What is DHEA and how does it relate to Women’s Health?
DHEA is a naturally produced steroid hormone that develops into the sexual hormones testosterone and estrogen, helping to define sexual characteristics of the body. The body begins to decrease production of this hormone as we age, peaking in our twenties and declining over time. Widely believed to help maintain our bodies before serious aging occurs, DHEA has become a serious topic of discussion in supplements despite the uncertainty of their effectiveness. In women, DHEA controls levels of musculature and fat in the body, sexual libido and sensitivity, mood and reproduction.
What Causes Low DHEA Levels in Women?
* Age and Menopause: As we age and approach menopause DHEA begins to be produced less and less. Menopause makes drastic changes in the levels of our body’s hormone production. The closer we get to death the lower our level of DHEA production. This is why DHEA is believed to be beneficial in resisting the effects of age.
* Hormonal Imbalance: Fluctuations of hormone levels in the body can lead to lower DHEA levels in women. Disorders like PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) can cause these fluctuations. With shifts in hormone levels reproduction can become difficult leading to infertility, miscarriage and in a recent study it was found to be a potential cause of morning sickness.
* Autoimmune Diseases: Diseases like Lupus and AIDS can affect the immune system and create a DHEA imbalance. DHEA is thought to play a part in maintaining our body’s immune system and keeping us healthy.
* Stress: Stress has a powerful effect on our body’s making us more susceptible to illness if it isn’t relieved.
* Hypoglycemia: Insulin levels are also determined by DHEA. In diabetes sufferers, DHEA has been found to be lower and as a result its thought to play a part in the body’s production and processing of insulin.
What Are the Effects of Having Low DHEA Levels?
* Fatigue: This is one of the clearest effects of low DHEA levels in women. Women who have low DHEA levels will find they are unable to get enough rest and they feel exhausted even after sleeping.
* Loss of Libido: A decreased sex drive can also occur, reducing sensitivity as well.
* Joint Pain: The body’s endurance can be affected by lower DHEA levels because muscle tissue and bones aren’t as well maintained when they don’t receive the optimum level of hormones.
* Memory Loss: Alertness and stamina are also affected by lower levels of DHEA, making it harder to concentrate and retain information.
* Weight Gain: The body’s metabolism becomes more sluggish leaving more fat in the body and allowing it to bulk up.
* Reduced Muscle and Bone Mass: Without DHEA our muscles and bones are not as well maintained and begin to decline.
* Cancer: With our immune system more vulnerable we are more susceptible to cancers and can be overrun quickly as the level of this hormone in our body declines. The older we are the more susceptible we are to it due to lowering DHEA levels.