DHEA supplement benefits and side effects, dosage, danger, how much to take
Role in hormone replacement therapy and libido boost for a man and woman
September 11 2017 by Ray Sahelian, M.D., author of DHEA: A Practical Guide, Mind Boosters, and Natural Sex Boosters
You MUST read this article regarding DHEA side effects, risks and danger before you buy a supplement
Do not buy dosages more than 10 mg per pill
Dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone made by the adrenal glands located just above the kidneys. Scientists have known about it since 1934 but it became available to the public without a prescription in 1995, shortly thereafter pregnenolone became available. More than 150 hormones are made by the adrenal glands. However, the most abundant is DHEA. Humans are thought to make between 10 and 15 mg a day. These numbers are lower in women by about 10 to 20 %. After it is made by these glands it goes into the bloodstream and from then on it travels all over the body and goes into our cells where it is converted into male hormones, known as androgens, and female hormones, known as estrogens. Small amounts are also made in the brain by neurons (brain cells). Many doctors prescribe this hormone supplement to their patients in high dosages without realizing the risks and dangers it can cause.
I do not feel comfortable with the high dosages of DHEA, pregnenolone and 7-keto DHEA supplements sold over the counter. They are most commonly sold as 10, 25, 50 and even 100 mg per capsule or tablet. I think a maximum of 5 mg is acceptable when used occasionally. Hormones are powerful substances. They can be very helpful if used appropriately but can cause harm if misused.
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DO NOT EXCEED more than 5 mg a day on a long term basis. Blood and saliva testing are not reliable ways to determine how much DHEA you should take because blood levels do not give a clear view on how this hormone is interacting within cells in the brain, skin, hair, liver, breast, prostate, and other tissues and organs. You may consider other non-hormonal options to improve your health. For instance, for sexual health and libido improvement, consider a popular and effective male and female herbal sexual enhancement product such as Passion Rx yohimbe. For mental health, there are various brain supplements including Mind Power Rx. To improve muscle tissue, consider creatine powder. For more energy and a sense of wellbeing, try MultiVit Rx or the natural antidepressants 5HTP, St. John's wort or SAM-e. If there are no other good options, and if you really do need to take a DHEA supplement, use the smallest amount that works in order to prevent unpleasant reactions. Take frequent breaks which I call 'hormone holidays.'
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Alternatives to DHEA pills:
Passion Rx with Yohimbe for enhanced sexuality in men and women
Eyesight Rx for improved visual acuity, day and night vision, works within hours or days
Mind Power Rx for better mental focus
Diet Rx for appetite suppression
MultiVit Rx for more energy all day long
Joint Power Rx for healthy joints as we age
Prostate Power Rx for a healthy prostate gland
DO NOT TRUST ANYONE - no matter what his or her credentials - including professors at academic centers - Who says a DHEA supplement is safe in high doses when taken for prolonged periods.
How to boost sexuality in men and women without hormones or pharmaceutical ED medications
This natural libido enhancer provides results that are commonly are noticed within 2 or 3 days. This blend of many herbal extracts improves libido and sexual thoughts, erectile function, orgasms, climaxes and stamina. The potent herbal extracts in in this all natural herbal sexual enhancer include ashwagandha, catuaba, choline, cnidium, horny goat weed herb, maca, muira puama, passion flower, rhodiola, tongkat ali, tribulus extract and yohimbe bark. Passion Rx does not have DHEA, pregnenolone, testosterone, androstenedione, progesterone, or other hormones.
Benefits and medical uses, who can be helped?
Before puberty blood DHEA levels both in males and females is very low. However it rapidly increases at puberty and starting in late 20s or early 30s levels begin to decrease with age.
A DHEA supplement may benefit those who have adrenal deficiency and low levels. The benefit from a supplement (in men and women who are deficient) include improved sense of wellbeing, more alertness and stamina, and enhanced sexual interest and libido. Blood levels of all the steroid hormones that derive from DHEA metabolism are often increased when people take this hormone pill. This may lead to both beneficial and harmful effects. The overall benefit from a supplement must be balanced against potential side effects. Mid to late fifties is the time that some people start noticing benefits from taking this hormone. Others may never need to use hormone replacement therapy.
DHEA side effects, Review of safety and adverse events, concerns with safety
Individuals with normal levels of this hormone in their bloodstream who take high doses are likely get DHEA side effects. Some of these effects can linger several days after stopping the hormone, but much depends on the dosage used, a person's unique metabolism, and how long the product has been taken.
Email received in 2016:
Dear Dr. Sahelian, I wish I read and followed all of your warnings regarding dhea many years ago. I was a bodybuilder and yoga instructor and I am experiencing many health problem which I believe are related to too much dhea in addition to other supplements. I'm upset that I did not take dhea more seriously.
