DHEA – Menopause

True Benefits for Symptoms and Anti-Aging?

DHEA for Menopause recently became a hot topic after an Italian study claimed that it works just as well as Hormone therapy for women in menopause. So are there true benefits for women in menopause?

How to Increase DHEA Levels

You can increase the level of DHEA naturally by exercising more and eating less.

Like so many supplements, DHEA – Menopause or Anti-Aging –  is a controversial issue. For a while it was promoted as THE miracle cure for anti-aging and weight loss. Others claim that it is just marketing and hype. In order to separate facts from hype, we have to understand:

  • What is DHEA?
  • Why is there an interest in DHEA for Menopause?
  • What are the proven benefits?
What is DHEA?

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is produced mostly by the adrenal gland. It is the most abundant hormone in the human body and is part of the transformation of cholesterol into estrogen, progesterone (in females), testosterone and cortisol.


It is often called the parent hormone to human sex hormones. Additionally, DHEA has some biological effects of its own (i.e acts on the metabolism).

The highest level of DHEA occurs in our 20s and declines rapidly as we age. When we reach menopause, we have only about 50% of the peak level.

DHEA is classified as a dietary supplement in the US and is available from numerous sources. Because it is a hormone, it is very important to get high quality products from reliable resources. (In the UK and most other European countries, it is available only by prescription).

It is often called the parent hormone to human sex hormones. Additionally, DHEA has some biological effects of its own (i.e acts on the metabolism).

The highest level of DHEA occurs in our 20s and declines rapidly as we age. When we reach menopause, we have only about 50% of the peak level.

DHEA is classified as a dietary supplement in the US and is available from numerous sources. Because it is a hormone, it is very important to get high quality products from reliable resources. (In the UK and most other European countries, it is available only by prescription).

Why the Interest in DHEA for Menopause?

The Italian study found that women, who take DHEA instead of estrogen, had a reduction in menopause hot flashes decreased and an increase in sexual function.

As we said, DHEA is a precursor of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. In women it acts on estrogen receptors and also increases the effects of testosterone. So if we supplement with DHEA we should get the same benefits as if we are using these hormones individually. At least that is the assumption for the research.

Unfortunately, this study has come under some criticism and other studies found that DHEA is about as effective as placebos to help with menopause symptoms. The fact is that at this time we don’t know if DHEA for menopause works as well as estrogen.  The risk associated with long term use of DHEA is also not clear. But common sense tells us that:

  • DHEA is a hormone, which makes it a powerful chemical in the body.
  •  It will have some effects but what they are probably depends on the individual, the current level of all hormones and their interaction.
  • It can have side effects and risks just like any other hormone and biologically active chemical.
What are the Benefits of DHEA?

With increased research we are starting to get a better idea about the activity of DHEA. Aside from a reduction in hot flashes, there are several
other benefits with the most promising results for weight loss and skin health.


Menopause is a time when our hormone levels drop rapidly and cause a chain reaction in the body that speeds up the aging process:

  • Skin gets drier and has more wrinkles
  • Vaginal dryness and atrophy become a problem
  • The metabolism slows to a crawl and causes weight gain
  • The libido vanishes
  • It is very difficult to stay mentaly sharp
Skin

Numerous studies have shown that DHEA has a beneficial effect on the collagen level of the skin. The results show that skin becomes thicker and retains more moisture. The same is true for the vaginal lining.

Several skin creams are now available that contain DHEA. And there are some vaginal creams as well.

Metabolism

Most women are familiar with the weight gain in menopause and DHEA might be a great supplement to speed up the metabolism. Several years ago, the individual chemicals that make up DHEA where isolate. One particular “metabolite” called Keto -7 promises to safely increase the metabolism and help with weight loss. Several recent studies have shown some promise in this direction.

Other

Mental Clarity
DHEA could also help you if you have problems with fuzzy thinking or concentration – common problems for women in menopause. Results are mixed at best and it may not provide much benefit.

Libido
Another issue that plagues menopausal women is the drop in testosterone after menopause. DHEA actually has a bigger effect on testosterone in women than in men.  And at least some women report an increase in sexual function when they take DHEA.

So overall DHEA – Menopause is a winning combination if taken responsibly and in appropriate doses.

Dosage

Although no official dosage is available, most references list a daily dose of25mg – 50mg as safe. But recommended amounts range from from 25-200 mg daily.

The higher dosage should only be used with the guidance of a health care professional and in conjunction with hormone testing.

DHEA is available as a supplement, in skin cream, and by injection.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

Most studies were done only with a small sample of women for a short time. Long term effects are uncertain because no long term study (over one year) has been conducted to test for risks. And the marketing promises probably exceed the actual benefits.

Some side effects can easily be attributed to high levels of DHEA and the effect on testosterone production in women:

  • Oily skin
  • Acne
  • Facial hair growth

These symptoms are also progressive: so if you develop oily skin after starting to take DHEA, don’t wait until hair starts to grow before you decrease the daily dose.

Other side effects are headaches, insomnia and mood changes.

 Drug Interactions

Several drugs are affected by DHEA. They include:

  • Cancer treatments
  • Drugs that are metabolized (broken down) by the liver
  • Insulin
  • Anti-inflammatories (Corticosteroids) decreases the effectiveness of DHEA.

If you are on any prescription medication, check with your healthcare provider before taking DHEA. You may want to check your DHEA level before starting with supplementation and follow up with periodic hormone testing.

 

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