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Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone the human body produces and uses to make other hormones, such as the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. There is research evidence that also suggests that DHEA can prove important in reducing signs of aging, treating depression, and preventing heart disease. Some people choose to supplement with this hormone in the hopes of enjoying its potential health benefits. Micronized DHEA is a form of this supplement that involves small particles that are easy for the body to process.
The human body creates its own DHEA in its adrenal glands, which are found above the kidneys. As people age, however, their levels of this hormone can decrease significantly. In such a case, a person may start to see the effects of lowered levels. There are many theories about how lowered levels can affect the body, and some studies have produced evidence to support them. For example, some studies have revealed that DHEA levels can affect one’s sexual function and fertility and reduce the symptoms caused by an autoimmune condition called lupus.
A person with concerns about his DHEA levels may choose to purchase supplements, which are available over the counter and sometimes by prescription. Some people opt for micronized DHEA supplements versus those that are just labeled as DHEA because this form is thought to be more accessible to the body. When this supplement is micronized, the hormone particles are rendered much smaller than usual in order to allow the body to capture the hormone from the intestines. Usually, the liver would process the hormone supplement, but this is said to make it less useful for the body.
Micronized DHEA often has particles that are reduced to about two to 15 microns; one micron equals about 0.00004 inches or 0.00101 millimeters. This is often accomplished by grinding the particles. Once the particles are small enough, they are processed into the supplement a person buys from a health or grocery store. Since the particles are so tiny, they can be taken up by the lymphatic system, which helps get rid of waste and delivers nutrients and hormones to other parts of the body. At this point, the body can use it to make another hormone called androstenedione, which it eventually converts to sex hormones.
An individual may benefit from seeking a doctor's advice before choosing a dosage, regardless of whether he or she chooses micronized DHEA or not. Often, the dosage varies based on what the individual hopes to treat or achieve. Additionally, his or her doctor may offer advice about the side effects it can cause, such as headaches and changes in menstruation, as well as possible drug interactions.