The Four-Letter Hormone You Need To Know

DHEADHEA is the most abundant hormone in your body, yet few women have ever heard of it. Fewer can pronounce its twenty-two lettered scientific name, Dehydroepiandrosterone.

Think of DHEA as your battery, your reserve fuel.  Without DHEA you have trouble activating your thyroid hormone.  You can take all the Synthroid, (the most commonly prescribed thyroid medication),  in the world, but without enough DHEA your body may not feel any beneficial thyroid effects.

DHEA is made by your adrenal glands.  Young men and women have a lot but as we age our levels fall. When you are busy, chronically stressed and not taking time to refuel, DHEA levels fall faster than normal.

Most doctors just accept low levels as “typical aging,” but do you want to age typically?

DHEA helps an “over 50 woman” regulate cortisol, and make serotonin, estrogen, and testosterone.  If your DHEA is low you are at risk for immune problems like frequent colds or autoimmune disease.  Low DHEA can also result in bone loss, depression, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, dementia and even heart disease.

Could low DHEA be why you can’t lose weight, can’t sleep at night, or stay awake after lunch?

Ask your doctor to measure DHEA-S in your blood.  (DHEA-S is the stable form of DHEA)  Most labs can do this and most insurance companies will cover testing.

When your doctor tells you “it’s normal,” ask for the number.  You want to keep your DHEA-S level above 150, some suggest aiming as high as 200.

DHEA is available in most health food stores, but most doses recommended are too high for most women.  Most women need only 2 to 10 mg/day (a typical male dose is 25 to 50 mg/day).  If your level goes too high you could develop pimples, facial hair or hair thinning. The 7-keto form of DHEA is less likely to cause these side effects, and is readily available over the counter.

Start with a low dose, say 5 mg in the morning, on an empty stomach.   Use it for a few weeks.  You should notice more energy and a better sense of well-being.  If not, increase to 10 or 15 mg.

I recommend taking breaks.  Use it for a couple of months, then break for a couple of weeks.  DHEA can also be used vaginally.  Your doctor can write a script for DHEA vaginal suppositories and any compounding pharmacy can make it for you.  Most women notice 25 to 50 mg inserted  2 to 3 times per week enhances orgasm and improve vaginal dryness.  Think of it as female Viagra.

Don’t be afraid of DHEA.  It is an important adrenal hormone, sadly overlooked as we age.

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The Four-Letter Hormone You Need To Know was last modified: by

Phuli Cohan, MD

Phuli Cohan, MD

Phuli Cohan MD is an anti-aging physician with a cutting edge view of medicine. She graduated Simmons College in 1978 with a degree in Women Studies and Chemistry. She completed her medical degree from Brown University. After training in family medicine, she traveled to New Zealand where she studied both Internal Medicine and Chinese Medicine. After working in Hawaii for 3 years she completed Emergency Medical boards in Australia, where she also did a Chinese gynecology apprenticeship in Melbourne. She is boarded in anti-aging medicine and published her first book, The Natural hormone Makeover (Wiley), in 2008. Dr. Cohan is passionate about women’s health and is dedicated to educating women and their doctors about the importance and safe uses of all hormones. You can follow her at 

  6 comments for “The Four-Letter Hormone You Need To Know

  1. July 2, 2013 at 7:00 am

    I wanted to research this a little and the article on WebMD talks about side effects that seem a little alarming. Voice changes, hair growth and potential interaction with medications. I would ask my doctor before just jumping in with a medication that even the NFL bans for its’ players.

    • R Mitchell
      April 17, 2016 at 10:43 am

      The problem is using a “supplement” instead of a prescription vaginal suppository (Prasterone, EndoCeutics).
      The suppositories work. The supplements don’t. That simple.

  2. Carla
    July 8, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Can I use oral DHEA as a vaginal suppository? If not, why not? Thanks.

  3. Diane
    July 29, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Ladies I just wanted to say Dhea really does work. I was on Prempro for 2 years which helped a bit; but after 2 years on it my system went haywire. I’m off Prempro now and just started DHEA last week. I’ve noticed a significant improvement in all my female ailments within a week. My Dr prescribed 5mg daily for me both orally and vaginal. All I can say is that this is actually working for me. Thank goodness!

  4. Misty
    August 16, 2014 at 5:17 am

    What type of doctor should I see to prescribe a DHEA vaginal suppository? Would my gyno be able to do that? He prescribed Premarin cream for my dryness/pain issue but I haven’t seen a lot of improvement and it’s very expensive. Should I see an holistic doctor?

  5. Kim
    April 8, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Getting DHEA from a compounding pharmacy the best way to go? I am having problems finding vaginal suppositories locally or online. Also I am on Synthroid and Cytomil. Will taking DHEA mess with my current dosages?

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