Adrenal Fatigue

Experimenting with DHEA

Posted by Miss Lizzy
June 16, 2010

If you’ve been at my site you know the whole story about hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue, but even after all this time my treatment is a work-in-progress.  This means treating everything in life as an experiment (in fact you can browse my ongoing experiments on edison – the experimenter’s journal).

Of course, using oneself as the test subject can be frustrating, and even a bit scary. Here is the latest update about my life as an experiment…

At my last doctor’s visit in April, I had lab work done. Turns out in the past few years my DHEA had dropped a ridiculous amount, into an abnormal range. We aren’t sure why, but since DHEA is produce by the adrenals we suspect the drop is related to my thyroid and adrenal systems and treatment. Anyway, I was feeling in good health overall but figured it was worth trying a DHEA supplement to see what would happen. My doctor said that was fine. Fortunately, or not, the only way to figure stuff out is by trying it.  So there I was again, my own test dummy.

When trying something new I always hope I will have great and immediate results like I did with Hydrocortisone, Naturethroid and the Vitamin B Complex. However, with DHEA it seems that the results have been immediate, but not so good.  Namely, I noticed a lot of hair loss.  Imagine my horror this past month, after virtually no hair loss since getting thyroid treatment, to suddenly be shedding like crazy. And to make things worse I noticed the return of other hypothyroid symptoms like brain fog, inability to cope or get motivated.

I have to say I’ve been freaked out, as I am sure you might feel at times when your body just isn’t doing the right thing.  Luckily my mom talked me off a theoretic ledge this morning and helped me pinpoint that the DHEA may be the issue.  I started reading on the Yahoo Adrenal group about it, and sure enough some people have had similar problems with DHEA, specifically with hair loss.

The lessons learned is that experiments can be frustrating, especially when they affect your physical health. But we have to keep at it, keep learning and evolving because this stuff just isn’t going to fix itself.  But I have to remember to forgive myself when things don’t go great.  The learning is what matters, as long as I can get myself back on track.

I am pretty sure DHEA didn’t work for me, so I am stopping it and will report back about my findings. Of course, DHEA might work great for some people and I would love to hear if you’ve had a good experience.





  1. Sue Taylor December 28, 2010 7:25 pm

    I had a horrible experience every time I tried it. I never supposed that the hair nightmare i experienced 2 summers ago could have been that! Wow! My Dr. just kept pushing the stuff but it made me so damn depressed and dumb, I felt 3 feet thick. It was the weirdest feeling ever! Thanks for your post! Sue

  2. Ari April 28, 2011 8:12 am

    I've been on DHEA for awhile now, but it works for me. The only problem is finding the right dosage – too much and it backfires, not enough and I'm tired and dizzy. Also, it makes my acne flare up. 🙁 Never had any hair-loss, though, and I'm very thankful.

  3. Lizzy April 30, 2011 10:15 pm

    Hi Ari, thanks for sharing! Some people are okay on DHEA, it guess it depends on the person. It's all big experiment!

  4. debb May 6, 2011 7:30 pm

    Used dhea for a short while and experienced hair loss which doesn't appear to be returning…. also acne and greasy hair, then a lot if shedding of top hair, now having itching scalp helped by using Nizoral shampoo 2x's a week……I'm also hypothyroid, and on thyroxine……what are the chances my hair will ever return to former thickness and no former signs of pattern baldness prior to dhea use? Thanks for any help and answers debb

  5. Lizzy May 11, 2011 1:16 am

    Hi Deb,I'm so sorry, it sounds like you've had a terrible experience with DHEA just like me. It's been a year now and my hair is starting to recover. But I have been following a really careful supplement and medicine regimen which I think is (hopefully) helping (slowly). I have heard a side effect of synthetic thyroid medicine like thyroxine can cause hair loss (I know, this is just horrible). So switching to Natural Desiccated Thyroid like Naturethroid (USA) or Erfa (ordered from Canada) could possibly help with you hair growth (and may help you feel better all around). Here is some great info on synthetic thyroid meds and why people have problems on them… what I know, low iron is potential cause of hair loss, and common to hypothyroid. So my supplements for hair health this past year include:IronZincOmegas 3 and 6The very last suggestion is to join the Yahoo Hair Loss Forum. The ladies there have been so very helpful and know way more about this than I do.

  6. Dee January 8, 2012 9:26 pm

    I had a similar experience with DHEA. I started supplementing with a topical DHEA cream. Then my boyfriend started noticing all this hair in the shower drain, and then he said he could see my scalp! After my lab tests showed a very high DHEA level I stopped the DHEA, but within a month I came down with subacute thyroiditis (painful, rapid heartbeat, constantly on edge). Got through that, and now I am on a compounded thyroid med (T3/T4). Doc recently decided my thyroid hormones are now idea, but my hair hasn't grown back. Still very thin. On top of that, I'm on natural HRT, and have been for years. The hair loss doesn't seem to be related to androgens, so I'm stumped, as is my doctor.I used to have beautiful, long thick hair. It's so weird not to have much hair anymore. And I do believe the DHEA precipiated the hair loss, and possibly my thyroiditis as well.Love your site!Dee

  7. Mustang Sally February 20, 2012 7:39 pm

    My naturopath tested me for DHEA level and it was low, so I got some compounded sublingual DHEA liquid made. It gave me acne and thinning hair, but my naturopath said it's probably because my body is converting some if to DHT, which caused the hair loss and acne. She suggested I also take Spironolactone (an Rx). Be careful with Spiro b/c it can lead to GERD over several months' time. It DID do the trick with allowing usage of DHEA without the hair loss and acne, however. Then, later I read online that Saw Palmetto can do the same thing as Spiro, so I switched to Saw Palmetto (I know it's usually only historically been used by men). That's been going well and I don't have the GERD symptoms, so it's the best of both worlds and I'm still able to take the DHEA.

