What is it?
DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Testes also secrete DHEA which is then converted to androstenedione which is then break down into male and female hormones. As we age, our DHEA level decreases. It is also in lower levels in patients with depression. Chemicals found in wild yam and soy can be extracted and converted into DHEA. However consuming them does not increase the DHEA in our body,
Studies have shown that it may help in patients with schizophrenia, SLE, improves erectile dysfunction, improves skin condition of elderly people and improves bone mineral density of osteoporotic people.
Insufficient evidence based studies is present to prove if DHEA can help in Alzheimer disease, adrenal insufficiency, sexual arousal in woman, depression, weight loss, menopausal symptoms, chronic fatigue syndrome, improves physical performance, infertility, metabolic syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. More scientific research is required to prove all these claimed benefits.
Possible side effects
When taking the normal dose, DHEA is generally safe when taken for just for few months. Some side effects include hair loss, acne, stomach cramp and increased blood pressure. As it can be converted to male hormones, hence when taken by woman they may have menstrual pattern changes, deepening of voice and facial hair growth.
It is not safe to take in higher amounts for long periods. Do not take more than 50-100mg per day.
It is unsafe for lactating/pregnant women to consume it, hence it is best to avoid. Also if you have kidney disease, it is best to avoid taking it. Also patients with breast or female reproductive tract cancer (uterine/ovarian cancer), uterine fibroid, polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis should avoid DHEA as it may affect the estrogen level in body and indirectly affect the pre-existing diseases.
Patients with liver disorders should not take DHEA. DHEA may affect insulin hence regular glucose monitoring is required in diabetic patients. DHEA may cause change in mood and mental states in psychiatric patients with bipolar disorder and depression so it is best to avoid. DHEA may also lower HDL the good cholesterol in our body.
1. Exemestane and Anastrozole: these two drugs reduces estrogen in body but DHEA can be converted to estrogen hence rendering the drugs ineffective.
2. Cancer drugs: For example fulvestrant, letrozole and tamoxifen all acts to reduce estrogen in hormone related cancers (breast, uterine and ovarian cancer). DHEA however increases the estrogen levels and affect the effectiveness of the drugs.
3. Insulin: Insulin may reduce the DHEA amount in body making the latter less effective.
4. Medications broken down by liver enzymes cytochrome P450: DHEA slows down the liver enzymes break down of medications that are metabolized by the liver and hence increasing their side effects. Examples of such medications include lovastatin, ketoconazole, Itraconazole and fexofenadine.
5. Steroids: When DHEA is taken together with steroids, the latter will reduce DHEA effectiveness.
The dosage is dependent on individual’s medical indication for taking DHEA. Please follow the instructions of your doctor for proper dosing if you have a medical condition that requires DHEA.
1. Erectile dysfunction: 50 mg daily
2. For Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): 200 mg daily up to maximum dose of 600 mg
3. Osteoporosis to improve bone mineral density: 50-100 mg daily
4. For post-menopausal women and elderly man: 25-50 mg daily
5. For androgen insufficiency: 25-50 mg daily
6. For schizophrenia patients: 25 mg daily then increase to 25 mg twice daily then increase to 50 mg twice daily.