DHEA – Dehydroepiandrosterone

Impaired Immune function caused by low DHEA can lead to illness.

Impaired Immune function caused by low DHEA can lead to illness.

DHEA is an abbreviation for dehydroepiandrosterone, a hormone produced primarily in the adrenal glands. It is also produced in other parts of the body including the testicles, ovaries, and brain. After production, the bloodstream carries DHEA to tissues and cells. Some of it is converted to sex hormones testosterone and estrogens.

They call DHEA the “mother of all hormones.” We need it to help us reach maturity – and to keep our systems on track. Secreted by the adrenal gland, it is the most abundant steroid in our bodies and serves as the foundation for male and female sex hormones (androgens and estrogens). DHEA is a precursor hormone, meaning that it plays a role in the production and function of many other hormones throughout the body. Being that it is so critical to our delicate interplay of hormones,  imbalances oftentimes lead to imbalances of other hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone and cortisol.

How is DHEA produced in the body?

In the body, cholesterol is the starting material to make all steroid hormones in the body. In the adrenal glands, cholesterol is converted to pregnenolone. Therefore pregnenolone is the very top of the hormone pyramid. Pregnenolone is converted to DHEA and a number of sex hormones including testosterone and estrogens.

What is a steroid?

Steroids are hormones. All of the steroid hormones produced in the body are made using cholesterol as the starting material. Some of the steroid hormones include DHEA, pregnenolone and the female hormones estrogen and progesterone and the male hormone testosterone.

DHEA is a “parent hormone” produced by glands near the kidneys. It is changed in the body to a hormone called androstenedione. Androstenedione is then changed into the major male and female hormones.

How does Dhea work? 

The body normally makes DHEA. DHEA levels seem to go down as people get older. DHEA levels also seem to be lower in people with certain conditions like depression. Some researchers think that replacing DHEA with supplements might prevent some diseases and conditions.

Low levels of DHEA can cause symptoms including:

      • Fatigue
      • Loss of strength and muscle mass
      • Depression
      • Aching joints
      • Decreased sex drive
      • Impaired immune function

On the other hand, adequate DHEA levels can help:

      • Increase testosterone levels
      • Restore muscle mass
      • Improve the body fat ratio
      • Improve memory
      • Boost the immune system
      • Promote flexibility
      • Raise endurance levels


Additional Pages of interest:


Estrogen Dominance 





Adrenal Health 

Testing Hormone Levels 

Hormones 101



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