Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced by our adrenal glands. It serves as the precursor to testosterone and estrogen—and interestingly, many health enthusiasts choose to get a DHEA test.
Since DHEA is a precursor of testosterone and estrogen, men and women can do with just checking their estrogen and testosterone levels, right? Well, it turns out you would really have to get tested because…
Too Much DHEA Can Be Harmful
If you’re female and experiencing hair loss, male-pattern hair growth, abnormal aggressiveness and irritability, oily skin, ortrouble sleeping, it’s best to have your DHEA hormone levels tested.
Yes, all those mentioned are signs of elevated levels of DHEA (or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, to be specific), usually due to adrenal hyperfunction.
If you’re still hesitant, know that an abundance of the hormone can increase breast cancer risk. Plus, it’s often associated with conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), adrenal tumors (oradrenal incidentaloma), and Cushing’s disease.
For men, on the other hand, there are no physical and behavioral signs of elevated DHEA due to the said manifestations being normal for males.
But, increased levels are still harmful as, for both sexes it can cause higher risks for precocious puberty (or premature adrenarche), schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, and addiction, as well as increase the effects of stress on the brain.
Since a DHEA-S test is the only way to truly determine the hormone’s levels, it’s recommended to get it done periodically. After all, if you can detect elevated levels early on, you can immediately correct it and avoid the negative effects of DHEA.
Too Little Can Also Be Harmful
Unfortunately, too little of this hormone is also harmful for your health. Since DHEA levels start to drop once you hit 30 to 40 years of age, it’s best to keep a close watch on your levels.
Signs of low DHEA include extreme fatigue, weakness, lethargy, moodiness, decreased muscle mass, joint pain, low sex drive and libido, decreased immunity, weight gain, and hypothyroidism.
It is also associated with conditions such as diabetes, depression, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, and dementia. Note that Addison's disease (or adrenal insufficiency) and other similar issues with adrenal function usually cause drops in the levels of sex hormones and DHEA.
Too Moderate DHEA Supplementation
Since DHEA acts as a precursor to testosterone, it is included in the long list of adrenal hormones you need to balance. This is why DHEA supplements should be taken in moderation.
To moderate your DHEA supplementation, you would have to be aware of how much is too much and how much is okay. Without any means of knowing your DHEA-S levels, you have no idea whether you should continue or make adjustments.
Since excess DHEA is converted to testosterone, this could throw off your hormonal balance and can lead to negative testosterone effects.
Testing for DHEA
With the reasons mentioned, it’s clear that knowing your DHEA levels is important. Whether you’re planning to take supplements or are already doing so, don’t forget to determine your baseline levels.
Moreover, testing should help you determine if you’re actually missing out the benefits of optimal DHEA levels.
DHEA saliva test kits are also available—the usual package includes sample collection materials, instructions, and a pre-paid shipping label.
From what we’ve tested concerning saliva tests, we liked the one from ZRT Labs the best in case you do not have access to a local lab for testing.