Diet and Nutrition

Do I Need DHEA Supplements?

Do I Need DHEA Supplements?

DHEA supplements have a multitude of uses, depending on what the individual wants to improve on or in his or her body. These supplements can be used for building muscles, it can be used as an anti-aging supplement, and it can even be used to aid general health conditions. Yet, what is DHEA? Are DHEA supplements really as effective as they have been claimed to be? Does everyone need DHEA supplements at some point in their lives?

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a pro-hormone produced by the adrenal glands located above the kidneys. DHEA is converted into male and female sex hormones in the body. Other functions of this hormone are still not fully understood. DHEA supplements are used as a means to improve the immune system, protect against aging, provide more energy, and build muscles in the body. In most case, DHEA supplements are commonly used to combat aging. Yet, there is no solid evidence that supports the management of aging by the use of these supplements.

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The long-term effects of using DHEA supplements are not clear. There are prevalent concerns regarding the harmful effects of regular use of the supplements.

Studies show that these supplements can be useful to treat mild to moderate depression. It is also found to be useful to treat obesity, lupus, and adrenal insufficiencies, when used in a combination with regular treatment methods for those disorders. Yet, more studies are required to analyze the effectiveness of these supplements and how they can improve health conditions. There is no concrete evidence to show the effectiveness DHEA supplements have, regarding weight loss. If an individual tries to treat different diseases and disorders with DHEA supplements, it should first be discussed with a health care professional, because DHEA supplements may not be an effective form of treatment.

The side effects of DHEA supplements are hair loss, hypertension, nausea, changes in menstrual cycle, fatigue, head ache, irregular heart beat, and difficulty sleeping. An individual should discuss the side effects and long-term effects with a health care professional before taking these supplements.

DHEA supplements are often used by athletes to improve their performance, as this hormone is supposed to improve muscle strength. Unfortunately, the evidence supporting DHEA to improve athletic performance is unclear and not reliable. Higher doses of DHEA can result in stunted growth, aggressive behavior, hypertension, and the development of liver disorders. DHEA may also increase the risk of certain hormone-dependent cancers, like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer.

An individual should discuss taking DHEA supplements with a doctor before consumption, due to possible drug interactions when taking other drugs.

Working

The body is known to make DHEA on its own, some of this DHEA gets converted into testosterone and estrogen. These are the two powerful sex related hormones which are very much required by the body for carrying out various bodily functions which is beyond reproduction. Estrogen and testosterone are important for maintaining high levels of energy, maintaining a strong rate of metabolism, good health of the heart, bone and the brain. Hence when these hormones tend to naturally decline from the body as one ages, it can be associated with many of the unwanted symptoms in the body.

Currently there are no natural food sources which would contain DHEA, however there are few foods such as yam or soybeans can be used for creating a synthetic version for the supplements. These food items are said to contain certain chemical substances which are very much similar to DHEA hence they can be altered in the lab setting for creating “bio-identical DHEA” hormones.

As mentioned earlier, since the as one age the DHEA levels in the body tend to decrease. There have been evidences which have shown that those adults who are over the age of 30 years acquiring or producing more of the DHEA tend to enjoy better protection against the various age related medical issues and also loss of physical functions. When there are lower levels of any of the hormones which can also include DHEA then it can lead to earlier untimely death in the older adults.

One of the most important reason for using the DHEA supplements would be its involvement in the ability to boost the health of the immune system and also blocks the disease reactivity. In few of the clinical studies it has been suggested that supplementation of DHEA helps in lowering inflammation which is more often the common cause for a lot of medical problems in an individual. The supplementation also helps in the improvement of insulin sensitivity wherein it would allow for better management of blood sugar levels and also other conditions such as heart related disease and diabetes.

It has also been proven beneficial for promoting the protein synthesis thereby helping to build the bone density as well as making the muscles lean. The other benefits of using DHEA supplementation would also include that it helps in the improvement of exercise performance thereby lowering the common pains and aches in the body. DHEA has proven to be beneficial for elderly people as well.

Few of the individuals who have been suffering from sexual dysfunction, lack of energy and any kind of autoimmune reactions have seemed to show great improvement with the use of DHEA but on the flipside there can be cases wherein certain individual may face negative side effects or interactions. At times it may not show up any results at all as expected. It is anytime worth checking with the doctor before starting on the DHEA supplementation program.

Precautions

DHEA is said to be a powerful hormone and hence it works differently than the other types of vitamins, minerals or any other dietary supplements. Hormones do not get easily excreted from the urine and hence at times can cause a lot of problems when they are consumed or produced in excess in the body. Since all of the hormones need to get balanced out to each other and also work together for smooth functioning of the body. DHEA does not seem to have the same effect on all and it is very important to keep in mind that it has a very complex biochemistry which makes the results unpredictable or either visible enough.

It becomes very much important to follow certain guidelines before starting DHEA supplements, since these supplements are not for everyone.

Those individuals below the age of 30 years should not be using DHEA supplements unless they have been specifically instructed to do so by their doctor and also if they are being monitored by the doctor for the same. The reason for the same is because younger individuals who are below 30 years often tend to produce enough of DHEA on their own and if they take more of the supplement then it can have potential side effect which can alter the levels of the other hormones in the body. As mentioned earlier DHEA gets converted into sex hormones, hence taking more of it can lead to symptoms such as acne, periods turning out to be irregular, problems related to fertility, increase in the testosterone hormone and increase in the facial hair growth.

Those men who are being treated for prostate cancer should also avoid the intake of DHEA since one of the common way to manage as well as treat prostate cancer would be to lower down the levels of testosterone through medications. Hence in such cases, taking DHEA supplements can lead to counterproductive to this type of treatment and it can also slow down the recovery or lead to certain side effects. Similarly, those women who are       being treated for breast cancer should also avoid the intake of DHEA supplements since again here it can lead to increase in the levels of estrogen hormones in the body which can lead to higher risk of breast cancer development.

Those women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding should also not use DHEA since it can lead to an impact on their sex hormone levels. For those women who are planning of conceiving in the near future should reach out to the doctor before starting on any supplementation.

If you are on blood thinning medications on a regular basis or on any other medications such as anticonvulsants, diabetes medicine, medicine for heart or liver problems, and hormone therapies should check with the doctor before starting on with DHEA supplements. Let the doctor also know if you are suffering from any kind of medical condition so that you are on the safer side and do not lead to worsening of any medical condition.

Outlook

We all have DHEA in our body during our younger days but as we age it tends to lower down thereby increasing the risk of low DHEA related problems. In such cases supplementations do come to the rescue but it should be taken post proper consultation with the doctor. Also remember that DHEA supplements would not work the same for all the individuals.

Key Takeaways

  • The effectiveness of DHEA supplements has still not been proven.
  • If you are going to take DHEA supplements it is important to discuss it with your doctor before consumption.
  • DHEA supplements have several harmful side effects, if not taken properly.