Steroids have a bad reputation. They are seen as the cheats choice. Used by sportsmen and sportswomen in the past to increase muscle body mass, they have been used to improve performance in tests of strength and agility. But, the bad press is really not warranted. Even the rather nasty combination of pharmaceutical steroids has important roles to play in the healing of many serious illnesses.
However, this bad publicity means that there is every chance that the idea of taking steroids prescribed by medics makes you feel uneasy. Therefore, you might want to find a more natural supplement that can achieve the same effects. DHEA or Dehydroepiandrosterone or dehydroepiandrostenedione, which is also known as androstenolone, is found naturally in the body. It is a parent hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are near the kidneys and it is also produced in the brain. This is an incredibly important chemical in the body, as it is thought to play a role in more than 150 metabolic functions of the body. This serves as a precursor to male and female sex hormones, as it is changed into an androstenedione. This is then changed into androgens and estrogens. Our DHEA levels decline after the age of 30, with the levels decreasing much quicker in women than men.
Due to this function in the body, DHEA has been compared to anabolic steroids, as it boosts your production of your natural growth hormones that help to build lean muscle mass and helps to fight the accumulation of fat – including that troublesome fat around the middle area in men. For this reason, DHEA is popular with athletes and bodybuilders. It is safe, much safer than steroids, but because of the effectiveness in producing performance it has been banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. For some bodybuilders and avid gym goers, this is quite the testimonial for its impact on physicality.
DHEA is taken for many reasons. It is a way of slowing or reversing ageing. It is also thought to be an excellent supplement for dealing with impairment to thinking, possibly slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. It is also used as a medication for other conditions such as lupus, weak bones, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, depression, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. People also see it as an option to help with weight loss, decreasing the effects of the menopause and with arthritis.
This supplement is impressive. It a means of stimulating natural chemicals in the body that can have the same impact as steroids. Natural DHEA supplement isn’t produced in the body. It is a chemical that is found in wild yam and soy – but it is not something you can naturally increase in your body just by eating the food. Therefore, in order to benefit from nature’s steroid, you need to take it in capsules or tablets.
Why might you take DHEA?
Here are 5 major reasons why you might want to take DHEA supplements by mouth.
Reason One: Battle the effects of ageing
There is a lot of research that suggests that if you take DHEA supplement you can increase the thickness and the hydration of the top layer of skin. This means that the skin will appear healthier and have fewer wrinkles. This is particularly effective for postmenopausal women. It is also effective in reducing inflammation, therefore the bags around the eyes and the hands/ legs could help to make the face and body appear much younger.
Taking DHEA regularly over two or more years has also improved the shape and strength of bones and muscle. Osteoporosis is also an effect of age as well. Research has shown that bone mineral density can be improved in older men and women. It can actually also improve the bone density in young people with eating disorders too. It also thought to reduce insulin sensitivity that tends to occur as people age, particularly in people over the age of 60 who have significantly lower DHEA levels naturally.
Research is particularly convincing about the ability of DHEA to help with menopausal symptoms. Regularly taking between 10 – 25mg of DHEA reduces the symptoms such as the hot flushes and the dry vagina. It is also thought to battle some of the more difficult psychological effects of the menopause too.
Reason Two: Depression and Chronic Fatigue
People who have struggled with depression have been shown to have a reduce level of DHEA. Therefore, the logic should extend that if the DHEA levels are normalised then some of the symptoms of depression will be addressed. Research suggests that taking doses between 30 – 500mg of DHEA can improve the symptoms of depression. The supplement needs time to build up in the system, so the effects are not likely to be immediate. So, the user needs to commit to taking a higher dose.
DHEA can also interact with anti-depressants. Before you decide that this might be something you want to try, then you need to speak to your doctor to make sure that this fits in with your regimen.
Equally, early research has shown that DHEA, when administered at doses between 25 – 100mg daily for approximately 6 months, can reduce the impact of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Sometimes, the dual effect of fatigue and depression can have mild impact on our lives but not enough to consider it a medical condition as such. In this context it would seem that DHEA offers the chance of a simple solution, without needing to commit constant medical appointments. It is a great way to take control yourself.
Reason Three: Physical performance
This is a difficult area of consideration for those who want to use DHEA. The supplement is banned by the Olympic Committee and organisations such as the national athletics committee in America. This is because the stimulation of the male hormone in particular is a means of increasing lean muscle mass, the same way conventional steroids would. Therefore, its success in improving muscle and strength is such that it cannot be used by professional athletes. Yet, it is not a synthetic steroid or indeed a performance enhancer. The supplement only enhances the body’s natural levels of DHEA and its repair and recovery signals to the body. This means it only aids the body in similar ways to protein and amino acids.
