“Grandmother of Hormones”
Pregnenolone is called the “grand-mother of hormones”, or the “nature’s feel-good hormone”, because the body uses it to create many other hormones. In fact, all the other adrenal hormones, about 150 of them, can be made from pregnenolone – including testosterone, cortisone, progesterone, estrogen, DHEA and others.
All these hormones do great things, in their proper amounts and time. But, of all of them, it appears that pregnenolone has made the greatest impression on hormone specialist, Dr. Ray Sahelian. While pregnenolone levels don’t decline as we age, the other hormone by-products do. Taking pregnenolone supplements allows you to keep all these other hormones at more youthful levels.(1)
Not only that, we’ll see how pregnenolone blocks corticol and is effective as a weight loss tool – and a key aid to our “Four Essential Brain Chemicals”.
Pregnenolone is a natural hormone that cannot be patented. Back in the 1940’s, researchers realized that it could be helpful for people under stress and it could increase energy in those who were fatigued.
Its broad usefulness made it seem unlike a drug but, being natural, it was impossible to patent. So, drug companies added synthetic variants to give it ‘specialized’ action. Of course, this also added some serious side effects, but now they could patent it and promote it for use in treating specific conditions. Drug companies like to create an atmosphere in which people feel that each disease should have a drug, and a drug to treat each disease. In this case, the side effects of some of those synthetic hormones were so bad that many people came to fear pregnenolone.
At about the same time, cortisol, another closely related hormone, was discovered. Cortisol stole the limelight by better marketing, etc. By the time cortisol also began to show some problems, most people had forgotten about pregnenolone.
What Pregnenolone Does
Many people find pregnenolone improves energy, vision, memory, clarity of thinking, wellbeing, and often sexual enjoyment or libido. It is considered:
A good brain enhancer in those
who are experiencing “brain fog”.
Studies have also shown it to be one of the most effective and powerful memory boosters. In fact, pregnenolone appears to be the most potent memory enhancer yet reported in animals.(2)
It is both produced in the brain as well as absorbed from the blood. It protects brain cells from injury caused by fatigue. An adequate amount has a calming effect on the emotions. This is part of the reason that it protects us from the stress response that causes an excessive production of cortisone. People feel a mood of resilience and an ability to confront challenges.
Pregnenolone has been found in studies to be 100x more effective for memory enhancement than other steroids or steroid-precursors.(3) Pregnenolone has been reported to not only make people smarter but happier and enhance one’s ability to perform on the job while heightening feelings of well-being. Pregnenolone has also been reported to reduce high stress induced fatigue.
Pregnenolone is an important hormone
because it seems to have a balancing effect.
It is a precursor to many other hormones and may be able to bring the levels of other hormones up or down as needed.(4) It is present in young people of both sexes at a very high concentration indicating nature may intend it to be one of our basic defenses against the imbalance of our youthful natural hormones can produce.
Some women report lessening of hot flashes or premenstrual symptoms and this is likely due to the rise of progesterone (the biological daughter of pregnenolone) reduction in estrogen dominance.
Note: Despite its powerful abilities, pregnenolone is considered to be without significant side effects if used within normal amounts. In a healthy young person or animal, taking even a large dose of pregnenolone has no hormone-like or drug-like action at all. It is unique in this way! According to Dr. Braverman, both pregnenolone and DHEA have a long history with safe use over at least 20 years.(5)
In excessive stressful situations, the cortisone released (mentioned above) or estrogen can be dangerous. However, when there is an abundance of pregnenolone, their side effects are prevented or minimized.
If a person is under stress, and producing more cortisone than usual, taking pregnenolone causes the cortisone to come down to the normal level. In today’s world, most people, after the age of 40 or 45, seem to live in a state of continuous stress. This coincides with the body’s decreased ability to produce an abundance of pregnenolone.
Adrenal Fatigue Balance Act
In adrenal fatigue, pregnenolone level usually stays high in early stages, but tends to be lower as adrenal weakness progresses. The body bypasses pregnenolone production in favor of producing hormones such as DHEA and cortisol.
Taking pregnenolone for adrenal fatigue can therefore be challenging for multiple reasons as paradoxical reaction is a major concern. In addition, one can take what appears to be an adequate dosage but will not benefit from this if the body is shunting it towards cortisol production. On the other hand, overdose is possible if too much is taken over time.
However, due to its antagonistic effects on the GABA receptor in the central nervous system, pregnenolone may inhibit drugs used to increase GABA activity (i.e. Neurontin); these drugs are frequently used in the treatment of epilepsy and depression. GABA acts as a “balancer” for the brain, helping balance excitation with inhibition. However, Pregnenolone may inhibit or enhance the activity of GABA receptors, thus helping modulate nervous system function.(6)
Both pregnenolone and DHEA can be taken together for adrenal fatigue. However, since some pregnenolone is converted into DHEA, the intake amount of DHEA can be lowered if both are taken together.
