06 Mar 2014

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Imagine this scenario:

VitaminsYour energy level just hasn’t been what it should be. One of your pals tells you about a supplement she’s started taking that sounds too good to be true. So you hop in the car and head to Whole Foods.

You’re standing in the aisle and there’s a whole smorgasbord of supplements staring back at you. You decide to create your own cocktail with a little of this and a little of that. And the next thing you know, you’ve dropped $200…without having the first clue about what you’re doing.

Sound familiar?

None of these products require a prescription, so they’re super-convenient…but that doesn’t mean they are always safe.

Here’s a perfect example of how this can play out.

One of my clients recently completed her salivary hormone analysis. When the results came back to me, her DHEA and testosterone levels were sky high. She is on a testosterone supplement, so that result was understandable. What didn’t make sense was the DHEA level. She did not list it with her supplements….but I knew something was up.

When I asked her, she mentioned she was taking 50 mg of DHEA daily. This dosage is widely available, but experienced practitioners know the recommended dose for women is 5-10 mg/day. She was taking at least 5 times the recommended amount, and this is why her level was so high.

So what’s the danger here? When DHEA goes into hormonal pathways in the body, it is mostly likely to be converted to testosterone in women…thus adding to her testosterone levels. Elevated testosterone causes irritability, acne, hair loss on the scalp and unwanted body hair growth among other things. There is also some evidence that it may increase cardiovascular risk. Excess testosterone can also be converted to estrogen, thus contributing to estrogen dominance.

We all want to feel and look our best. But it’s important to approach this safely. This means taking the time to understand what you’re doing and how the different hormone pathways in the body work together.

A DIY approach is not necessarily best. It’s worth the investment to find a practitioner who can work with you to do testing for baseline hormone levels, create a plan for supplementation if needed, do follow up testing to make sure your goals are being achieved and educate you. Taking matters into your own hands without knowing where you’re starting from can be downright dangerous.

Next time you’re considering adding a supplement, don’t assume it’s safe. Make sure you do the research and talk to your pharmacist. Mention every single supplement that goes into your mouth or on your skin. And remember, your doctor may not always be familiar with problems related to herbals and other supplements.

You are your own best advocate…so do your homework!

Dr. Anna Garrett

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