Reducing stress, increasing
by James South MA
Pregnenolone is a natural; body produced
metabolite made from cholesterol. It is synthesized inside the mitochondria, the
tiny "power plants" (up to 1000's per cell) found in each cell.
Pregnenolone is the basic precursor, or starting raw material, for the
production of ALL the human steroid hormones, including DHEA, progesterone,
estrogen, testosterone, cortisol and aldosterone, but pregnenolone is not
itself steroid hormone.
Pregnenolone has been studied extensively
since the 1940's, when it was used both experimentally and medically.
Experiments conducted in the 1940's and 1950's found pregnenolone to increase
productivity and reduce the stress of factory workers, and to be an excellent
anti-inflammatory in conditions such as, arthritis and allergies. Pregnenolone
was phased out of medical use; yet ironically pregnenolone is radically safer
and more versatile than the specific steroid hormones which replaced it!
Pregnenolone is safe even at gram (1000mg) dosages, a claim no steroid hormone
Several experiments conducted with mice in
the 1990's have reopened interest in pregnenolone yet these experiments reveal
just the "tip" of the ice-berg, while also revealing important clues
to pregnenolone's action. In these recent experiments, mice were trained to run
mazes to avoid electric shocks, pretreated with either pregnenolone or steroid
hormones. A week later they were tested for their maze memory, and the
pregnenolone treated rats prevailed. Any serious stressor (getting shocked,
here) elicits the release of the adrenal stress steroid hormone- cortisol.
Cortisol is a stress hormone helpful in
modest amounts, but toxic at higher levels. Both acute and chronic stress
release cortisol and excess cortisol can damage the hippocampus, a mid-brain
region essential to memory formation and retrieval. (This is only one of the
many "dark side" effects of excess cortisol).
The mice experiment strongly suggests that
pregnenolone is able to blunt the normal memory damaging effects of excess
stress related cortisol.
Pregnenolone shows many of the benefits of
cortisol, it reduces allergic reactions, lessens arthritis inflammation and
produces a relaxing and mildly euphoric "stress buffer effect",
without any of the negative side effects of cortisol.
Pregnenolone improves mood, and has a mild
anti-depressant effect at doses of 50mg to 200mg per day, and also improves
energy levels by protecting our energy producing mitochondria from toxins, which
would otherwise damage the mitochondria.
Pregnenolone also enhances the activity of
the cytochrome P450 detoxifying enzymes, which help our cells (especially the
liver and brain) to detoxify poisons of all sorts, whether from the outside
world, or our own metabolically produced toxins. Pregnenolone is generally safe
and effective at doses of 25mg to 200mg per day.
The body's own production of pregnenolone
is reduced with aging, stress, depression, hypothyroidism and toxin exposure.
The work of Ray Peat Ph.D., has shown that pregnenolone may be a general
"anti-stress" metabolite. However this may not always be present in
our bodies at optimal levels, precisely because it may be used up in producing
all the steroid hormones, not leaving enough to fulfill its stress buffer role.
Hence the need for supplementation.