DHEA Levels & PCOS

The impact of Stress on DHEA and PCOS

What is DHEAS? And how does it relate to PCOS?

You probably know that PCOS is associated with increased male hormones, and that hormone is often testosterone, but in some cases it’s another hormone called DHEA – dehydroepiandrosterone that comes from your adrenal gland.

Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) is a steroid hormone that eventually gets converted into sex horrmones such as testosterone, estrogen and other androgens. Because it comes from the adrenal gland where stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are made, it can be affected by outside stressors. 


About 20 – 30% of PCOS is driven more by high DHEA levels than other androgens. DHEA levels have actually been shown to be slightly higher in most people with PCOS according to recent studies. In fact, more research is starting to focus on the effects of stress and DHEA on PCOS. 

Stress & DHEA Driven PCOS

So, what exactly does stress have to do with your PCOS symptoms and the release of androgens in your body? Let’s break it down: 

When we experience small daily stressors related to work or family or something major such as the loss of a loved one, we experience mental stress. Overtime, constant stressors can lead to chronic stress. This activates the adrenal gland in our bodies to produce adrenaline and cortisol, which also increases the release of DHEA and DHEAS

The elevated levels of DHEAS can trigger inflammation in the body and intensify the common symptoms associated with PCOS such as hyperandrogenism, infertility, and menstrual pain. Hyperandrogenism can present itself as acne, abnormal hair growth (face, back, chest), and hair loss. 

Tips for managing stress with PCOS

Plus, dealing with PCOS can add on to your daily stress! Stress comes along with fertility struggles, unexplained weight gain, not getting enough sleep, and simply just living with the symptoms.

But prioritizing your stress management is so important for your PCOS lifestyle, hormonal balance, and uncomfortable symptoms! Not sure where to start? Here are my top secret tips to stress management that will help you take better charge of your PCOS:

  1. Practice mindful & intuitive eating – plan your meals ahead, eliminate distractions during your meals, take the time to enjoy every bite of your food, and acknowledge your body’s hunger and fulness cues
  2. Practice meditation or breathing techniques – this can help trigger the “rest and digest” response in your body and help calm your nerves 
  3. Make time for self-care – whether its getting a massage, a night to yourself, or just doing things you enjoy
  4. Get a good night of sleep – if you’re having trouble, turn off devices at least 1 hr before bed, consider a noise machine to block out distractions and create a bedtime routine for yourself
  5. Get some physical activity and fresh air – simply taking a walk or a hike in nature and feeling the breeze can help you clear your mind

If you’re looking for some more personalized guidance on stress management for PCOS, Book a free Nutrition Chat with me today!

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