Low DHEA Level

Produced by the adrenal glands, DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is mildly androgenic. A precursor to other adrenal hormones, it diminishes with age and promotes longevity in animals. It is one of the best biochemical bio-markers of chronological age.

The decline in DHEA levels appears to be a factor in age-related bone loss. In one important study, bone mineral density was measured at the lumbar spine, hip, and radius in 105 women, aged 45-69. Fifty women had normal measurements, whereas 55 had low bone density. The average serum DHEA-S level was 60% lower in the women with low bone density than in those with normal bones. Women with low DHEA values were 40 times more likely to have osteoporosis than were women with normal DHEA levels. In contrast, there was no relationship between estrogen levels and bone density. [Szathmari, M, et al. Osteoporosis Int 1994:4: pp.84-88]

Excess DHEA can cause excess estrogen, testosterone, and other levels as well as creating a dependence. DHEA has demonstrated protective effects for various cancers and is often effective for age-related issues such as sharper memory, enhanced immune function, energy, smooth skin, tired muscles, cardiovascular health, accelerated weight loss, and it may increase HDL.

William Regelson, M.D., of the Medical College of Virginia, in his book The Superhormone Promise, calls DHEA “the superstar of super hormones” and “one of the most powerful tools” available for enhancing and extending life.

DHEA can be purchased in health food stores. Some doctors allow trials of DHEA in cases where it is suspected someone is deficient; we believe in having your hormone level of DHEA checked first. Blood, urine or saliva testing will work.

In 1994 Samuel Yen, M.D.published a double-blind study on healthy people. Thirteen men and seventeen women ranging in age from forty to seventy were given a replacement dose of DHEA, enough to bring the body’s levels to that of a vigorous young adult. DHEA was used for 3 months and a placebo for an additional 3 months. An overwhelming majority (67% of the men and 84% of the women) reported a remarkable increase in perceived physical and psychological well-being during the period in which they were on DHEA.

 


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Low DHEA Level

Lab Values - Hormones  

Low/reduced DHEA level



Counter Indicators
Lab Values - Hormones  

Normal/elevated DHEA level



Symptoms - Aging  

Health declining with age



Symptoms - General  

Minor/major fatigue for over 3 months or major fatigue for over 12 months



Symptoms - Hair  

Reduced underarm/pubic hair growth



 

Balding lower legs



Symptoms - Metabolic  

Low stamina



 

Difficulty losing weight



Symptoms - Reproductive - Female Cycle  

Reduced well-being during menopause



 

Mood swings during menstrual cycle




Conditions that suggest Low DHEA Level

Aging  


Autoimmune  


 

Sjogren's Syndrome

In a study of ten women with Sjogren’s syndrome, all were shown to have decreased serum concentrations of DHEA-S and an increased cortisol/DHEA-S ratio compared with healthy controls.



 

Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis) / Risk

Low blood levels of the hormone DHEA have been associated with more severe symptoms in people with SLE. Preliminary trials have suggested that 50 to 200mg per day DHEA improved symptoms in people with SLE. One double-blind trial of women with mild to moderate SLE found that 200mg of DHEA per day improved symptoms and allowed a greater decrease in prednisone use, but a similar trial in women with severe SLE found only insignificant benefits.

If the levels of DHEA-sulfate is less than 100ng/ml, consider supplementing first with oral DHEA. The dosage is 10 to 25mg in the morning and afternoon. For more severe disease, consider increasing the DHEA to 50mg twice daily with an upper limit of 300mg twice daily. The only side effects maybe facial hair and acne. These are much less severe if spirolactone, 50mg is prescribed one to three tablets twice daily. Some note improvement of acne with the herb Saw Palmetto 120mg twice daily also.



Circulation  

Atherosclerosis

Although there is some conflicting evidence, many researchers conclude that maintaining normal levels of DHEA provides some protection against atherosclerosis.



Hormones  

Low Sex Drive

DHEA is the precursor to testosterone. Low testosterone levels, which reduce sex drive, may be due to low DHEA levels.



