Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stress Busting DHEA and Fibromyalgia


Adrenal fatigue is common among those battling fibromyalgia. 
 
The adrenal glands are located atop each kidney. These glands and the hormones they release allow us to be resilient to day-to-day stress. They allow us to build-up stamina to stressful situations-to rebound from daily stress or stressors.

Individuals with fibromyalgia will find that their adrenal glands have been stressed to the max. They will experience symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue including low energy, brain fog, poor immune function, anxiety, depression, poor sleep, and other stress depleting symptoms. In short they don’t handle stress very well. Because of this they will try to avoid stressful situations as much as possible. Those with severe cases will be become totally withdrawn from social situations, hibernating in their homes and avoiding stress at all costs.

Of course stress also increases their anxiety, makes their symptoms worse and causes them to have flare-ups.

Because they’ve lost their ability to handle stress if they have a day when they feel good and over do it (clean the house, paint the playroom, grocery shopping, etc.). Then they usually crash the next day. These flares are repeated over and over when a person suffers with adrenal fatigue.

Once adrenal exhaustion sets in, it’s not long before the body begins to break down. Getting “stressed out” and staying “stressed out” is the beginning of chronic illness for most, if not all, of the fibromyalgia patients I work with.

One way to repair adrenal fatigue and boost stress coping abilities is to supplement with the over the counter hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

DHEA

The adrenal cortex, when healthy, produces adequate levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).


DHEA boosts:

• Energy, both mental and physical
• Sex drive
• Resistance to stress, builds tolerance and stamina to stress and stressors
• Self-defense mechanisms (immune system)
• General well being
  And helps to raise:
• Cortisol levels-our major stress coping hormone
• Overall adrenal function
• Mood
• Cellular energy
• Mental acuity
• Muscle strength
• Over all stamina


DHEA is notoriously low in my fibromyalgia patients. Chronic stress initially causes the adrenals to release extra amounts of stress hormone cortisol. Continuous stress raises cortisol to abnormally high levels. Then the adrenal glands get to where they can’t keep up with the demand for more cortisol. As the cortisol levels continue to become depleted from on going stress the body attempts to counter this by releasing more DHEA. Eventually they can’t produce enough cortisol or DHEA. This is where most of my patients find themselves in-low DHEA levels from years of stress.

Aging makes holding on to DHEA even tougher. Even in healthy individuals, DHEA levels begin to drop after the age of 30. By age 70, they are at about 20% of their peak levels.

Stress and DHEA

DHEA helps prevent the destruction of tryptophan (5HTP), which increases the production of serotonin. This helps provide added protection from chronic stress. Serotonin is one of the most important stress coping chemicals. This happy hormone increases or moods, reduces pain (increases pain threshold), and is responsible for stimulating the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. If you’ve read my book, Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you know the importance of 5HTP and serotonin. And I spend quite a bit of time discussing the merits of DHEA for reversing anxiety and depression in my book, Treating and Beating Anxiety and Depression With OrthomolecularMedicine.

DHEA is one the most effective antianxiety therapies available and much safer than benzodiazepine drugs.

Studies continue to show low DHEA to be a biological indicator of stress, aging, and age-related diseases including neurosis, depression, peptic ulcer, IBS, and others.

DHEA and Immune Function

The decrease in DHEA levels correlates with the general decline of cell-mediated immunity and increased incidence of cancer. DHEA protects the thymus gland, a major player in immune function. DHEA is a potent immune booster. It is one of my go to supplements when treating patients with poor immune function including those with chronic fatigue syndrome and shingles.

Get Tested
DHEA Supplement I recommend to my patients

To know if you need to start taking over the counter DHEA, have your blood tested. The normal range is quite large and so most doctors will tell you if you have DHEA show up above 20 you are good. Don’t listen to this nonsense. Numerous studies and 17 years of clinical experience show that optimal levels of DHEA are needed for optimal health. For women optimal DHEA levels should be above 250 and for men closer to 350.

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