If DHEA supplementation is something you think might be for you, please be sure to do so in a professional, clinical setting and include a full hormone panel.
Why You Shouldn’t Take DHEA
With over-the-counter supplementation such a huge business these days, it seems like there are pills for any desired health improvement. DHEA is no exception. It is available in health food and nutrition stores, pharmacies, and even at big box retailers, coming in a dizzying variety of dosages and combinations.
These stores rarely guarantee that the ingredients consist of what the manufacturers advertise, and there is little regulation in the supplement industry to ensure that manufacturers create the safest, purest forms of supplements. While the supplement industry focuses the bulk of its marketing dollars at men, I am noticing more and more that supplements like DHEA are being aimed at women.
DHEA supplement advertising will promise that their pills or sublingual’s will help you lose weight, rev up our libido, lift depression, and make you feel like you’re 20 again – the age at which our bodies naturally produced the most DHEA. Even though this sounds amazing, aging is a natural process and any tampering with that process should be done with caution.
Not everyone becomes DHEA deficient as they get older, and the body’s DHEA production can vary depending on a number of factors, like diet, metabolism, activity level, hormonal stability, Liver function, and emotional state. So before supplementing DHEA, it’s crucial to know the levels of the following Hormones
- DHEA- Sulfate
- 17 Hydroxyl Progesterone
- Estrone (E1)
- Estradiol (E2)
- Estriol (E3)
- Free Testosterone
- Sex Hormone Binding Globulin
- Insulin or C-peptide
Why It’s Important To Work With A Doctor Who is Experienced With Not only Adrenal Fatigue But A Doctor Who Will Look At The Big Picture.
DHEA supplementation is a possible avenue to improved wellness, but it is important to make that decision only after proper testing and with the guidance of a health care physician. Most supplements found in health food stores can contain very high levels of DHEA – often 10-20 times more than what most of my male and female patients need.
Without proper testing and guidance, this can exasperate an existing hormonal imbalance, or even throw off the balance in someone with good hormonal health. I have seen patients self-treat themselves, and create unnaturally high levels of other hormones that DHEA will get converted into, like Cortisol, Estrogen or Testosterone.
Symptoms of this may include loss of sex drive, heart palpitations, increased pulse, Insomnia, Muscle pain and twitching, acne, hair loss, and unwanted hair growth.
In addition, exhausted adrenals can affect your body’s response to DHEA supplementation, or any other hormonal treatment. Before a course of treatment is started, we need to know the appropriate combination of support. We can do this by testing the adrenals and the levels of these hormones that they produce.
How I test for DHEA- Some Considerations.
In order to properly evaluate hormones one thing I learned many years ago is that you need to look at the Big picture. A big mistake being made today by not only physicians in the allopathic community but also the Integrative/Holistic community is to only test hormone quantity levels.
While Quantity is important, things like biological availability (how much of the hormone gets into the cell) and the metabolism of these hormones (breakdown and recycling of the hormone) are critical to truly understanding balance. This can only be done using specialized testing procedures.
If it looks likely that there is an adrenal imbalance, hormonal imbalance or a DHEA irregularity, I order a comprehensive Salivary Adrenal panel for the patient, blood work, urine testing to start with. Learn more about Adrenal Testing.
Hormonal levels that traditional medical practitioners consider ‘normal’ is not always the optimal range for every patient. Despite many men and women who fall just shy of the bell curve in either direction, are still considered in the ‘normal’ range by current standards, many still have legitimate health problems that need to be addressed. Often times, when a person in this category visits a conventional health professional feeling tired and rundown, loss of sex drive and stamina, Brain fog and emotional, they are told that nothing is wrong.
We Do Things Differently
We don’t use the numbers as our only indicator of hormonal health and well-being. Even when testing scores fall into the conventional idea of normal, a man or woman might need a minor boost to give their health a lift. I always look at the individual – how each man or women feels, what is happening in their lives, what their nutrition has been like, and other important, but varied, factors that have the ability to impact hormone health.
Our Personal Hormone and Adrenal Recovery Program is Customized to the Individual. No two people are alike.
We will create a customized natural treatment program for you. Whether suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, high DHEA, Low DHEA, insomnia, cortisol imbalances, chronic pain, or thyroid problems, our Adrenal Recovery Program will be maximized to best fit your personal needs.
We use the most advanced testing methods, nutritional supplements, dietary modifications, hormonal and endocrine support formulas, natural medicine and lifestyle guidance to help you achieve these goals. We do not prescribe medication.
To see if our Hormone and Adrenal Recovery Program is right for you, schedule a Free 15 minute Phone Consult by filling out our online questionnaire.
If you’re ready to get started and schedule an appointment, take a moment to fill out our contact us form. Please use the comment box to let us know what time of day is best to contact you. One of our New Patient Coordinators will contact you within 24-48 hours. You can also call us at 630-718-0555
Still have questions? Our Free 15 minute personalized Phone consult is a great place to start.
Every individual who suffers with symptoms Adrenal Fatigue has a different set of mechanisms or causes. Our office will customize an Adrenal Recovery and Restoration Program based on your testing, and tailor it to your individual needs. Don’t resort to self treating your adrenals, you could damage your thyroid.
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