We have covered the essentials of Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone, the important sex hormones in women. Yet sex hormone function is affected by the levels and actions of many other hormones in the body, levels of which may decline with age. As this happens, the imbalance affects EVERYTHING and symptoms ensue.
DHEA is a hormone made by the adrenal glands. A small amount is also made in the brain and in the skin. DHEA production declines with age starting in the late twenties and by the age of 70 the body may only make 1/4 of the amount of DHEA it made earlier! DHEA MAKES ESTROGEN AND TESTOSTERONE in both women and men. This hormone has many functions, not least of which include decreasing the formation of fatty deposits and cholesterol, preventing blood clots and increasing bone growth. DHEA promotes weight loss, increases lean body mass and increases brain function. In this sense, it increases one’s sense of well being and helps one deal with stress. DHEA supports the immune system and recent research shows a mechanism for this hormone in cancer prevention. It helps the body repair itself and maintains tissues. Low levels of DHEA can be due to menopause, decreased production, stress, aging and smoking. As levels decrease and symptoms occur, replacement of DHEA will increase lean body mass, activate immune function, increase the quality of life, improve sleep and increase a feeling of wellness. Normalized DHEA levels will increase growth hormone levels and stop the damaging effects of stress. DHEA is given by mouth and best prepared in a compounding pharmacy. Women are more sensitive to its affects than men and require less when replacing this hormone. DHEA bought in popular shops over the counter can contain impurities and the doses are NOT verified. In this respect, excess DHEA can cause seemingly paradoxical symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, anger, depression, insomnia, mood changes, weight gain, facial hair, acne and sugar cravings. Exaggeration of these symptoms are akin to “road rage” and “going postal”. Should you elect to replace DHEA do so under the supervision of a physician who will periodically check your levels and adjust the dosage. This is paramount to achieving health and vitality.
A second adrenal hormone is CORTISOL. Cortisol is the only hormone, other than insulin, that INCREASES with age. When one is stressed, cortisol levels elevate and once the stressor is removed, the levels should normalize. This does not really happen in today’s 365/24/7 world! Overbooking is an issue with everyone. You need to know how much work and responsibility to take on. The American writer/poet Carl Sandburg put it best. He wrote: “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you”.
The many important functions of cortisol include balancing blood sugar levels, weight control, immune system response, bone turnover rate, stress reaction, sleep, protein synthesis and moods and thoughts. Cortisol influences the testosterone/estrogen ratio, the DHEA/insulin ratio and affects the pituitary/thyroid/ adrenal interactions. Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory agent. Cortisol is ELEVATED by stress, depression and high PROGESTIN (synthetic progesterones) intake. As you can surmise, this hormone, when out of control can have many deleterious and unbalancing effects on your other hormones and your metabolism as a whole. In the next post, we look closer…