Our body produces several different steroid hormones that play important roles in our health and well being. Some of the names are familiar like estrogen and testosterone, but, there are several other important substances that our bodies produce, known as precursors. These precursors are also hormones, with the specific role of producing other hormones, like the two we just mentioned.
One of these precursor hormones is pregnenolone, which can convert into a wide variety of hormones including DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), testosterone and estradiol (the major sex hormones), and more. Pregnenolone plays an important role in our body, especially since the hormones it produces are all critical to one body system or another, and with some illnesses or conditions, it has been observed that levels of pregnenolone are often lower than normal.
Low levels of this hormone which can affect a range of functions including hair growth (especially facial hair) as well as the proper conversion of cholesterol, since pregnenolone is actually synthesized from cholesterol itself!
Let’s examine what we know about pregnenolone, what some of the potential benefits of taking a pregnenolone dietary supplement may be, how to take pregnenolone supplementation, and some important considerations of taking this naturally occurring hormone.
What is Pregnenolone, and What Does It Do?
Scientifically, pregnenolone is an endogenous steroid produced from cholesterol that works as a precursor to the production of most of our body’s steroid hormones. It's a long list, including progestogens, androgens, estrogens, and more. Because of its role in the production of the steroid hormones our body uses, low levels of pregnenolone can cause deficiencies in levels of the hormones it helps produce.
Beyond its naturally occurring role in the human body, pregnenolone is currently used as a supplement. It was marketed as an anti-inflammatory medication under a variety of brand names in the 1940s and 50s, but is no longer used as a medicine.
The Benefits of Pregnenolone
As a precursor hormone, pregnenolone is used by our body to create steroid hormones that have major roles in our physical and mental health. Alternative medicine practitioners have used pregnenolone for a variety of wellness benefits. Some scientific studies have yielded positive results, while other uses and benefits are based on anecdotal evidence. Let’s examine some of the common uses of pregnenolone and see what we can find out.
Improved memory and cognitive function
It’s a fact that our hormone levels decrease as we age, and among those hormones is pregnenolone. Among the effects of lower hormone levels include decreased memory and retention.
Since the neurosteroid pregnenolone plays a key role in the central nervous system, it may help support brain function even through age. A study recorded a measurable improvement in memory when the animals were dosed with pregnenolone.
Supports mental health and mood
Pregnenolone levels, aldosterone levels, and cortisol levels, all critical mediators produced by the adrenal glands, tend to be altered in the brains of patients living with mental health problems.
Alternative medicine practitioners often suggest pregnenolone supplementation as one means of helping to improve mental health. With underlying abnormalities involving the chemistry of certain brain cells, low levels of hormones like pregnenolone can be addressed with supplementation.
A randomized, double-blind placebo study in 2014 studied the effect of pregnenolone on patients and found that dosages of 500 mg per day over 12 weeks produced higher rates of improved mental health than for patients taking a placebo.
Supports the immune system
Pregnenolone has also been found to support immune system homeostasis in addition to serving as a precursor for other hormones, helping to protect degradation of key proteins in the immune system.
How to Take Pregnenolone
Pregnenolone can be found at health food stores, compounding pharmacies, and online, sometimes as "pregnenolone sulfate." As always, consult with your doctor or health-care provider before adding a new supplement to your regular wellness routine to discuss possible side effects or drug interactions, and always seek medical advice if you have concerns about specific medical conditions.
In the meantime, here are some general guidelines that most practitioners recommend.
- Take pregnenolone orally.
- It’s best to take pregnenolone in the morning.
- The dosage should be related to the degree of pregnenolone deficiency.
- Be patient, and don’t expect immediate results.
Side Effects and Interactions
Pregnenolone is generally considered safe for most people to take as an oral supplement. Some mild but common side effects include sweating, hair loss, and skin rashes.
Remember, pregnenolone is a precursor hormone that your body converts into other hormones. If you’re suffering from any conditions that can be exacerbated by increased hormone levels. Caution should also be taken if you are currently under any type of hormone therapy. That includes hormones such as estrogen, progestin, and testosterone. These hormones are often marketed under brand names, which is why it's again, vastly important to consult with your physician before starting a regimen that includes pregnenolone or any other hormone.
It’s best to limit pregnenolone supplementation to about 12 weeks at a time to gauge how it affects you and whether or not you'll be able to see tangible results. You can always have your healthcare provider help you monitor changes and help you decide if a pregnenolone supplement is right for you and your lifestyle.
Pregnenolone and All the Hype
The importance of proper hormonal balance in our bodies cannot be understated--whether you realize it or not, all the different hormones that our body produces are all the key moderators of the different functions of our systems, including our metabolism, mood, energy, and much, much more. Deficiencies in any number of hormones are often the root cause of a lot of illnesses and conditions, but luckily, hormone therapy and hormone supplements are widely available to help correct potentially low levels.
As we’ve seen, alternative medicine has claimed many roles for pregnenolone in improving a range of body systems. Scientific studies are just now investigating many of these uses, but results so far have been promising in the use of pregnenolone to improve our overall health, especially when levels are low due to other factors like medications or illness. There’s little to suggest that moderate use of pregnenolone presents any significant risks, so if you find yourself intrigued about the possibilities of pregnenolone improving your overall wellness and helping to support your athletic performance, feel free to give it a try!
Once more, even the safest of supplements can affect other parts of your daily regimen, so take a moment to consult with a health care professional before incorporating pregnenolone or any other supplements into your daily routine.
These statements have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA). ASYSTEM products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.