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DHEA, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Adrenal Imbalance

Updated by Dr Richard Hagmeyer DC, CFMP on April 2-2020

People suffering with Chronic fatigue or Adrenal imbalances often have low DHEA.  Are you feeling burned out in life? ongoing chronic Fatigue to the point you need to take a 15 minute power naps just to make it through the day? If this sounds familiar, have you often wondered, “Why is this happening to me, Why am I so tired all the time?”

Do these sound familiar, insatiable sugar or carb cravings, a dependance on coffee in the morning to get started and then another cup of coffee around 2 in the afternoon?  Weight gain despite dieting and exercise on the treadmill? Anxious or trouble coping with Stress? If you said- “OMG, you just hit everyone of my symptoms”……. You could be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue and Low DHEA!

DHEA is responsible for so many of the metabolic functions in our body that we cannot afford to be deprived of it.

DHEA Supplementation and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Any amount of time on the internet searching Adrenal fatigue you probably also learned about DHEA. There has been some heated controversy surrounding the benefits of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplementation lately, with it being called everything from “an anti-aging miracle” to “a snake-oil-like fraud”. When needed there are some real benefits to DHEA supplementation, especially for men and women when levels are low.

What Is DHEA and How Does It Work?

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a natural steroid and precursor hormone produced by the adrenals. Some of it is converted into the major male and female sex hormones namely testosterone and estrogen.

Given that DHEA is produced naturally, why would someone with chronic fatigue or adrenal fatigue syndrome or a Chronic disease want to start taking it? What are the benefits?  This is a great question!

The main reason is that DHEA levels decrease as you age, but as we now know, they also decrease with Prolonged Chronic Stress which includes Chronic Diseases. Chronic disease include things such as Autoimmune disorders, Thyroid problems, Chronic Infection, and Gut problems.

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Several studies show that DHEA levels decreases by up to 80% by adulthood. In both men and women, DHEA levels peak between age 20 and 30, after which they decline steadily by about 5% a year.

Conditions Helped by DHEA Supplementation

DHEA is not only important for menopausal and peri-menopausal woman. DHEA supplements may help men and woman who suffer with depression, obesity, lupus, and adrenal insufficiency. DHEA may also improve skin in older people and help treat osteoporosis, vaginal atrophy, erectile dysfunction, and some psychological conditions. Low DHEA levels have been associated with heart disease, depression, Asthma, Allergies, Chronic Inflammation, insulin sensitivity, Diabetes and so much more.

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 Source1, Source2,  Source3, Source4,Source5).

When you take this hormone as a supplement, DHEA levels in your body increase. Some of this DHEA is converted into testosterone and some converted to estrogen (Source).

With this said, Testing DHEA levels as well as other hormones can help understand which direction DHEA is metabolizing into.

Heres and example, If you are a woman with high testosterone, you would not want additional DHEA being converted into testosterone this could aggravate things like acne, irritability, anxiety, cycle irregularities. This is why testing is important and you should never take supplementing with DHEA lightly. You should always do so under the supervision of a Functional Medicine Practitioner.

A Recent Patient of Mine…

A patient of mine recently came into the office suffering from an array of chronic symptoms, including subclinical hypothyroidism, depression, stomach bloating and crippling fatigue. In short, she felt “completely spent, and just exhausted with life”.

After blood and saliva testing, it was revealed that she had a subclinical thyroid disorder. However, her tests also showed a severe adrenal imbalance with very low levels of DHEA and cortisol- not uncommon in patients with Thyroid disease.

I have personally seen DHEA help patients like this one, who have been feeling their absolute worst, do a complete turnaround, and start feeling great again after starting a course of DHEA supplementation.

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Things To Remember About DHEA Supplementation

  • DHEA supplementation can reap huge benefits for men and women of all ages who have Extreme fatigue, Decrease in muscle mass, Decrease in bone density Depression, Aching joints, Loss of libido, Lowered immunity.
  • If you have these symptoms combined with less than optimal DHEA levels, supplementation can have profound impact on your health.
  • DHEA is one of the best “feel-good” hormone we know. It works quickly and effectively and has a broad range of benefits on the body, when taken with the right combination of support.
  • Keep in mind that DHEA alone can’t fix adrenal imbalance, but it can be an important factor in a combination approach that includes hormonal and nutritional support, lifestyle changes.
  • To safely gain the best possible benefits from DHEA, it should be used in a therapeutic setting, under proper medical supervision. Without appropriate use, testing and supervision, patients may risk symptoms of excess DHEA levels.

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