I called DHEA the “anti-stress hormone”. DHEA stands for dehydroepiandrosterone. Don’t let that tongue-twisted name bother you, everyone refers to it as DHEA. It is the most abundant product of the adrenal glands. DHEA is the precursor used by your body in producing sex hormones like testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. It is produced in large quantities in youth but its production dwindles with age.
Most hormones decline with age but cortisol, the stress hormone, actually increases with age. Coritsol then plays havoc on your body. Your body need not worry about long-term maintenance like building your immune system or laying down new bone or muscle when you are running from a lion.
When you are under stress corisol tells your body “just get through the moment, damn tomorrow.” Since it inhibits maintenance and repair, cortisol accelerates aging. It’s like burning your candles at both ends. DHEA is the natural counter to cortisol.
You secrete DHEA when times are good when you are well feed, secure and free of stressors. The more DHEA in your body, the less effect stress will have on you. The problem is your adrenal capacity to produce DHEA declines with age. Yet the modern environment stresses your body every day. Cortisol is overproduced and aging is accelerated.
Levels of sex hormones decrease as you age. DHEA boosts the production of sex hormones and creates a slew of health benefits. It is a crucial part of being youthful. Like hormones, DHEA declines with age.
People with DHEA deficiency have been documented to experience:
-Shortened life spans
A 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society studies DHEA’s effects on aging. People between the ages of 60 and 80 were tested for DHEA levels. The participants also took cognitive and strength tests.
Researchers found that those with the highest levels of DHEA performed better on both the cognitive and physical assessments. Study authors admitted that those with higher levels of DHEA seemed younger.
DHEA and Youth
The rate of DHEA decline is surprising. By the time you are 65 years old, you’ll only have about 10% of the DHEA that you had when you were 20.
People with higher levels of DHEA experience:
- Less stress
- Enhanced energy
- A boost in immune system function
- Reduced body fat
- Increased libido
- Sharper memory
- Halt in wrinkles and signs of physical aging
You can raise your levels in two ways: 1) by reducing levels of Cortisol, and by 2)DHEA supplementation.
You can lower your cortisol levels by reducing stress.
DHEA is becoming more popular as a supplement. I use DHEA at my Institute regularly. DHEA therapy has successfully treated many of my patients who suffer from lack of energy, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
It is important for you to get your DHEA levels checked. Your doctor can perform the simple test. Youthful levels of DHEA for men range from 400 to 560. For women, levels should range from 350 to 430.
After your levels have been checked, you can determine optimal dosing. A common starting dose that I use is 10 mg daily. DHEA is absorbed well and can be taken at any time but best mimics the natural daily fluctuation when taken first thing in the morning.
Photo Credit: Michal Marcol