Adverse effects of DHEA supplementation include:
Acne and pimples
Acne can occur due to increase levels of androgens. There are those who are very prone to acne eruptions and they could have pimples develop within a day or two. I know others who have taken this androgen hormone for months and years without any skin problems.
Blood pressure elevation
Some users have reported hypertension with use.
I started taking DHEA about 2 months ago at 20 mg per day. On Christmas day my blood pressure shot up higher than it has ever been at 177/80. However, that was nothing compared to what happened 2 weeks ago when I woke up at 4 am with a headache and a blood pressure of 226/99, which has been the peak. My blood pressure is now averaging 175/80. Before this all happened it was averaging 135/70. I am a 71 year old male.
Email - My friend is 42 and took DHEA 25mg for about 2 months. Her breasts have started to swell painfully. She already needs a bigger bra size.
Cancer, tumor formation
High dosing for prolonged periods - many years - could theoretically increase the risk for certain cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. It is well-known that excess exposure to many types of hormones, such as androgens, progesterone and estrogens, increases the risk for certain types of cancer.
Hair loss side effects, thinning hair is a concern in men and women, hair falling out
Any androgenic steroid, such as DHEA, testosterone and androstenedione can cause the side effect of hair loss or thinning in susceptible individuals. DHEA is likely to raise levels of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the hair follicles. Too much DHT will lead to hair loss. The temporary (2 to 3 month) use of finasteride [Propecia 1 mg or Proscar 5 mg] could stop the hair loss and possibly regrow part or all of the loss. It is difficult to predict how long a person would need to take finasteride. Even if DHEA supplementation does not significantly increase levels of testosterone in the bloodstream, it is still quite possible, and perhaps likely, that it enters hair follicles, and is converted to testosterone, and on to DHT locally, thus contributing to hair loss. The study of hormones is called endocrinology, and there is increasing attention to the study of hormones inside tissues and cells. This is called intracrinology.
I took some DHEA for 2 weeks at 25mg. I am a 31 year old female. My period has become scant and early and my hair is thinning rapidly. I have already stopped it. I find I can almost control it with curcumin, soy, saw palmetto, evening primrose oil, NAC and taurine. Is it possible that the hair will continue to fall out even after cessation of supplementation?
In all likelihood the hair loss should stop after cessation of the hormone supplement. It is difficult to know how long the process will take to reverse.
A doctor prescribed 25 mg daily of DHEA for my wife. She stopped taking it after 3 months when her menstrual cycle became irregular. Her hair is also coming out. If we had researched it better ahead of time she would never have agreed to take it.
My hair loss has recovered. I felt it important to share with your female readers that I did recover completely from DHEA induced hair loss. I am a woman who began taking 50mg at 35yrs of age. I took it for approx. one year. Within 24 hours of stopping I experienced withdrawal symptoms just like those of withdrawal from benzodiazepines. These severe symptoms lasted 6 months, tapered at a year, and were not completely gone for 2 years. It has now been 5 years and I am finally feeling good again, and yes...my hair is fine as well.
I started taking 25 mg DHEA in the interest of increasing the usefulness of my workouts/runs, increase my libido (which was waning). I was 41 when I was taking it (I am 43 now). The hormone addition did contribute to my workouts and a further decrease in BMI. I felt great. My libido had increased. My arms were cut -- but then they began getting veiny, like a male body builder's. My breasts shrunk, and my hair started falling out. Panic. I stopped taking it when my hair started coming out. Over time, things went back to "closer to normal."
I was given DHEA supplement for about 5 months from my doctor. Since I started taking it the first couple weeks were great, then I started losing hair, having mild acne, depression, fatigue, pms, not sleeping well, etc... I asked if I should be taken off, she said yes because my levels were high -- 321, I'm 34 year old female.
Heart rhythm problems, cardiac arrhythmias, palpitations, PVCs
High dosages of pregnenolone and DHEA, generally more than 10 mg, cause heart palpitations and irregular beats in some users. In some people this can occur on dosages as low as 5 mg whereas others may take 25 mg or more to notice an arrhythmia. I believe that the highest dose of these hormones sold over the counter should be no more than 5 or 10 mg, even though they are often available at 10, 25, 50, and even at 100 mg. These hormones are much more powerful that people realize. Just because they are available over the counter does not mean they have been proven to be completely safe. The Oct 10, 1998 issue of the respected medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine published my letter to the editor regarding DHEA and cardiac arrhythmias. It was the first time such an association was made and published. See Ann Intern Med. 1998 Oct 1;129(7):588. Dehydroepiandrosterone and cardiac arrhythmia. Sahelian R, Borken S. Case Reports - Letter. The case report mentioned heart palpitations that occurred in Dr. Borken who was taking 25 mg of DHEA supplement daily. When he stopped the hormone supplement, the palpitations went away, when he resumed the supplement, the palpitations recurred. Heart rhythm almost always returns to normal after the supplement is stopped.