One of the ways pregnenolone may help improve memory and cognitive function is by increasing neurogenesis – the all-important creation of new neurons.(7)
By boosting acetylcholine levels, French researchers discovered that infusing pregnenolone sulfate (a sulfated derivative of pregnenolone) into the brains of rats boosted acetylcholine release by 50%.(8)
We are going to talk more of acetycholine later with the “Four Brain Chemicals” but it is good to know here that pregnenolone is going to help with acetycholine production.
Pregnenolone and DHEA Declines
Pregnenolone influences GABA receptors but has more of a stabilizing effect than soothing. At the age of 30, both men and women produce roughly 30 to 50 mg. of pregnenolone daily. Pregnenolone is not normally obtained from foods. Your body manufactures it from cholesterol. Supplemental pregnenolone is made synthetically in a lab from substances found in soybeans.
Pregnenolone is largely converted into two other “youth-associated” protective hormones, progesterone and DHEA. Both pregnenolone levels and DHEA naturally peak during youth and begin a long, slow decline with age. By the age of 50, our production is only half of our youth. At 75 our bodies produce 70% less pregnenolone and DHEA than the levels produced at thirty.(9) As we get even older, we can produce as little as about 10% as much as we do when young. (U. of O. Medical Dept.)
When taken orally, even in the powdered form, pregnenolone is absorbed fairly well. In fact, one large dose of 200 mg will keep acting for about a week! This is because absorption continues along the intestine, and as it is “recycled” in the body. Part of this long lasting effect is because it improves the body’s ability to produce its own pregnenolone.
For people under 50 years old, it is good to be on the cautious side with usage. We recommend what are called “hormone holidays.” Each person’s body is different but a few people have had minor side effects such as irritability, insomnia, overstimulation, or headaches. While in your 30’s, if needed, you can take a week or two off per month. In your 40’s, you still take a week off each month if needed. As we get older, we can use them more regularly.
Up to 50 to 100 mg has been used in short term studies and no toxicity has been reported. Back in the 40’s, dosages of 400 to 500 mg were used in humans for a month or two without any toxicity. This is why we feel quite comfortable that 25 mg in our IN-Focus will help us reach our goals and not pose any problems.
Direct Hormonal Supplements
For anyone who is taking direct hormonal supplements (not our product), you might want to get tested to see where you are at first. We would recommend Meridian Valley Labs’ 24-hour urine test that Dr. Jonathan Wright is fond of. For about $129 you can get a picture of a 24-hour average of DHEA and the downstream metabolites.
In the United States, there is also a DHEA test, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Sulfate Blood Test from Labcorp, which is a large testing company that has about 1600 offices all across the United States where a sample of your blood for the test can be drawn. Your test results are mailed to you a few days later. You can check the Labcorp web site for the location of a Labcorp testing office near you.
1. “The trouble with sugar free…how sorbitol causes irritable bowel syndrome.” Foodintol.com/food, Aug. 2003.
2. De Wied D. Hormonal influences on motivation, learning, and memory Processes. Hosp Pract 1976;11(1):123-131, and De Wied D. Pituitary adrenal system hormones and behavior. Acta Endocrinol 1977;85(Suppl 214):9-18.
3. Flood JF, Morley JE, Roberts E. Pregnenolone sulfate enhances post-training memory processes when injected in very low doses into limbic system structures: the amygdala is by far the most sensitive. Proc Natl Acad Sci 1995;92(23):10806-10810.
4. Akwa Y, Young J, Kabbadj K, et al. Neurosteroids: biosynthesis, metabolism and function of pregnenolone and dehydroepiandrosterone in the brain. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1991;40(1-3):71-81.
5. Braverman, Eric, MD, Younger You: Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Brain to Look and Feel 15 Years Younger, Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies 2006.
7. Mayo W, Lemaire V, Malaterre J, et al. Pregnenolone sulfate enhances neurogenesis and PSA-NCAM in young and aged hippocampus. Neurobiol Aging. 2005 Jan;26(1):103-14.
8. Darnaudery M, Pallares M, Piazza PV, Le Moal M, Mayo W. The neurosteroid pregnenolone sulfate infused into the medial septum nucleus increases hippocampal acetylcholine and spatial memory in rats. Brain Res. 2002 Oct 4;951(2):237-42.
9. Havlikova H, Hill M, Hampl R, Starka L. Sex- and age-related changes in epitestosterone in relation to pregnenolone sulfate and testosterone in normal subjects. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 May;87(5):2225-31.