Anxiety, Stress, Depression, and DHEA

It has been called “the fountain of youth” and “the wonder supplement”. But what exactly is it and what does it do?

What I am referring to is DHEA, also known as dehydroepiandrosterone. It is a steroidal hormone precursor produced by the adrenals, ovaries, testes, and brain.

It has many functions including reversing insulin resistance, increasing strength and stamina, improving immunity, improves well-being, decreases body fat, lowers triglycerides and cholesterol, increases bone density, increases serotonin levels, improves sleep, and normal levels correlate to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Symptoms of DHEA deficiency include fatigue, exhaustion, decreased stress handling ability, impaired immunity, memory problems, decreased sex drive, depressed mood, and lack of vitality.

Before evaluating the need for DHEA supplementation, it would be helpful to have some understanding of its role. Steroidal hormone pathways are either catabolic, causing breakdown, or anabolic, producing build-up. Both pathways are necessary and work best when balanced.

Cholesterol is the fundamental substance from which steroidal hormones are made. Cholesterol is turned into a substance called pregnenalone which is then converted into progesterone in the catabolic pathway then turned into cortisol, the stress hormone. It may also be turned into DHEA in the anabolic pathway (build-up) and then converted into testosterone and estrogen.

When we are in prolonged or chronic stress and anxiety most of the pregnenalone moves through the catabolic pathway causing a slow and steady breakdown of the body. Little, if any, of the pregnenalone is converted to DHEA to move through the anabolic or build-up pathway. This can lead to functional and degenerative conditions and diseases.

DHEA supplementation may be necessary to temporarily balance these pathways. However, accurate testing should be done first. Saliva testing for hormones is the most accurate.

Although DHEA is available over-the-counter, the dosages are too high and can cause severe problems. They are usually found in 25mg and 50mg tablets. Women should take no more than 6-8mg per day in a divided dose while men should take no more than 16-20mg per day in a divided dose. Do not take for more than 3 to 6 months.

As with DHEA and many supplements, MORE IS NOT BETTER.

DHEA should never be taken without the proper adrenal support. The goal would be to restore and balance your endocrine system so it can resume normal function, not to create dependencies.

Sublingual DHEA given in small doses can be the most effective way to take it, not in tablet or capsule form. It can be one valuable tool to help you overcome stress, anxiety, fatigue, and depression.