Pregnenolone. Ever heard of it? If you haven’t, you’ll want to hear more. It’s a neuroactive steroid with multiple benefits.
Known as the mother hormone, pregnenolone is produced by your body from cholesterol in the brain, liver, adrenals, testicles, ovaries, and the skin. Once made, it can then be metabolized to become DHEA, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, or cortisol.
Besides being a precursor to sex hormones and cortisol production, pregnenolone is anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective. Not only that, it encourages neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to create new neuron connections) and neurogenesis (grow new nerves cells). It helps raise the brain levels of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter), can boost memory, relieve depression and anxiety, and at least one small study showed it minimized pain from rheumatoid arthritis. Clearly, it’s awesome stuff!
Sadly, there are situations that can inhibit our ability to produce pregnenolone. One is simply aging; as we get older, we make less. The other is when we are in a prolonged period of stress. Then our body decides that having plenty of cortisol to combat stress is more important than having sex hormones, so it shifts its metabolic pathways to make more cortisol and limit sex hormone production. That’s known as “the pregnenolone steal.”
Symptoms of pregnenolone deficiency can include irritability and mood swings, depression and anxiety, migraines, insomnia, fatigue, irregular menstruation (including frequent periods), PMS, and low libido.
When it comes to supplementing with pregnenolone, we have heard of doctors recommending anywhere from 30 mg to 100 mg daily. At higher doses side effects may include irritability, acne, facial hair growth, and hair loss (think excess testosterone production). If any of that occurs, lowering the dose is appropriate. Should you want to know your current pregnenolone levels before you experiment with the supplement, doctors and most compounding pharmacies can test your pregnenolone levels with either a serum or saliva test.