DHEA Supplements – Dosage, Side Effects and Benefits

Written by Tihomir Stefanov, M.S.(C), PT

| Published on

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Alright, for those of you who have no idea what DHEA means, let us explain.

DHEA is short for the name “Dehydroepiandrosterone”, and is one of the main steroid hormones in our bodies.

Also known as  androstenolone, it is produced in the adrenal glands and in males, it is partially produced in the testicles.

During different phases of your lifetime, DHEA gets converted to other hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc.

DHEA is involved in an array of physiological processes but most importantly, it is a neuroactive steroid, as it modulates the nerve sensitivity.

Studies show that DHEA is also involved in the metabolism of minerals and fats, but the tricky part here is that the more we age, the less DHEA the body produces.

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The lesser amounts of DHEA in the body inevitably lead to aging and we start to gain more fat, lose muscle and feel more exhausted in general.

Benefits of taking DHEA

benefits of dhea

DHEA has many different effects on the body, including, but not limited to a preventative measure for:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Stress
  • Aging

On top of that, it also has an antibacterial effect, it is an antioxidant and an endocrine regulator.

DHEA also lowers cholesterol and stimulates growth hormone production, while elevating immunity.

To top that off, the cherry of the DHEA cake is the effect on cognitive function, libido, mood and last but not least, insulin sensitivity.

Now, even though science is advanced and DHEA was proven to work times and again, it is a fact that scientists and doctors do not yet know EXACTLY how DHEA works in the body.

Generally, it is believed that this hormone circulates in the blood and becomes active once it gets in contact with cells that are at a demand of it.

If you are well past your younger years and feel like life has taken a toll on your stress levels, then you’ll be happy to read that DHEA’s most important quality is its counter effect on cortisol.

Cortisol, as you may or may not know, is the main hormone of stress.

And so, if we have low levels of DHEA, cortisol levels will be sky high and vice versa – High DHEA means low cortisol and less stress.

Unfortunately, due to chemical changes in the body, accompanied by life events, stress & cortisol increase as we age.

Needless to say, living in stress is living in survival.

Generally, the stress response of the body is there to protect you.

And so, for example, if you’re in the wild and an animal attacks you, the stress response will get turned on IMMEDIATELY.

What’s gonna follow is a rush of energy, as the limbs fill up with blood and the brain-muscle signals increase, while the heart rate jumps, in order to allow you to complete your best sprint and evade the danger.

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This stress response SHUTS DOWN the immune system & the growth of the organism as a whole.

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The thing here is that with the modern-day, urban lifestyle, there really isn’t a risk of death by predation.

It is a fact that the stress response gets triggered by outer, non-lethal factors, such as:

  • Your boss
  • Your momma
  • Your colleague
  • Your job in general
  • School
  • Chores
  • Your relationship
  • Etcetera.

These things also tend to make us sustain that cortisol-rich environment of the organism.

And if cortisol (stress) shuts down the immune system and growth of the body, then sustaining that state will ultimately disrupt many functions of the organism.

From then on, we go through a cascade of physiological complications and we are on the autobahn to disease.

This is exactly why, maintaining good levels of DHEA is of prime importance, especially for people who are older, or simply lead a lifestyle that puts them in a lot of stress.

Fun fact – Cortisol is so good at shutting down the immune system of the body, that doctors use it during organ transplants. That is mainly to avoid having the immune system reject the new, unknown cells of the transplanted organ.

There are now running trials that use DHEA to cure aids, cancer and dementia. Furthermore, it is used to support people with weak immune systems, weight regulation issues and improving general health.

What are the symptoms of DHEA deficiency?

If you are low in DHEA, you will experience ost of the following:

  • Weak sound sensitivity
  • Lower sex drive
  • Lower hairing
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry skin
  • Dry hair
  • Difficulty remembering things

If DHEA levels are critical, it can lead to severe conditions, such as cancers and even cardiovascular issues.

Researches have also shown that Alzheimer’s patients have low DHEA levels, which also leads to a weakened immune system, as already mention.

Though we don’t know if this is a situation of cause-effect, rather than a coincidental correlation, it is a fact that DHEA deficiency brings nothing good to the body.

To avoid further decrease in DHEA, try consuming less sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

DHEA supplementation might as well be one of the best ways to boost energy levels, elevate mood and improve immune and cognitive function.

Even though these products are relatively new to the fitness market, they are quite safe and FDA approved.

For adults, this is one of the best anti-aging therapies there is.

Is it safe to take DHEA supplements?

dhea supplements

As you already learned, DHEA has an array of benefits that even sound too good to be true.

