Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a hormone the body produces and uses to make male and female sex hormones. Levels peak around age 25 and decline continuously as you get older, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. DHEA may improve sexual dysfunction in men and women, according to New York University Langone Medical Center. You can find DHEA as a supplement; however, it's crucial to consult your doctor before taking it, since it may cause unwanted side effects.
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A Cause For Confusion
A common belief is that you can get DHEA naturally from wild yams. This is untrue, according to New York University Langone Medical Center. Wild yams contain no DHEA. The DHEA available in dietary supplements is made synthetically using a substance found in soybeans as a precursor, or starting point. DHEA is a hormone, not a nutrient. A typical dose is 50 to 200 milligrams daily, according to NYU Langone.
May Trigger Troublesome Mood Changes
DHEA may alleviate depression, according to NYU Langone. However, if you've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, taking DHEA may cause adverse effects, warns MedlinePlus. DHEA can trigger mania, irritability and abnormal impulsiveness in people with mood disorders, reports MedlinePlus. Mania refers to an abnormally elevated level of energy and mood. Avoid taking DHEA if you have a mood disorder, unless you do so under your doctor's supervision.
May Worsen Hormonal Imbalance
Polycystic ovary syndrome occurs when the ovaries produce higher than normal male sex hormones, known as androgens. This imbalance can affect the menstrual cycle and cause problems getting pregnant. Because the body uses DHEA to make sex hormones, taking DHEA supplements might worsen PCOS symptoms. Avoid taking DHEA if you have PCOS, advises MedlinePlus.
MedlinePlus advises that taking DHEA might make liver problems worse. In addition, DHEA can affect how estrogen works in the body. Avoid DHEA if you have an estrogen-sensitive condition such as uterine fibroid and estrogen-sensitive cancers. DHEA has the potential to influence insulin -- a glucose-regulating hormone. Monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes, recommends MedlinePlus.