The hope this provides for people, especially men, with muscle degeneration is significant. A lot of research focuses on older adults, as this is a time when DHEA levels decline. Therefore, the research into the impact on younger adults is sparse. However, the Olympic Committee’s choice to place it on the banned list is strong evidence to support a positive impact on muscle mass.
A lot of people also swear by DHEA in weight loss. Research suggests that DHEA helps people with metabolic syndrome, which prevents them from losing weight by natural means. Therefore, DHEA works to lower inflammation and therefore promote a sense of having a leaner body. Yet, the reduction in inflammation will also increase energy levels – which will help with weight loss too.
Reason Four: To overcome the problems of sexual dysfunction
For men, one of the most distressing effects of ageing is erectile dysfunction. DHEA is the precursor to sex hormones and with less DHEA there are less sex hormones. This means that the ability to have an erection is decreased and the amount of semen available is reduced. Many people believe that is only women who suffer infertility with age, however men too with age have a reduction in potency. The andropause is the male equivalent to the menopause and result in infertility and impotence. Therefore, if the medics find that you have a low level of DHEA and in turn this is causing a low level of testosterone, then taking the DHEA supplement can have a massive impact on the quality of your life.
Female sexual dysfunction can also be overcome. Women, as they age, suffer with vaginal dryness. This can make sexual intercourse painful and unfulfilling. Therefore, taking DHEA can help women to enjoy sex as much as it can help men. Impotence for men is embarrassing and can lead to depression but so can the equivalent in women – dryness and pain when taking part in intercourse can limit a woman’s life as much. Therefore, DHEA really offers hope for couples into later middle age.
Reason Five: Improved mental processes
The loss of hormones as we age has an effect on the body but also on the mind. There is much research to suggest that DHEA can have a significant impact on both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The National Institute of Health claims that DHEA can slow or actually reverse cognitive decline. This means that it can improve the thinking skills of older people – 50 mg of DHEA taken regularly for four weeks can improve memory and increase thinking processes.
How does it work?
DHEA is important in the creation of testosterone and estrogen. These hormones are important for the maintenance of high energy levels, a strong metabolism and brain and bone health. There are no natural food sources for DHEA, even though it occurs in yam and soy it is not bioavailable in food. Therefore, the only way to supplement levels is through synthetic remedies – which are manufactured from these natural sources. These sources of DHEA are biochemically similar to the hormone found in the body.
Everybody suffers with decreased DHEA after the age of 30, so all can benefit from supplementation from this point forward. Even though it simulates the effects of steroids on the body, it is not the same. It is a natural substance that your body produces. It is an amazing way of boosting your body’s natural immune system that helps to block diseases.
First things first – don’t leap to a huge dose straight away. You need to give your body a chance to acclimate to the chemical. So, gradually increase the dose over several months. It is important to keep in mind too that the effects will build up too. There is unlikely to be a big impact straightaway.
Your body at the age of 25 produces between 40 to 100 milligrams daily. So, it makes sense to suggest that any dose above 100mg is beyond what is needed – so be cautious of high dosages that go beyond 100mg. Ask a medic if higher doses will be of benefit to you or not. Doctors sometimes suggest dosages of 200 – 500mg for people with depression for instance and over 100mg for osteoporosis – but it is worth asking for advice.
Some words of caution… DHEA is safe to take orally. However, it is a powerful hormone and not just a vitamin or mineral as with other supplements. Hormones don’t easily excrete through urine and therefore can build up in the body. Hormones need to balance in the body – therefore too much DHEA too soon can cause variable and unpredictable impact.
The bottom line
Athletes and bodybuilders know that DHEA is great for using the body’s natural processes for improving muscle mass and reducing fat build up. Therefore, it is a great replacement for anabolic steroids – working with the body’s own hormones.
However, the uses of this supplement reach far beyond the training room. It is the promise of the elixir of youth that DHEA brings that offers real hope. The effect on the skin, on the inflammation in the body and face – all of which make people look younger. The revitalisation of sexual appetite and performance, which makes people feel young again – is far more important than looks alone.
Then, there is the promise of the restoration of cognitive function. The slowing or reversing of the degeneration of the mind is exciting. It might be that this is extreme – such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease – but it could also be the impact of depression which dulls the experience of life. DHEA supplement replenishes the body’s chemicals and helps increase energy and with this energy comes hope!