Then again, just like any other substance, overconsuming it is never good.

For starters, it would be good to actually supplement with lower doses of DHEA and let the body adapt to it.

Generally, when consumed within the recommended amounts, DHEA will have NO SIDE EFFECTS whatsoever.

However, if consumed excessively and systematically, some of the following side effects may be experienced by the user:

  • Oily skin and acne
  • Hair loss
  • Bellyache
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Facial hair growth in women
  • Deepening of the voice in women
  • Fatigue

How much DHEA should I take daily?

Now that you know how effective DHEA is for a number of functions, you can logically conclude that the intake depends on the goal you’re going after.

  • Men at the age of 30 and above

If you’re a male who’s past their 20s and looking to increase/maintain good levels of testosterone, then you should consider a daily DHEA intake of up to 50 mg.

You can throw in synergists of DHEA into the supplement mix, such as zinc, magnesium and vitamin D-3.

  • Anti-aging & skin care

If you’re looking for a form of anti-aging therapy, then you should consider taking up to 50 mg of DHEA daily for a period of 12 months.

This will significantly improve the way your skin looks and ages as time goes by.

Good thing is that if your goal is to improve skin, you can purchase DHEA in the form of a cream.

Wait! A hormone in the form of a skin cream?!

Well, you’d be surprised at how good the skin actually is at absorbing things.

  • Mood elevation

If you tend to be a depressive person, then DHEA might as well be your best bet. In some clinical trials, up to 400 mg of DHEA daily, turned out to be a successful treatment for people with depression.

When to take DHEA?

when to take dhea

As you should know by now, DHEA is a precursor to other hormones in the body, such as testosterone and estrogen.

However, the secretion of those hormones varies from person to person.

That is exactly why your optimal intake should be determined by your doctor, after he gets your blood profile, where the exact levels of these hormones are measured.

Note – Some people DO NOT need DHEA! For many people, there isn’t a deficiency of DHEA in the body. And when there is no deficiency, supplementing with it will have no substantial, noticeable effects.

So to the question of when – Only take DHEA if you NEED IT!

Make sure to get the full blood profile and consult with your doctor before you get into supplementing with DHEA.

If needed and you start, make sure to also get another blood profile test, to monitor the levels of those hormones in the body and adjust the intake as needed.


Remember that DHEA is a powerful hormone that acts differently in the body as compared to vitamins, minerals and other less-active supplements.

Hormones tend to be retained by the body for longer periods of time, as they can’t be excreted via the urine and sweat.

This is why they can cause massive complications in the long term, if systematically consumed.

We need to acknowledge that the endocrine (hormonal) balance, should be maintained within adequate levels, as it is a fact that all hormones are intertwined and work together, in synergy.

Lastly, the effects of this supplement vary from person to person, as we all react differently to exogenous substances.

This makes DHEA more or less unpredictable.

When NOT to take DHEA?

We already talked about how the levels of NATURAL DHEA decrease as we age.

What this means is that young people will generally not have issues with its levels for the most part, as the naturally produced levels will be sufficient.

If you are into your 20s and have normal DHEA levels, then supplementing with it will more than likely result in a disbalance of the endocrine system, meaning that there really will be no positives whatsoever.

Even though this wonder-substance has many benefits, it is a fact that in big quantities, it can be poison.

Elevated levels of DHEA in the body may lead to side effects like acne, infrequent menstruation and excessive hair growth.

Patients with prostate cancer must also avoid DHEA, as it may interfere with the treatment and further slowdown the process of recovery.

In the same way with males and prostate cancer, females with breast cancer must also avoid this supplement, as it may elevate estrogen levels, and estrogen is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer development.

Again, that would also go for females who are still breastfeeding and generally, for people who are under the prescription for other medications.

Using DHEA for specific conditions

influence of testosterone

1. Inflammation regulation

As you may or may not know, inflammations are the main cause of most diseases and health complications.

Bringing DHEA levels back to normal will most certainly improve the body’s inflammation regulation and therefore, the quality of life will be significantly better.

Furthermore, DHEA’s ability to tightly regulate inflammations will allow you to have higher levels of vital energy.

2. Metabolic syndrome

Some patients with metabolic syndrome tend to have lower DHEA levels, which are thought to be directly correlated to low cholesterol levels, blood pressure & blood sugar issues.

Furthermore, it has been shown times and again that adults tend to produce less DHEA, which ultimately leads to fattening and metabolism problems.

3. Bone density and muscle retention

As we age, we start losing more lean body mass (LBM).

