DHEA is one of the hottest topics in the fertility world right now. Women who struggle with infertility are wondering if DHEA could be their natural miracle cure. When they ask us our opinion on DHEA, they find the response to not be what they were expecting. Before we get to that, some of you may be wondering what DHEA is. DHEA stands for Dehydroepiandrosterone. DHEA is not an herb. It is a steroid hormone created by the body from cholesterol in the adrenal glands. DHEA is also created in a lab as a health supplement. DHEA supplements are made from Wild Yam root or soy, converted in a lab to bio-identical DHEA. Harvard Health Publishing states it best, “DHEA is controversial. Despite the heated debate, two facts about DHEA are incontrovertible: It is a hormone, and it is not part of the human diet.”
Dehydroepiandrosterone that is naturally produced by our body, is supposed to naturally decline as we age. The levels of this hormone are highest from ages seven through our early twenties, peaking in our mid-twenties, then declining after that. Many people use it as a “fountain of youth” product, as it is marketed as such. For fertility, it is said to help increase egg health in women over 40, benefit women with PCOS and perhaps even diminished ovarian reserve and women undergoing IVF. In spite of this, there are still questions about safely using it without hormonal monitoring. We find that most people who use it tend to have more hormonal imbalance in the long run. Our bodies are not meant to have high levels of DHEA as we age; it is unnatural.
What are DHEA Supplements Used for in Regard to Fertility?
Is Using DHEA as Part of Your Natural Fertility Plan Safe?
We do not support the use of DHEA, as taking pure DHEA is likely to convert into the wrong hormones and can also go into androgen and estrogen pathways, causing more hormonal imbalance. The goal should be to support the endocrine system by using adaptogen herbs and supportive nutrients to help the body to restore hormonal balance, instead of using supplements as hormone replacement therapy.
If you do wish to use DHEA, we would suggest you work closely with your medical or naturopathic doctor so your hormones can be monitored while you are taking DHEA. If you choose to use DHEA while also taking other herbs and supplements for fertility, it should only be done so under the supervised care of your doctor. Rebecca Ford, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, Certified Clinical Nutritionist, and Registered Nurse of Integrative Medicine Consultants of Texas says, “Practitioners are likely to prescribe between 15mg and 50mg. If you are taking DHEA, you should then re-check your level after about 90 days.”
Be sure to tell the practitioner you work with every supplement and herb you are planning on, or are currently taking. We cannot guarantee that any products we sell will be as effective, especially if they may aid hormonal balance, when used in combination with DHEA. The DHEA may affect how they work in your body.
What if my Doctor Suggests I Take DHEA?
While we don’t suggest using DHEA, if you are under the supervised care of your doctor or naturopath and you have a good plan, including proper dosage specific to your needs, then it may be fine. Be sure that your doctor tests your DHEA level, as well as other hormones, before you begin taking it. You may not have low levels to begin with and too much DHEA may cause major hormonal imbalance. If your adrenal health is very poor, your body may not be able to respond well to DHEA supplementation. It may be unsafe to self-prescribe DHEA. Many over-the-counter DHEA supplements sold contain concentrated doses, higher than a doctor would suggest.
How to Support Naturally Correct Levels of DHEA
Unnaturally low levels of DHEA in women of childbearing age may be associated with poor adrenal health. Adrenal fatigue may cause an imbalance in the cortisol to DHEA ratio produced by the adrenals. DHEA works to reduce the effects of too much cortisol, but this does not mean it is best to directly supplement with DHEA. It would be best to support adrenal health naturally. Studies have shown that you can increase your natural ability to produce DHEA by “thinking with your heart.” Shifting your negative thoughts to positive ones has been shown to naturally increase DHEA levels. It takes practice, but it is something that you can do at any time. As we all know stress can directly negatively impact our fertility. Negative thought patterns can increase the negative stress response, decreasing fertility.
The Institute of HeartMath, in Boulder Creek, CA, performed a study using their heart-focusing techniques on people with low DHEA levels and poor adrenal health due to stress. After 1 month of using their techniques and trainings, subjects had a 100% increase in DHEA levels. For additional ways to learn to support healthy DHEA levels, please read our article Is My Adrenal Health Affecting My Fertility? This article will share with you many ways to support overall function of the adrenal glands which, as we have learned, produces and controls DHEA.
Despite our desire to never age, it is part of the natural design of life. DHEA naturally declines after our mid-twenties. As it continues to decline, it is completely normal for women over 40 to have much lower levels then someone in their late twenties or thirties. Using DHEA supplements is not going to reverse the natural process of aging. It is important to weigh the risk of disturbing age appropriate natural hormonal balance with the true individual benefits of DHEA supplementation. Each woman is unique in her fertility needs. Please talk with a doctor if you have ever contemplated supplementing with DHEA, so you can be clear if this is your best option.
- DHEA and health: More questions than answers. (April, 2007). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/dhea-and-health-more-questions-than-answers
- Ford, R. (May 6, 2016). Natural vs Synthetic Hormones. Retrieved from http://www.imctex.com/hormones/natural-vs-synthetic-hormones/
- Pick, M. (n.d.). DHEA and Adrenal Imbalance. Retrieved from: https://www.womentowomen.com/adrenal-health-2/dhea-and-adrenal-imbalance/
- Northrup, C. (2010). Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom. New York, New York: Bantam Books.