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The most abundant natural hormone that males and females share is DHEA. The adrenal glands are small prune shaped structures which sit on the top of the kidneys. The adrenals are described as endocrine glands and provide humans with their main stress buffering activity. Adrenaline, otherwise known as epinephrine which is the hormone of fight and flight is produced in the adrenals.

Cortisol, also known as hydrocortisone, is produced in the adrenal glands and provides anti-inflammatory activity. It gives us with much of our go forward energy during the early part of the day. Under conditions of extended stress our cortisol may peak to undesirable levels through the day and evening. This can lead to loss of capacity to produce cortisol which when severe, will bring on a condition of chronic fatigue. Addisons disease is a condition where a person is unable to produce cortisol and it must be replaced for that person to function normally. Cortisol at unwanted high levels becomes a 'stress' promoting hormone which has an ability to damage cellular systems. As we age we have a reduced ability to reduce fluctuating cortisol to normal and safe levels and this has consequences for brain ageing, Parkinson's and Alzeheimers disease.

DHEA levels are influenced by how our cortisol behaves. Our ability to produce DHEA peaks at about age 20-25years and from then on our ability reduces by 2% annually so that at age 60 years the level is 1/3rd or less than at its peak. DHEA is a primary protective agent in preventing or delaying the onset of chronic disease and related physical and mental decline. The prestigious New York Academy of Sciences has published significant research on DHEA and has described it to be a 'biomarker of aging'

DHEA and chronic stress (exhaustion)

  1. Cortisol increases over 24 hours of the day
  2. DHEA production decreases
  3. Insulin and blood glucose levels become erratic
  4. Fat often deposits in the body
  5. Sleep recovery deteriorates
  6. Immune system function reduces significantly
  7. Major degenerative illnesses begin

Reduced levels of DHEA has a negative or adverse effect on

  1. Energy and sense of wellbeing
  2. Moods especially depression
  3. Bone mineral density and osteoporosis
  4. Brain ageing and muscle strength
  5. Loss of immune function
  6. Autoimmune diseases and diabetes
  7. Adrenal exhaustion and chronic fatigue
  8. Sexual dysfunction and menopausal symptoms

On a positive note meditation will increase our DHEA production and returning thyroid function to normal increases DHEA levels. On a negative note it is reported that low DHEA levels increase mortality in both men and women. Perhaps this is a reason why it has been called quoted as the 'marker of longevity' hormone.

Measurement of DHEA is done either by blood levels or by using a salivary measurement where the amount of DHEA in saliva represents the amount of DHEA available to human body cells. As a rule of thumb a person above the age of 40 years should have a DHEA level just over two thirds of the total possible level by any measurement. To obtain maximum benefit, anyone with a chronic condition may aim for 100% of maximum physiological replacement.

DHEA is available in various strengths of capsules and cream.

Find out how you rate on the Adrenal questionnaire by clicking the following link to download the document:-


DHEA has to be prescribed by your doctor. Many doctors do not prescribe DHEA or are aware of bio-identical hormomes. You can refer them to Pharmaceutical Compounding.

You can get a blood test for DHEAs, which needs to be done first thing in the morning to best evaluate your DHEA level. Below I have included the optimal DHEAs levels. Often doctors who are not experienced with DHEA prescribing will tell you your levels are fine because they fall within the standard reference range, but you want to be within the optimal reference range below.

Serum standard and optimal reference ranges for DHEAs.

A good rule of thumb to achieve youthful serum levels of DHEA is to bring the level into the bottom third of the top tertile in the standard range, this is seen below as the optimal reference range.

Optimal Reference Range:
Women 3.6 -4.5 μmol/L
Men 6.0 - 8.0 μmol/L

Standard Reference Range:
Women 0.4 - 5.8 μmol/L
Men 2.8 - 9.6 μmolL

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