Testosterone replacement therapy is now known to increase the risk for heart attacks and it is possible the same could occur with high dose use of other androgenic hormones.
Here are examples of DHEA and pregnenolone cardiac side effects and testimonials we have received by email:
I have been taking DHEA 30mg daily for 5 years. 2 years ago i developed heart palpitations. Then i became angry, easily agitated, sleep problems appeared. 2 weeks ago i ordered pregnenolone 25mg, and adrenal cortex 250mg, wanting to address the adrenal exhaustion problem. On the 5th day of taking the new tablets, plus usual DHEA, i developed extreme dizziness, on 6th day was rushed to hospital by ambulance, placed in cardiac intensive care. ECG showed erratic heart rhythms, they thought my electrolytes were out of whack, and said the electrics of my heart was irregular. I have never had high blood pressure, always good cholesterol levels, not overweight, generally very healthy - they were confused because tests all came out normal, and said my symptoms were not typical. After reading your web sight, i now know the pregnenolone tablets were the straw that broke the camel's back. I am going to take plenty of hormone holidays. I am a 56 year old female from Australia.
I have been diagnosed with PVCs via several stress tests and Holter monitor. While they are uncomfortable, they are not bad enough to warrant medication. However, I started taking DHEA about 10 months ago because I read that it helped female libido. I am a 52-year-old female. It did seem to help, but then I gradually began to notice that my PVCs were much worse. It didn't dawn on me that it could be anything I was taking until I ran out of DHEA. I noticed almost immediately that my heart didn't flutter when I climbed the stairs.
I wrote to you a few months back regarding the heart flutters I thought were caused my my intake of 25mg of dhea daily. Once I stopped taking DHEA the flutters stopped within a matter of days! However, I have noticed since I have not been taking DHEA my all over well being is not as great and my libido has all but disappeared.
I had been taking 50mg of DHEA 4 days a week. A week or so prior to my episode of severe palpitations, I had felt neck and chest pains and discomfort during activity and during rest. I had felt my heart rate faster than the usual. The week after, I traveled to Northern VA to see my wife. We decided to go to the mall, and that night I started to feel as if I was going to faint, I felt I could not breathe properly, chest pains, shortness of breath, and numbness in my tip of my nose and toes. The worst feeling EVER! I was rushed to the Virginia Hospital Center where they ran every test possible and fortunately they found nothing wrong except my heart rate at rest was between 110 and 120. But BP was borderline. The ER attending doctor could not explain this horrific experience and therefore, prescribed 2mg of Ativan to relax me. Thereafter I saw my primary care physician who continue to treat me with Ativan. As stated, he was under the impression I had anxiety. After 8 months of this mystery, I finally have discovered that I have developed PVCs shown by my event monitor. I have now conquered the Ativan withdrawals and my PVCs have disappeared. I believe that DHEA caused this arrhythmia and the withdrawal from the Ativan also permitted for my palpitations. Please note that before this incident, I had been a competitive powerlifter who has always been in shape and who has eaten extremely well.
I have mitral valve prolapse and have been having major heart palpitations for the past few weeks. I thought my valve was going to need replaced. My doctor told me to discontinue caffeine products. The palpitations came on suddenly and could not have been from drinking caffeine. About 4 weeks ago my mother had recommended me to take DHEA because I was complaining to her about my low sex drive. I went to Wal-Mart and bought DHEA 50 mg that day. Since then I have been extremely moody, my hair has been coming out more easily than before, my eyes feel like they are about to explode from increased pressure, and I have frequent palpitations. I came across your website and I now know what has been wrong with me. I am discontinuing the pill TODAY and I will be calling my doctor to let him know about my findings. Maybe I can help him with future patients. I am so grateful that you put this information out there!
I'm a MD in the field of neurology and psychiatry in Amsterdam, Holland. I have been taking it for about one year now, in the dosage of 50 mg/day. Since a few weeks I was having complaints of palpitations which after examination appeared to be caused by supraventricular extrasystoles, 1-3 per minute, going on for about 3 weeks.
I am 56 year old physician assistant and can easily monitor blood levels in our office. I checked my DHEA sulfate in the morning and found them to be very low at 35 ng/dl. I began supplementation at 25 mg and found a marked improvement in my energy. Levels increased to 198. I increase the dose to 50 m
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