Many people are asking me, how do I lower DHEA levels? This is a first in multiple articles on how to go about lowering DHEA levels. We will talk about specific tactics you can do to lower your DHEA levels in each article. Many times high DHEA levels are a sign that you have other things going on. If you haven't been checked out for PCOS and things like this, you should be evaluated further for this.
If you want to know how to lower your DHEA level, keep reading.
Approach to Lower DHEA Levels
The approach to lower your DHEA levels will vary based on the reason that it is high to begin with. Your body is a complex system of overlapping layers of feedback inhibition. By feedback inhibition we mean one thing causes something which then feeds back to inhibit the same thing that caused it. Understanding your particular system takes patience lots of testing and clinical experience. With that in mind we will narrow the focus and I will explain how I would approach lowering DHEA. Also note that when DHEA I am referring to DHEA sulfate (DHEA-s).
Overall the idea here is that there's either too much DHEA-s coming in or not enough coming out. Either one can offset the flux of DHEA leading to higher DHEA levels. In this article, we are going to look at the different things that are known to influence that which is coming in. Other videos will look at the things that influence what goes out. One important note about high DHEA levels is that congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which is a genetic disorder, often presents with elevated DHEA-s levels. With this condition the enzyme that breaks down DHEA and turns it into androsteindione is defective. This enzyme is referred to as 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. There are some other (non congenital adrenal hyperplasia) things that can go on with this enzyme that leads to elevated DHEA levels. So depending on how high your levels are, you may need to look into seeing an endocrinologist. This is a good idea in general to see what they have to say.
Lower DHEA Levels Via Cortisol
The first thing that we want to talk about is the amount of DHEA that's coming in and where it comes from. One of the things that influences this is stress. You may have suspected this or heard this and here we are going to go into more detail on how this occurs and what you can do about it. Each time cortisol is produced DHEA is also produced. This is because in the brain there's a hormone called ACTH which stimulates the adrenal glands. At the same time it stimulates cortisol, it also stimulates DHEA production. Those two hormones are almost coupled together. You can't have one without the other. So the more stress you present with, the more DHEA-s production you're going to get. So the first step in figuring out if this is something that's relevant to your situation is to check your cortisol levels. You already know your DHEA-s is high but why is it high? If your cortisol levels are elevated this suggests it could be at least part or one of the causes.
Now one cortisol test is not going to tell you definitively that that's the cause. However if you have multiple samples that are showing you are above the normal or close to the normal upper end of the reference range, this does suggest it is the cause. There are different ways to check cortisol too. There is morning am cortisol. There is random serum cortisol and there is 24 hour urine tests. There are also salivary tests, but I don't use these very much so I won't comment much on them.
If your cortisol is in the upper range, that does suggest this is a contributing factor. You should check multiple times because cortisol can be quite variable and can change from day to day depending on what's going on, what you've eaten etc. Serum cortisol levels for most labs around 16 or higher would be in the upper range with 20 mg/dl being high. So now that you have a high test, what are we going to do about it?
Lower DHEA-s By Lowering Cortisol
Keep in mind, if your cortisol is high based on testing that's one thing. If you don't know your cortisol is high, these suggestions may actually hinder your progress. Don't go off of a feeling of stress and assume you have high cortisol. You should check to know and also check with your doctor to make sure none of these things are going to interfere with anything. Generally these things are very safe though.
The first one to mention that can lower cortisol mention is Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is in a category of herbs called adrenal adaptogens. There's multiple herbs that are in this category but Ashwagandha seems to be quite favorable. People respond well to it and do not have problems with it. Adaptogenic herbs work by balancing out the activity that they work on. In this case it is the adrenal glands and cortisol. These herbs as a group help balance out cortisol activity.
When cortisol binds to the receptors it has a certain response at those receptors. Ashwagandha can modulate that response. It can block if there is lots of cortisol around by blocking that cortisol from binding. Therefore you have less of that response. It can also stimulate a mild cortisol response if you have low cortisol. That's called an adaptogen response and Ashwagandha is a good adaptogen. When you have high cortisol it can really help but I think of it as more on the mild side . There are multiple other herbs that can be used that are similar to Ashwagandha.
Another thing that I will mention is zinc levels. Zinc deficiency is often associated with high cortisol levels. That does not mean that that zinc deficiency causes high cortisol. However there is an association. So you may want to consider checking your zinc levels if your cortisol is high. Correcting that may help dampen that response as well. Holy basil is also an herb that can be used to lower cortisol and it has a stronger effect on dampening the cortisol levels as compared to Ashwagandha.
Lastly just a couple general notes on cortisol levels. These levels are going to fluctuate based on blood sugar. When your blood sugar levels are really low, your cortisol levels are going to go up. Cortisol will mobilize the stored glucose called glycogen. If you're someone that's eating a lot of refined carbohydrates and sugary things your body is overall metabolically inflexible. A high carb diet, specifically more of the simple carbs will create a lot of up and down swing in your blood sugar. With the swings in your blood sugar, your cortisol is going to be also going up and down as well. Other Chronic health issues can cause higher cortisol levels too depending on where you're at in the state of chronic health. For instance, depression is often associated with high cortisol.
It's also important to look at general self-care. What is your support system? How do you de-stress from work or life? Do you have a sense of community and support? These things are important in how you interpret the events and "the happenings" day to day. The things that are going on in your life cause your brain to be more stressed and trigger more that ACTH production leading to this higher DHEA and cortisol.
So these are all things to keep in mind if you want to lower your DHEA by lowering cortisol. If you have questions about any of the content in the video, please ask in the comment section below. If you want a customized plan on lowering your DHEA levels, click on the link below to get started.