Have you ever felt like you’re rowing against your body’s current, like hard work and sheer will can’t conquer your symptoms? If so, the culprit may be DHEA – a hormone you’ve probably never heard about that significantly impacts your overall health.
High DHEA levels in females can lead to external changes and internal discomfort you never asked for. This blog will navigate the rough seas of understanding, detecting, and treating high DHEA levels. Welcome to a whole new voyage towards renewed balance and health!
The treatment options for high DHEA levels depend on the underlying cause of the elevation. Natural approaches may include stress reduction techniques, modifying your diet and lifestyle, getting enough restorative sleep, and incorporating targeted supplements such as Ashwagandha, Alpha Lipoic Acid, or L-Theanine. Women experiencing symptoms related to hyperandrogenism may benefit from anti-androgen therapies like Spearmint Tea.
If deemed necessary by your healthcare provider, medical treatments such as hormone replacement therapy or medications may also be prescribed. It is important to consult with your healthcare provider regarding individualized treatment recommendations.
Understanding High DHEA Levels in Females
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone naturally produced by the adrenal gland that acts as a precursor for most sex hormones. DHEA also has an impact on bone metabolism and the immune system. Although it is essential for numerous physiological functions in women, excess levels of DHEA can lead to adverse symptoms such as hirsutism, acne, irregular menstrual cycles, and fertility challenges.
DHEA levels vary among individuals and particularly differ between sexes. Women typically have lower circulating DHEA levels than men until their early 20s. However, in some cases, high DHEA levels can develop and cause numerous health issues. The etiology of high DHEA levels is multifactorial; factors include chronic stress and underlying medical conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), adrenal tumors, or hyperplasia.
For instance, Sarah, a 27-year-old woman, had been experiencing unusual hair growth on her chest and chin and experienced sporadic menstruation cycles. She visited her gynecologist, who ordered hormonal tests and found that she had elevated DHEA levels stemming from PCOS. After trying treatments such as lifestyle changes and supplements available over the counter, Sarah opted for medicinal treatment to manage her PCOS.
It is worth noting that experiencing mild high DHEA symptoms such as acne or oily skin may not equate to an underlying medical condition like those mentioned above. However, knowledge of the possible etiologies should prompt timely diagnosis so treatment can commence promptly.
Moreover, research indicates that other endocrinological conditions share similar symptoms with high DHEA levels. It underlines the importance of ruling out these conditions through proper diagnostic procedures before proceeding with management interventions.
In contrast, some experts argue that high DHEA levels are not a disease; thus, they do not require medical attention unless it presents itself in more severe forms like adrenal tumors. However, their arguments fail to recognize the adverse effects of having excessive DHEA levels on hormonal balance and other physical functions.
Next, let us examine the process of measuring DHEA levels.
- A University of Michigan study found that approximately 10% of women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of elevated DHEA levels, saw significant symptom improvement after lifestyle modifications.
- An estimated 5-10% of women of reproductive age globally suffer from PCOS, indicating the potential prevalence of high DHEA levels.
- According to a 2020 research study by the National University of Singapore, stress-related elevated DHEA levels were found in about 20% of their female participants, suggesting stress management could affect a fifth of those with high DHEA levels.
Process of Measuring DHEA Levels
DHEA levels can be measured through blood, urine, or saliva tests. Blood testing is the most common and reliable method, but it also has disadvantages. Blood testing only provides a snapshot of DHEA levels without factoring in circadian rhythms that impact hormone synthesis.
Saliva and urine testing work best for assessing daily fluctuations in hormone levels. Saliva tests measure biologically active hormones circulating freely in the bloodstream, whereas urine tests assess hormone metabolites excreted in the urine.
Whichever testing method one chooses, the importance of correct timing cannot be overemphasized. Hormone fluctuation cycles occur primarily at night; hence blood tests should be taken in the early morning when hormone release is at its peak. Saliva and urine samples do not necessarily depend on timing as you collect them throughout the day.
Imagine taking a blood test for DHEA levels after work and under heightened stress from completing deskwork all day. Stress triggers cortisol and negatively impacts other hormonal cycles within your adrenal gland, affecting DHEA production. The outcome of such a misaligned effort might lead to an erroneous conclusion about your actual DHEA level.
Consider evaluating someone’s cooking abilities by only considering one dish despite eating dishes from different cuisines throughout the week. Similarly, using just one type of sample test is insufficient to evaluate DHEA levels holistically.
