More and more people are becoming familiar with DHEA, which is promoted by many as being an “anti-aging” hormone. DHEA is the most abundant hormone in the body, and without question it is a very important hormone. And for someone with a thyroid condition, having a DHEA deficiency or excess can definitely cause problems.
As for how DHEA is created, when cholesterol is converted to pregnenolone, it can choose one of two pathways. One option is to get converted to progesterone, and it can ultimately end up as cortisol. Or the pregnenolone can be converted directly to DHEA, which can also be converted to other hormones, including testosterone and estradiol.
Let’s look at five of the common functions of DHEA:
1. Plays an important role in memory and cognition.
2. Helps to regulate estrogen and testosterone
3. Improves vitality and feeling of well-being
4. Can help people manage their stress better
5. Improves the immune system function
The Relationship Between DHEA And Thyroid Health
As I’ve discussed in previous articles, many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions have weak adrenal glands. And DHEA is frequently low in a person with weak adrenals, although this isn’t always the case. I’ve spoken about the Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) test by Diagnos-Techs in the past, and while the cortisol levels are the primary focus of this test, DHEA is also measured as well. So a low DHEA is common in people with a thyroid condition, although the low DHEA itself usually isn’t responsible for the development of a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition.
But how does the DHEA become low? Well, I briefly mentioned before how pregnenolone can be converted to either progesterone or DHEA. When someone deals with chronic stress on a regular basis and does a poor job of handling it, more of the pregnenolone is used to produce progesterone, and ultimately cortisol, which is secreted by the adrenal glands. If this pattern continues, and the adrenal glands constantly need to secrete cortisol, this is what can lead to compromised adrenal glands, which also will eventually lead to a deficiency in DHEA since most of the pregnenolone is being converted to progesterone as a protective mechanism. The body of course is great at adapting, and so it will usually take some time before someone presents with a low DHEA.
Yet Another Bioidentical Hormone Which Is Commonly Abused
So if someone has low DHEA levels, is it wise to supplement with DHEA? Well, taking bioidentical DHEA may help, but you need to be very careful. First of all, as is the case with taking any bioidentical hormone, taking DHEA won’t address the actual cause of the disorder. So if you do need to take DHEA, it should only be on a temporary basis.
Also, if you do take DHEA, it is important that you take a small dosage. Many people who take DHEA consume dosages that are way too high, which will definitely cause problems. Remember that even though we’re talking about bioidentical hormones, there are still risks involved. Many people assume that because these hormones are natural the risks are minimal, but it’s very easy to overdose, which can create some severe symptoms.
How Much DHEA Should You Take?
I personally follow the guidelines given by Dr. Janet Lang, and it seems to have worked well for my patients. She recommends 4-16 mg of sublingual DHEA for women, and 8-20 mg of sublingual DHEA for men. Once again, this isn’t suggesting that everyone with low DHEA should take bioidentical DHEA, as each person needs to be evaluated on an individual basis. If the person is extremely deficient in DHEA then it’s not a bad idea to give them DHEA on a temporary basis. If their DHEA is borderline low then they might be able to restore their DHEA levels naturally, without taking bioidentical DHEA. Some sources claim that people should take 25mg to 50mg of DHEA daily. In fact, some medical and holistic doctors will recommend that their patients take such a high dosage. The problem is that if you take too much DHEA it will convert to estradiol in men, and testosterone in women.
If you’re a regular visitor to my website then it shouldn’t surprise you that I would recommend consulting with a natural endocrine doctor, rather than just taking bioidentical DHEA on your own. This poses less of a risk, and if you have a low DHEA there is a good chance you will also have other problems which need to be addressed. And sometimes these other problems can be related, which means if you don’t address them then taking DHEA might not help much.
In summary, although a deficiency in DHEA won’t necessarily lead to a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, many people with thyroid disorders have a deficiency in DHEA. Just remember that hormones interact which each other, and this is why in many people with thyroid conditions it’s important to evaluate not only the levels of thyroid hormone, but some of the other hormone levels as well.