Dehydroepiandrosterone

Origin: An androgen steroid hormone naturally produced in the body by the adrenal glands. Do not confuse 7-Keto DHEA with DHEA.

Dosage: Capsule and tablets available both as prescription (200 mg) and non-prescription (10-, 15- or 25-mg) products; typically 200 mg for lupus. Do not take doses higher than 25 mg without advice from a physician. Effects of long-term use are unknown.

Claims: Helps control lupus flares; increases the blood level of DHEA. What we know: Natural DHEA levels have been found to be low in people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, particularly in postmenopausal women, as well as men with ankylosing spondylitis, perhaps due to corticosteroid use. DHEA may help regulate the immune system and control inflammation.

Studies: In people with lupus, DHEA treatment may reduce disease activity and flares. Studies found it allowed doctors to lower women’s corticosteroid dosages. DHEA also appeared to counteract bone loss caused by medication and increase bone density. Long-term safety, overall effectiveness and appropriate dosages have not been established.

DHEA side effects include stomach upset, abdominal pain and high blood pressure, as well as acne. It also decreases levels of “good” cholesterol (high-density lipo­protein, or HDL) and may cause facial hair growth, voice deepening and changes in menstrual pattern. DHEA can also increase insulin resistance for people with diabetes, and exacerbate liver disease. Use is contra­indicated in men with prostate cancer and women with uterine fibroids.