Counter Indicators
Hormones  


Mental  

Depression

The hormonal supplement DHEA could help relieve mild to moderate depression that starts in middle age.

Still, DHEA probably isn’t the first option patients should consider, say the researchers. In their small study, treatment with DHEA resulted in a 50% reduction in depression symptoms in half the participants.

“With a 50% response rate, one would obviously select more reliable first-line treatments for this condition,” write the researchers, who included Peter J. Schmidt, MD, of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

“However,” the researchers write, “in the 50% of depressed outpatients who do not respond to first-line antidepressant treatments, or in those unwilling to take traditional antidepressants, DHEA may have a useful role in the treatment of mild to moderately severe midlife-onset major and minor depression.” [ Archives of General Psychiatry, Feb. 2005]



Musculo-Skeletal  

Rheumatoid Arthritis

DHEA levels have been found to be low in women with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition frequently associated with osteoporosis. In a study of 49 postmenopausal women with rheumatoid arthritis, DHEA levels (measured as DHEA-S ) were significantly lower than in healthy controls. [Gaby, AR. Holistic Medicine. Spring, 1993: p.22]



 

Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Low levels of DHEA have been associated with a wide variety of diseases, including inflammatory, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and polymyalgia rheumatica.



Risks  


Tumors, Malignant  


 


 


 


 


 


Counter Indicators
Tumors, Malignant  

Prostate Cancer

The use of DHEA can raise testosterone levels, which is not advised in prostate cancer or in those with an increased risk of prostate cancer.



Uro-Genital  



Risk factors for Low DHEA Level

Hormones  


Lab Values  


Mental  

Stress

Stress accelerates the loss of DHEA.



Metabolic  

Hypoglycemia

Insulin levels may play a significant role in determining how much DHEA is metabolized. Studies have discovered that low levels of DHEA may be related to an excess of insulin. What this suggests is that anyone suffering from hypoglycemia or excess insulin may be prone to converting nutrients to fat due to depressed DHEA levels.



Supplements and Medications  

Prednisone use

Treatment with glucocorticoids such as prednisone will deplete DHEA by shutting down its main source of production, the adrenal glands.



Counter Indicators
Supplements and Medications  

DHEA use



Symptoms - Cancer  

History of lung cancer



 

History of colon cancer



 

History of breast cancer



 

History of liver cancer



 

History of basal cell skin cancer



 

History of squamous cell skin cancer




Low DHEA Level suggests the following may be present

Hormones  


Musculo-Skeletal  

Rheumatoid Arthritis

DHEA levels have been found to be low in women with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition frequently associated with osteoporosis. In a study of 49 postmenopausal women with rheumatoid arthritis, DHEA levels (measured as DHEA-S ) were significantly lower than in healthy controls. [Gaby, AR. Holistic Medicine. Spring, 1993: p.22]




Low DHEA Level can lead to

Autoimmune  

Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis) / Risk

Low blood levels of the hormone DHEA have been associated with more severe symptoms in people with SLE. Preliminary trials have suggested that 50 to 200mg per day DHEA improved symptoms in people with SLE. One double-blind trial of women with mild to moderate SLE found that 200mg of DHEA per day improved symptoms and allowed a greater decrease in prednisone use, but a similar trial in women with severe SLE found only insignificant benefits.

If the levels of DHEA-sulfate is less than 100ng/ml, consider supplementing first with oral DHEA. The dosage is 10 to 25mg in the morning and afternoon. For more severe disease, consider increasing the DHEA to 50mg twice daily with an upper limit of 300mg twice daily. The only side effects maybe facial hair and acne. These are much less severe if spirolactone, 50mg is prescribed one to three tablets twice daily. Some note improvement of acne with the herb Saw Palmetto 120mg twice daily also.



Hormones  

Low Sex Drive

DHEA is the precursor to testosterone. Low testosterone levels, which reduce sex drive, may be due to low DHEA levels.