Diagnostic Indicators of High DHEA
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the common underlying causes of high DHEA levels in females. Symptoms of PCOS include acne, irregular or missed periods, weight gain, and hair growth on the face and chest.
Hyperandrogenism and fertility issues are also associated with PCOS and high DHEA levels. It is essential to undergo a proper diagnosis process to determine the cause of high DHEA levels.
To measure DHEA levels, doctors perform blood tests that measure the amount of DHEA sulfate in the body. Normal ranges vary depending on age and gender, so it’s essential to accurately discuss results with a licensed medical provider.
An increase in hormone levels can indicate adrenal disorders such as Cushing’s Syndrome, which causes excessive cortisol production. In this case, increased DHEA production can result from overworked adrenals trying to keep up with cortisol demand.
In some cases, increased testosterone or estrogen could contribute to elevated DHEA sulfate levels. High estrogen or testosterone can further exacerbate hyperandrogenism symptoms.
An example that relates to this concept might be similar to how heart disease can present differently in males than females — it isn’t always clear-cut! The same idea applies to elevated DHEA levels showing differently depending on the individual’s physiology.
To further support this statement, studies have found that different gene variations linked with PCOS may also factor into the variance seen across patients’ symptoms. Instead of solely looking at hormonal relations, scientists suggest exploring genetic factors when measuring hormone markers .
On the other hand, it’s also important not to rely on genetic testing until more information has been amassed regarding specific gene variants and diseases like PCOS . While we need further research direction to rely on genetic testing, healthcare providers can still use current diagnostic methods and look into other potential causes for elevated DHEA levels.
Now that we have reviewed diagnostic indicators let’s discuss natural ways individuals can manage their elevated DHEA levels.
Natural Ways to Treat High DHEA Levels
Lifestyle changes such as therapeutic exercise, improved sleep hygiene, gut regime management, and stress reduction can help balance hormones in women with high DHEA levels. Engaging in a gentle activity like yoga or walking for a few minutes daily helps reduce cortisol production and stress levels .
Insomnia is another symptom of high DHEA levels often found in patients with PCOS. Going to bed at a regular time each night and avoiding electronic devices before bedtime can improve sleep quality . Supplements like melatonin also prove useful in managing high DHEA levels and regulating circadian rhythms.
Managing blood sugar thru nutritional intake may also impact hormone balancing. Avoiding refined sugars and processed foods while including more nutrient-dense plant-based meals will limit inflammation and ballooning hormonal distress . Anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon may also prove beneficial.
Take the analogy of how plants require specific nutrients to thrive and grow independently. Like planting seeds in nutrient-rich soil, females need certain vitamins to thrive physiologically. Nutrients such as B vitamins (found in leafy greens), and magnesium (found in nuts & seeds) aid mood regulation while simultaneously aiding hormone production and secretion .
It’s essential to note that taking targeted supplements like ashwagandha has demonstrated potential positive results when decreasing cortisol secretions associated with chronic stress .
A clinical trial shows Ashwagandha lowered cortisol levels by 30%. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) showed promising results in PCOS patients to support antioxidant defense systems and improve insulin resistance and glucose tolerance .
While some findings indicate helpful natural remedies in managing high DHEA levels, supplements should not replace the necessary medication for potential underlying health issues. Lifestyle modifications and targeted supplementation should complement clinical treatments and not replace them.
Now that we have covered natural ways to manage high DHEA levels, let’s dive into medicinal interventions.
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8. Moini et al., Iranian Journal of Reproductive Medicine (2015)
Lifestyle Changes and Supplements
When dealing with high DHEA levels in females, lifestyle changes and natural supplements can help manage symptoms and reduce DHEA levels. It is important to note that these methods may not work for everyone, and consulting with a healthcare provider is crucial before making any significant changes.
Managing stress is one of the most effective ways to reduce high DHEA levels. Chronic stress has been known to increase adrenal gland activity and, consequently, DHEA production. Incorporating mindfulness practices, such as yoga or meditation, and taking daily breaks to relax and manage stress can significantly reduce DHEA levels.
Balanced Blood Sugar Levels
Balanced blood sugar levels are also important in managing high DHEA levels. When blood sugar levels are too high or too low, it can cause stress on the adrenal glands, leading to increased DHEA production.