Lean body mass is not just the muscle mass, but rather everything else, besides fat.

Now, DHEA won’t magically help you retain LBM, if the rest of your habits are s#%t.

That’s why, adding DHEA on top of a well-established eating, sleeping and exercising regimen, will be the best form of anti-aging therapy there is.

In doing so, you will allow your body to maintain its bone and muscle mass which will ultimately make you feel, look and perform like a young individual, even if you are past your 20s!

4. Endocrine modulator

As we learned, the endocrine (hormonal) system is made up of dozens of hormones that work in synergy, for the sole purpose of maintaining good chemical balance within the body.

Well, DHEA helps with the production and balance of other hormones that are responsible for our mood, physical and mental performance.

On top of that, DHEA lowers the risk of many diseases and symptoms that lead to states of depression.

And so for example, someone with low DHEA levels might experience erectile dysfunction.

As we all know, having difficulties in bed with your loved one is a shortcut to depression and a decrease in mood.

That’s just one of the cases in which DHEA may turn out to be the best problem solver.

5. Libido boost

The last sentence from the previous point led us to point number 5- Sex drive.

When consumed within the recommended dosages, DHEA has been proven to help patients with sexual dysfunctions, such as a loss of libido or erectile dysfunction.

Again, it is not a 100% certain that this is a cause-effect, but most clinical cases of erectile dysfunction show that the individuals have decreased levels of DHEA in their bloodstream!

Best DHEA supplements

Now that we know the benefits of DHEA that you can reap with daily supplementation, let’s take a look at some actual products.

1. Natrol DHEA

natrol dhea

Natrol is a well-trusted, Californian supplement company that offers a variety of products to the fitness masses.

Their DHEA supplement is of high quality and comes in 50 mg tablets.

The brand also offers smaller doses for females, at 10 and 25 mg.

To top the great quality, this supplement is also viable for vegans, at it contains only vegan-friendly ingredients.

Needless to say, as a brand with nearly 40 years of experience in the field, Natrol provides top-quality products to its customers.

Each tablet also contains about 60 mg of calcium, which further makes this product worth the purchase!

2. Sundown naturals DHEA

sundown naturals dhea

As a brand that has been proven to bring quality to the table, Sundown provides us with products that have the sole purpose of being as natural as possible.

Sundown’s DHEA supplements is pretty much one of the best options on the market, at a very good price.

The supplement that does not contain any genetically modified substances is your perfect choice, if you have found out that you are at a deficit of DHEA.

This product contains 50 mg of DHEA per capsule.

3. Life Extension DHEA

life extensions dhea

Life Extension is one of the other brands in the competitive flurry of supplement manufacturers.

Just like natrol, LE has been in business since the early 80s, which is exactly why they have refined their products throughout the decades.

After many trials, tests and refinements, LE finally brought their DHEA supplement to the public.

Their supplement is viable for both men and women, as it contains a fair amount of 25 mg DHEA per capsule.

At this price, our #3 choice is pretty much the best you can get for the money!

4. Pure encapsulations DHEA

pure encapsulations dhea

PE is renowned for providing supplements that are based on A TON of research and trials.

This simply means that unlike many other brands, PE offers products that have predictable results, as they have been tested in different conditions.

The high quality of the ingredients used allowed PE to launch their effective DHEA supplement, which has 10 mg of DHEA per capsule and is micronized to allow easier absorption.

Now, this is an option that females should consider, as the quantity of the active ingredient is less.

The product of this Massachusets-based manufacturer is your bang for the buck if you don’t have severe deficiencies of DHEA.

5. Country life DHEA

country life dhea

If you feel like brands that have been in the business for a long time have the best products out there, this is for you.

Country life is a dietary supplement manufacturer, founded in Long Island, NY.

The interesting thing? It’s older than ANY OTHER brand on the list! The company opened its doors way back in the year 1971, making it almost half a century old!

The abundance of quality certificates that this manufacturer has, makes them one of the leaders in the supplement industry.

CL’s DHEA supplement promises top-quality production, done with fresh ingredients and extensive trials and refinements.

Again, this is suitable for females, as a single dose only contains 10 mg of DHEA.

The product is also a bit expensive for the amount you are getting, but that is only because the quality is unbeaten.

If you always go for the best quality, rather than the lowest price, then this product is for you.

Bottom line

DHEA is a powerful supplement that can help with a ton of conditions.

Whatever you choose to purchase, make sure to first advise with your doctor, who will ultimately determine whether or not you actually need this supplement.

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