Dehydroepiandrosterone, also known as DHEA, gets its very complex name because it has never been identified to have one particularly dominant mechanism. However, it appears that DHEA has the primary objective of achieving health and youth in the body. The adrenal glands, brain, and skin all produce DHEA as part of their normal physiological functions.
Generally speaking, DHEA is a hormone associated with youth and health. We only produce about 5% of the normal amount when our bodies reach age 50 and beyond. This decrease also occurs with other youth associated hormones like testosterone, progesterone, and pregnenolone. This simple observation has led to the discovery of the anti-aging effects that these hormones have.
How DHEA Keeps Your Skin Young
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the most abundant steroid hormone in the human body. DHEA-levels fall with age in both men and women, reaching levels as low as 5%–20% of those in young bodies. Naturally, this decline has been associated with the symptoms of aging.
One of the major roles of DHEA in youth is to provide protection against the toxic actions of stress hormones. Various forms of stress, be it starvation, aging, and or psychological stress cause an increasing rise in hormones like cortisol, which causes the skin to become thin and fragile. During stress, the basic material from the skin tissue is dissolved to provide energy (sugar) for the essential organs like the brain.
In youth, stress doesn’t have as drastic of an effect on the body because of the high concentration of DHEA. DHEA can block the destructive effects of cortisol while providing support to the normal regeneration processes, which helps to strengthen the skin, bones, and other vulnerable organs.
For example, in one study, a formulation of DHEA applied to facial and hand skin for 4 months was found to increase the rate of sebum. This tends to decrease stress while improving skin brightness, and counteracting skin atrophy induced by stress. It was also found that DHEA can act on skin processes related to wrinkles (likely by inhibiting cortisol’s catabolic effects). All in all, the study found that DHEA had profound anti-stress effects helpful for mitigating skin aging. 1
Estrogen is known to produce a great variety of immunological defects. Apparently, by its balancing and restorative actions, DHEA is able to correct some of those immunological defects, including some “autoimmune” diseases.
Another way DHEA might improve skin health is by supporting sugar metabolism. In a diabetic person, very little sugar is able to enter the cells, which results in fatigue and oxidative stress. Because the skin cells use sugar for energy and maintain their structure, an inability to oxidize glucose may result in skin aging.
For example, when a person cannot oxidize glucose, the sugar can stay in the bloodstream where it can “link” with the amino acids in collagen and elastin that support the dermis, producing advanced glycation end products or “AGEs.” Furthermore, when a person cannot metabolize sugar, they tend to rely on alternative fuel substrates. This results in a greater production of free fatty acids, which also contribute to the formation of AGEs. This is problematic because AGEs can result in wrinkling and skin aging. 2
The natural decline of DHEA might explain why elderly people become less efficient at metabolizing sugar and is one contributor to skin aging. On the other hand, naturally increasing DHEA can stimulate cells to absorb sugar and to burn it, which not only increases our general energy level but can prevent weight gain, diabetes, and skin aging.
Increasing DHEA Levels
In youth, the body produces about 12 to 15 milligrams of DHEA per day. However, that amount decreases by about 2 mg. per day for every ten years after the age of 30. So at age 50, the body might only produce around 4 mg. daily. This is one of the reasons that younger people have a more robust metabolism and can eat more without gaining fat.
With this in mind, it is important to take measures that prevent an added decline of DHEA for preventing accelerated aging. Here are some tips to consider:
The use of ashwagandha (found in Alitura Revitalize) has been proven to increase the levels of DHEA-s in those who take it. In fact, one study found that Ashwagandha intake is associated with an 18% greater increase in DHEA-s.
In general, chronic stress will cause a deficiency in the youth hormones, including DHEA as well as pregnenolone and progesterone. An herbal adaptogen supplement like Revitalize can help to reduce stress and protect DHEA levels.
Cholesterol & Vitamin A
Cholesterol and Vitamin A are the two building blocks of DHEA. Without them, your body will struggle to make DHEA and other hormones. Therefore, foods rich in both, like egg yolks, grass-fed butter, ghee, and liver can be very beneficial to the natural production of DHEA.
Sleep deprivation can result in a spike of stress hormones and a decline in DHEA. Be sure to focus on sleep hygiene. Avoid blue light (like screens) at night, try and get to bed by 10 pm, and sleep in a comfortable environment. To learn more about optimizing your sleep, read our previous blog ‘The Skin Benefits of Beauty Sleep’.
In some cases, taking a quality bioidentical DHEA can help restore levels of this hormone without the reliance of “hormone replacement therapy”. If you take this route, you want to avoid taking more than needed. An excess of DHEA can convert into estrogen, especially in those who are deficient in progesterone, pregnenolone, or hypothyroid.
Natural Path to Perfect Skin
As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Learn more ways to optimize skin health in our e-book ‘Natural Path to Perfect Skin.’
The Natural Path to Perfect Skin
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