DHEA: The fountain of youth
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is one of the critical hormones that scientists are calling the “fountain of youth”. This hormone is made from cholesterol by the adrenal glands and is a precursor to 18 steroid hormones including oestrogen and testosterone. Healthy DHEA production is critical for lean muscle development, fat burning, bone growth, skin health and immunity.
DHEA is a naturally produced pro-hormone and is the most abundant basic building block for hormones in the human body.
From birth men and women alike gradually produce more DHEA until about age 25.After that we produce 2% less per year. By age 35 we make about 20% less than we did at 25, and by age 50 we are making half as much. By 70 most people make minimal amounts of DHEA.
High stress and poor sleeping habits also cause increased cortisol levels. When these issues become chronic they cause a phenomenon called ‘pregnenolone steal’. Pregnenolone is a by-product of cholesterol metabolism that is necessary to produce both cortisol and DHEA. High stress causes this process to shift towards cortisol production. This shift ‘steals’ the necessary pregnenolone from DHEA production pathway to produce more cortisol. This process depletes DHEA levels. This is known as the pregnenolone steal.
When cortisol levels are managed by reducing stress the raw materials from which our bodies manufacture our DHEA are freed up to manufacture this essential fat busting hormone. So one of the ways to increase DHEA and improve body composition is to manage stress.
High sugar and carbohydrate consumption increases blood sugar and insulin levels this decreases the production of DHEA in the adrenals. Blood sugar imbalances also create critical vitamin and mineral imbalances that stress the adrenals and reduce DHEA production. Alcohol and caffeine consumption also decrease DHEA levels.
Instead of rushing out and looking for a DHEA boosting supplement take a look at your lifestyle factors that deplete DHEA levels and address them first. The most important factors include reducing/eliminating adrenal stressors such as stress, leaky gut syndrome, parasites and other infectious agents, chronic inflammation, physical stress, nutrient deficiencies, poor sleep and blood sugar imbalances.
The quickest way to reduce cortisol production and elevate the production of DHEA, the leading anabolic youth hormone is to eliminate or reduce caffeine from your diet.
200 mg of caffeine (one 12oz mug of coffee) has been shown to increase blood cortisol levels by up to 30% in one hour! Cortisol can remain elevated for up to 18 hours in the blood. This is the easiest step to decrease your catabolic metabolism and increase your anabolic metabolism. If you absolutely have to have coffee in your life then I suggest doing some sort of exercise after as this will help reduce the subsequent increase in stress hormones.
An anti-inflammatory diet is a critical part to de-stressing the body and boosting DHEA levels. This diet should be very low in sugar and very rich in phytonutrients (chemical compounds found mostly in coloured fruits and vegetables) and trace minerals from fresh, raw or lightly steamed vegetables. Powerful anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, ginger, rosemary, thyme, oregano and cinnamon should be generously consumed on a regular basis so start adding these herbs to your food. I also suggest taking a decent multivitamin rich in phytonutrients and trace minerals
Healthy fat consumption is an essential part of creating cholesterol, which is needed to produce DHEA. Healthy fat sources include coconut products, avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds and purified omega-3 fish oil supplements.
Healthy protein sources boost DHEA production these sources are; wild caught fish, grass-fed red meat, free-range chicken, turkey and organic eggs.
Other lifestyle factors that are critical for healthy DHEA levels include regular sun exposure and/or supplementation to maintain vitamin D levels between 70-100 ng/ml. I suggest taking a vitamin D3 supplement.
Meditation is often used as an antidote to stress and has been found to increase DHEA levels. In fact in a meditation study, a group of 45 year old men who regularly meditated were found to have 23% more DHEA than a group who didn’t meditate. In women, the meditators had 47% more DHEA. So get meditating people!
Ok so here is a recap on how to get optimal DHEA levels to lose body fat and stay youthful
• Reduce stress, this can be done by meditating
• Reduce/eliminate sugar consumption
• Reduce carbohydrate consumption
• Reduce/eliminate alcohol and caffeine
• Take a multivitamin supplement
• Have a diet rich in phytonutrients and trace minerals
• Include anti-inflammatory herbs in your diet
• Healthy fat consumption
• Supplement omega 3 fish oils
• Healthy protein consumption
• Get regular sun exposure and supplement vitamin D3
• Get at least 7-9 hours sleep each night