DHEA is the most prevalent hormone in the human body and is considered an important restorative hormone. It is one of the most essential hormones in human health and can be converted into various other steroid hormones, including testosterone and oestradiol (a type of oestrogen). Low or deficient DHEA is found in nearly every illness.
In women, the adrenal gland is mostly responsible for production of DHEA, but the ovaries produce a small amount, together with the brain and the skin. Women produce less than men, which is why women seem to be more affected by adrenal stress.
DHEA starts to decline after the age of twenty-five, where it is at its peak. By age fifty there are minimal amounts. Postmenopausal, almost all oestrogens are made via the conversion of DHEA. Although men produce higher levels of DHEA, because a significant amount is produced in the testes, as well as the adrenal, their age-related decline is more dire and by age seventy, both women and men are on a par.
Optimal levels of DHEA protect both male and female from cardiovascular disease, although it doesn’t have such an effect as testosterone. DHEA has positive effects on the immune system and can help combat auto-immune disorders. It also has positive effects on the brain, muscle, reproductive organs, keeping mucous membranes moist and soft, boosts energy, promotes hair growth, fights anxiety and depression, fights diabetes, liver disease and cancer. It slows osteoporosis and increases bone mass, improves insulin resistance and helps wounds to heal at a greater speed. It has also been seen to help maintain collagen levels in the skin. In addition, DHEA can help with obesity, senile dementia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. What a hormone!
Something very important is that DHEA stabilises the negative effects of excess cortisol, the stress hormone, which is also secreted by the adrenal glands. There is a special relationship between DHEA and cortisol, which is known as the cortisol-DHEA ratio. This ratio is critical to optimal health. The cortisol-to-DHEA ratio decreases when we are calm, but increases when we are ill or under acute stress. It is kind of like a seesaw setup. Not only are optimal hormonal levels extremely important in restorative medicine, so are the ratios between them.