Similar to a rollercoaster ride where highs and lows can cause distress to the body, balancing blood sugar levels with a balanced diet and avoiding sugary foods can help stabilize adrenal function.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used in traditional medicine for centuries. It helps regulate hormone imbalances and reduces anxiety and stress levels. Studies suggest that ashwagandha may also positively affect lowering high DHEA levels. Always consult with a healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Another supplement that may help lower high DHEA levels is alpha lipoic acid (ALA). ALA is an antioxidant that helps prevent damage to cells and has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.
A study published in Fertility and Sterility found that women with PCOS who took ALA supplements for 16 weeks significantly decreased DHEA levels compared to the placebo group.
Medicinal Interventions for High DHEA
Sometimes, lifestyle changes and natural supplements may not be enough to manage high DHEA levels. In these instances, medication and medical intervention may be necessary.
Spearmint tea is a natural anti-androgen that has been shown to reduce androgen levels in women with PCOS. A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that drinking two cups of spearmint tea daily for a month significantly reduced total testosterone and DHEA-S levels in women with PCOS.
While spearmint tea shows promise as a treatment for high DHEA levels, further research is needed to evaluate its effectiveness fully.
Prescription medication may also be prescribed to manage high DHEA levels depending on the underlying cause. For example, if an adrenal tumor causes high DHEA levels, surgery may be necessary to remove the cancer. However, medication such as glucocorticoids can also suppress excessive adrenal gland activity and reduce DHEA production.
It is important to note that prescription medication should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Some medicines have side effects, so weighing the benefits against any potential risks is important before starting treatment.
Ketoconazole is an antifungal medication that lowers DHEA levels by inhibiting enzymes responsible for producing steroid hormones. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that ketoconazole effectively reduced DHEA levels in patients with Cushing’s Syndrome, characterized by high cortisol and DHEA levels. However, ketoconazole can also cause liver damage and other side effects.
- High DHEA levels may require more than just lifestyle changes and natural supplements. Spearmint tea has shown promise in reducing DHEA levels, but further research is needed for its effectiveness. Depending on the underlying cause of high DHEA levels, prescription medication and ketoconazole may also be necessary. Still, these should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare provider due to potential side effects. It’s crucial to weigh the benefits against the risks before starting any treatment.
Prescription Medication and its Efficacy
When natural treatments are insufficient to manage high DHEA levels, prescription medication may be necessary. However, it is important to keep in mind that medication should never be the first choice and should be prescribed only under the supervision of a licensed medical provider.
One commonly used medication for managing high DHEA levels in females is spironolactone. Spironolactone is a medication that blocks androgen receptors, reducing testosterone levels and symptoms associated with hyperandrogenisms, such as acne, hirsutism, and hair loss.
Studies have shown that spironolactone can effectively reduce acne lesions in women with mild to moderate acne or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In one study, 85% of women with PCOS treated with spironolactone experienced improvement in hirsutism symptoms. However, it is important to note that spironolactone can take several months to show full results and may not work for everyone.
Another medication that can be prescribed for high DHEA levels is dexamethasone, a type of steroid hormone used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Dexamethasone is often used to treat conditions like adrenal hyperplasia or congenital adrenal hyperplasia, resulting in excess DHEA production.
While dexamethasone can help reduce DHEA levels, weighing the potential side effects, including weight gain, increased blood sugar levels, mood changes, and risk of infection is important. Additionally, pregnant women should not take dexamethasone without medical supervision due to potential threats to the fetus.
It is important to note that while prescription medication may be effective in managing high DHEA levels, it also poses risks and should only be prescribed under the guidance of a licensed medical provider. People who are considering using medication to manage their high DHEA levels should have a thorough understanding of potential risks and benefits.
Potential Risks Linked to High DHEA Levels
High DHEA levels can lead to various potential health risks if left untreated. Some common risks associated with high DHEA levels include:
- Fertility challenges: High DHEA levels can inhibit ovulation and cause fertility issues in women.
- Adrenal insufficiency: Overproduction of DHEA can lead to adrenal gland fatigue and an increased risk of developing adrenal insufficiency.
- Insulin resistance: High DHEA levels have been linked to insulin resistance, which can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Cardiovascular disease: Studies have shown that elevated DHEA levels can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Mood disturbances: High DHEA levels have been associated with mood imbalances, including depression and anxiety.
People with high DHEA levels need to be aware of these potential risks and take steps toward managing their condition. In addition to natural treatments and medicinal interventions, people with high DHEA levels should prioritize regular health check-ups. This will help them stay informed about their condition and monitor potential health complications.
A study conducted on 60 women with hyperandrogenism showed that those with higher DHEA levels were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. These factors increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and other serious health problems.