Recommendations for Low DHEA Level

Hormone  

DHEA

The optimal dosage range for DHEA varies considerably between individuals. Men and women should consider taking a total of 15 to 75mg per day in one to three divided doses. Many human studies use a daily dose of 50mg. DHEA can be taken with or without food, though some believe that fat helps DHEA to assimilate better. DHEA can be taken in a cream form along with other hormones.

Primarily because DHEA naturally decreases with age, this hormone has been widely used as a kind of fountain of youth. However, there is no real evidence that it is helpful for aging in general. Seven studies have found that DHEA supplementation does not improve mood or increase the general sense of well-being in older individuals. In addition, although some reports suggest that declining DHEA levels cause impaired mental function in the elderly, large studies have not found a connection between the two.

Some doctors are very cautious about using large doses of DHEA and do not go over 10mg in women and 15-20mg in men. Acne can result from taking too much, too quickly.



Lab Tests/Rule-Outs  


Key

Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Strongly counter-indicative
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
Highly recommended

Glossary

DHEA

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid produced by the adrenal glands and is the most abundant one found in humans. DHEA may be transformed into testosterone, estrogen or other steroids. It is found in the body as DHEA or in the sulfated form known as DHEA-S. One form is converted into the other as needed.

Hormones

Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.

Mineral

Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.

Serum

The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.

Osteoporosis

A disease in which bone tissue becomes porous and brittle. The disease primarily affects postmenopausal women.

Estrogen

One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.

Testosterone

The principal male sex hormone that induces and maintains the changes that take place in males at puberty. In men, the testicles continue to produce testosterone throughout life, though there is some decline with age. A naturally occurring androgenic hormone.

Cardiovascular

Pertaining to the heart and blood vessels.

High-Density Lipoprotein

(HDL): Also known as "good" cholesterol, HDLs are large, dense, protein-fat particles that circulate in the blood picking up already used and unused cholesterol and taking them back to the liver as part of a recycling process. Higher levels of HDLs are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease because the cholesterol is cleared more readily from the blood.

Placebo

A pharmacologically inactive substance. Often used to compare clinical responses against the effects of pharmacologically active substances in experiments.

Milligram

(mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

ng

Nanogram: 0.000000001 or a billionth of a gram.

Acne

A chronic skin disorder due to inflammation of hair follicles and sebaceous glands (secretion glands in the skin).

Herbs

Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with one teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted. The high doses of single herbs suggested may be best taken as dried extracts (in capsules), although tinctures (60 drops four times per day) and teas (4 to 6 cups per day) may also be used.

Atherosclerosis

Common form of arteriosclerosis associated with the formation of atheromas which are deposits of yellow plaques containing cholesterol, lipids, and lipophages within the intima and inner media of arteries. This results in a narrowing of the arteries, which reduces the blood and oxygen flow to the heart and brain as well as to other parts of the body and can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or loss of function or gangrene of other tissues.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

A long-term, destructive connective tissue disease that results from the body rejecting its own tissue cells (autoimmune reaction).

Arthritis

Inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling, and stiffness, and resulting from infection, trauma, degenerative changes, metabolic disturbances, or other causes. It occurs in various forms, such as bacterial arthritis, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, is characterized by a gradual loss of cartilage and often an overgrowth of bone at the joints.

Autoimmune Disease

One of a large group of diseases in which the immune system turns against the body's own cells, tissues and organs, leading to chronic and often deadly conditions. Examples include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Bright's disease and diabetes.

Prostate

The prostate gland in men that surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra and produces a secretion that liquefies coagulated semen.

Cancer

Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.

Insulin

A hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to elevated blood glucose levels. Insulin stimulates the liver, muscles, and fat cells to remove glucose from the blood for use or storage.

Hypoglycemia

A condition characterized by an abnormally low blood glucose level. Severe hypoglycemia is rare and dangerous. It can be caused by medications such as insulin (diabetics are prone to hypoglycemia), severe physical exhaustion, and some illnesses.

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