Bioidentical Hormones

DHEA: What is it & Why Should You Care?

by Magnolia on July 9, 2014

Post image for DHEA: What is it & Why Should You Care?

If you’re anything like me, prior to perimenopause the only thing you knew about hormones was that you had them, and that about every 28 days or so, you had a deep and passionate longing for a luscious piece of chocolate and a high powered firearm with bulls-eye accuracy.

In prior generations there wasn’t much talk about such things either. Our mothers and grandmothers knew they would one day become menopausal and that’s just the way things were. There was no need to talk about it or try to understand it. But, that was then and this is now.

Today’s generation of perimenopausal women sees things differently. We want to be active participants in our health and wellness, and we also want accurate information to aid in asking the right questions.

But, having access to all that information sometimes comes with a price, especially when you hear words like DHEA,also called, dehydroepiandrosterone.  Not only can you not pronounce it, but you probably don’t know what it is either. But should you?  And if you do, will it help you feel better and cope with those nasty symptoms of perimenopause?

As with everything that has to do with your hormone health, the answers may not be completely clear cut.  But, without question, the more you know the easier it is to make informed choices.

What is DHEA?

In basic terms, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a steroid secreted by the adrenal glands. One of the primary functions of DHEA is that it has to be present for both androgen (male hormones) and estrogen synthesis to occur in your body. In other words, it helps your body produce androgen and estrogen, both which are necessary for you to have hormone balance. It also plays an important role during times of chronic stress.

The Role of DHEA in Perimenopause and Adrenal Fatigue

One of the more difficult symptoms that women experience during perimenopause is what is often called crashing fatigue, an overwhelming tiredness that makes you feel as if you have cinder blocks chained to your ankles.

If the crashing fatigue in perimenopause was simply the result of not sleeping enough, the answer would be simple – get more sleep.

But, that is the not the entire picture. Crashing fatigue and exhaustion during perimenopause is often the result of adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue results when your adrenal glands become depleted and unable to function normally as a result of chronic stress, such as the stress that results from hormone imbalance.

If you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, chances are you have too much of the stress hormones cortisol and norephinephrine in your body and not enough DHEA.

DHEA – The Great Equalizer

During times of stress, your adrenal glands release both cortisol and norepinephrine to enable you to adapt and withstand the stress. Too much cortisol, which can result during times of chronic stress, has a detrimental effect on your body, such as, breaking down muscle tissue, thinning of the skin, erratic blood sugar levels, weight gain and a weakened immune system.

To help your body maintain balance and to counteract the negative effects of too much cortisol and norepinephrine, the body releases DHEA. In addition to acting as the great equalizer, DHEA also acts in other positive ways. It increases bone density. It guards against heart disease by keeping bad cholesterol (LDL) in check.

It sharpens the mind (brain fog, anyone?), improves sleep patterns and generally increases vitality and energy. In other words, ladies, DHEA is your friend.

Should You Supplement DHEA Levels During Perimenopause?

With the advent of anti-aging medicine and the increased focus on health and wellness issues, women are inundated with suggestions for supplements to add to their bodies. DHEA, because of its health promoting, anti-aging properties, is often called the fountain of youth and is highly recommended as a supplement.

But, should you? Is it safe? Because DHEA is instrumental in metabolizing into hormones, many physicians feel it is not safe to experiment with DHEA as a supplement. In addition, because DHEA basically functions as a steroid in the body, there is the potential for negative side effects if large doses are consumed.

If you are in perimenopause and are suffering with adrenal fatigue and are considering supplementing with DHEA, be sure and seek the advice of a trusted physician or health care provider first. While there are certainly health benefits in supplementing with DHEA, the potential risks can be harmful. While seeking to restore hormone balance during perimenopause is always a good thing, caution when introducing supplements and hormones into your body is always the wiser course of action.

{ 1 comment }

Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part III

Thumbnail image for Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part III

This is the final post in Dr. Joseph Mazzei’s series on the relationship between estrogen therapy and breast cancer.    If you wish to contact Dr. Mazzei or any of his colleagues in the Body Logic medical group, please see his byline at the end of the post.  As always, the views expressed in this post [...]

July 2, 2014 CONTINUE READING →

Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part II

Thumbnail image for Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part II

Today’s post is a continuation of  Dr. Joseph Mazzei’s post on the relationship between estrogen therapy and breast cancer.  The views expressed in this post are not necessarily the views held by The Perimenopause Blog and are for informational purposes only. Please see your physician or healthcare provider for personal medical evaluations.  Let us continue our conversation from [...]

June 29, 2014 CONTINUE READING →

Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part I

Thumbnail image for Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part I

Today’s post is a guest post by Dr. Joseph Mazzei, a Chicago based doctor for BodyLogicMD, a medical group which sponsors The Perimenopause Blog. I asked Dr. Mazzei if he could give his opinion on estrogen therapy since it is starting to make its way back into the news once again.  In this post, Dr. Mazzei [...]

June 24, 2014 CONTINUE READING →

Symptoms of Perimenopause Symptoms of Menopause

I thought it would be appropriate – and helpful – to follow up on a recent post I did on the difference between perimenopause and menopause and provide a list of the symptoms associated with each. Though the terms are often (and I’m guilty of the same) used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Perimenopause is a transitional [...]

November 17, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Natural Therapies for Menopause & Product Giveaway!

Thumbnail image for Natural Therapies for Menopause & Product Giveaway!

Today’s post is a guest post from Dr. Rawls, co-founder of the company Vital Plan and the non-hormone product HPA Balance® to treat perimenopause and menopause symptoms.  To participate in the giveaway either leave a comment on this post in the comment section, or join us at Facebook.  Either “Like” the post, or leave a [...]

October 14, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Maggie on the Radio!

Thumbnail image for Maggie on the Radio!

I was a guest on Hotze Wellness Radio on KSEV Radio in Houston, Texas, for the full hour yesterday, to discuss my role as a women’s health blogger, and advocate for women going through perimenopause. I tried not to think about how many people might be listening, and focus only on the doctor who was [...]

October 4, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

What are the Risks & Side Effects of Prometrium?

Thumbnail image for What are the Risks & Side Effects of Prometrium?

Prior to my taking Prometrium, an FDA approved, bioidentical, oral progesterone, I used bioidentical progesterone in a cream form, which I purchased from compounding pharmacies. I was careful to only purchase the highest grade and quality I could find (read: expensive), and used it happily for several years with no negative side-effects. Last year, on the [...]

August 24, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

S.959: What is it and Why Should You Care?

Thumbnail image for S.959: What is it and Why Should You Care?

If you are a faithful reader of my blogs – and if you’re not you should be – then you might remember a few posts I did last year on a certain brouhaha surrounding compounding pharmacies. One of the first posts I wrote (which you can find here) explored the safety of compounding pharmacies. The post [...]

July 16, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Great Job Cutting Through the Noise!

Thumbnail image for Great Job Cutting Through the Noise!

He said in response to my recent post at Healthline.com….”If Menopause is a Natural Process, Why Use Hormones?” “He” is Dr. Steven Rabin, M.D., a Burbank, California gynecologist – and I did appreciate the support and enthusiastic thumbs-up for my article. It’s always good when members of the medical community offer kudos. I just don’t [...]

June 17, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

The Hormone Decision

Thumbnail image for The Hormone Decision

I purchased a new book recently, The Hormone Decision, by Tara Parker-Pope.  Tara is a nationally recognized women’s health writer for both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She was also a contributor in the movie “Hot Flash Havoc: a movie of menopausal proportions” which I viewed recently, and blogged about here. [...]

May 31, 2013 CONTINUE READING →