  8. Lizzy February 23, 2012 12:21 am

    Hi Mustang Sally, that's really helpful thanks!!

  9. debb January 17, 2013 1:22 pm

    Lizzy, it is now 2013 and of course, I am never ever trying DHEA again, as I am certain that it caused my hair to thin on top, and it has never fully recovered……I am taking a multivitamin and extra Biotin( really helps hair and nails) and I continue to take Levothyroxinne for my hypothyroidism. I have not yet tried iron, or natural/compounded thyroid meds……it is very hard to be open to try much of anything new since my experience with DHEA(as low as 1/2 of 25mg.) Other than the thinning, I also had acne and greasy hair… first my skin glowed and my lashes grew longer, then came the heart palpatations, nervousness and profuse perspiring! Maybe a predisposition to male pattern baldness (although, I had no problem before) is the reason some females have these reactions to the DHEA…..I also continue to use Nizoral shampoo when I can find it on the store shelves. Thanks for all you do and keep up the good work on keeping us informed!! debb

  10. Mustang Sally January 17, 2013 2:50 pm

    Debb: I think some people simply cannot take DHEA, even if their hormone testing states they are low on it.It's worth it to try Nature-Throid instead of Synthroid, because we know that Synthroid is synthetic and the body therefore builds up a resistance to it over time, causing it to become less effective; whereas, that doesn't happen with Nature-Throid. Also, be sure to take your multivitamin hours apart from your thyroid medication, as vitamins will reduce its effectiveness.Another supplement to consider to increase hair/nail/skin heath is MSM, but you may need to increase your thyroid med dosage because it more than likely will tend to make it less effective and you may begin to experience slow thyroid symptoms again if you don't do so quite quickly. But you will notice better hair/skin/nails and even less joint and muscle pain (if you have that).Also, to prevent hair breakage and loss, you may want to consider adopting "co-washing" which is washing your hair with conditioner ONLY two out of three times that you wash your hair. If you use vigorous scalp massage and warm water, conditioner-only washing CAN still get rid of oil, but it will leave your hair in better condition than washing with shampoo each time. IOW, wash with shampoo once to every two times you wash with conditioner (shampoo, conditioner, conditioner, shampoo, etc.). You may also want to look into improving gut health with use of Bragg's organic Apple Cider Vinegar with each meal, taking l-tyrosine, glutamine powder, a refrigerated probiotic, getting enough protein from meats & eggs, reducing refined carbs, exchanging herbal teas for coffee use (or combine the two to wean yourself off coffee) and maybe even using an anti-candida supplement for awhile to turn the corner away from too much yeast in your gut. Gut health is where health really starts, including the body's ability to produce its own neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the gut. Lacking these neurotransmitters because of poor gut health (which is WHERE your body creates these neurotransmitters when the gut is healthy) causes depression which causes self-medicating with refined carbs (which worsens the gut's health – vicious cycle). Poor gut health also contributes to poor adrenal health, hormone imbalances and probably hypothyroidism. You may find that if you improve your gut health, your thyroid meds will work better (unless you're still using Synthroid), and other issues like joint pain and stiffness will lessen. Also, try using TURMERIC capsules daily for joint pain and stiffness so that you will have less depression and more of a desire and ability to work out without residual pain. Improved gut health will also improve hair/skin/nails.

  11. Valerie July 23, 2013 5:33 pm

    I'm surprised that those of you taking thyroid meds would also take DHEA – found this info on a doctor's website discussing DHEA supplementation:Some people on thyroid replacement therapy will become hyperthyroid as the DHEA makes the medication more active. Sounds like you have to be extra careful if you're on thryoid meds!

  12. caroline August 22, 2013 12:46 am

    Hi, I have hypothyroid too. I take nature thyroid and have it all pretty much under control…and then last winter I got the really bad flu that was going around. My hair and nails fell apart. Something to do with the flu drained the protein out of me. I spoke to a nurse right after it happened and she told me about BioSil. She said not to take the pills, but to take the drops in water. The directions say to take 5 drops twice a day. That amount made my hair greasy. So once a day seems to work better for me. The BioSil has definitely made the individual strands of hair stronger.

  13. John February 26, 2014 11:06 pm

    Hi there, I know this is an older post, but I was wondering, what kind of DHEA does did you take? According to Ray Peat, young people produce about 12 to 15mg of DHEA a day. However, many supplements go from 25 to 100mg, so it might be very easy to "overdose" on DHEA. I ask as I have low testosterone, and don't want to commit to TRT until I figure out if there is better option (like pregnenolone, raising LH, DHEA, or even seeing if a few months of NDT brings levels up).You may also be interested in Pregnenoline, here's the Ray Peat article I mentioned earlier-

  14. Autumn Kraft May 2, 2014 2:11 am

    Been taking DHEA for almost 2 years. About a year ago two goiters were found on my thyroid and I’m told I’m likely hypothyroid. I don’t think related. For hair loss take Biotin. It will help your mood, you metabolism, your energy, your hair to come in thicker and nails too. I’ve had no hairloss issues that I’ve noticed with hypothyroidism. I think the biotin I’ve taken for so many years has saved my hair. Vit E and vit A, Vit K and Vit D could help too.

  15. Joya Goodhue November 20, 2014 5:48 am

    Low DHEA is a result of excess cortisol production, which is the result of too much adrenaline production. It is also a result of hypothyroidism. 5 mg is a large dose, so taking 1-3 mg’s is a good place to start. anymore and you’re making too much androgens, hence the hair loss and acne. pregnenolone is another option as is it is the precursor to DHEA so it may be more beneficial than DHEA.

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