What is pregnenolone? It is a steroid hormone but is not a reproductive hormone like estrogen or testosterone. Pregnenolone is also made from cholesterol, which makes it a steroid hormone. It is also considered to be a ‘pro-hormone,’ because it can convert into other hormones depending on the needs of the body. Recently, it has been discovered that pregnenolone is also produced in the brain and spinal cord, which makes it very potent on stimulating the central nervous system and having an impact on the brain.
Pregnenolone is helpful for memory. It is stimulating to the brain for memory and learning, but at the same time, it is also neuroprotective. The brain is very complicated, and pages could be written on the process of memory foundation and degradation. What we are trying to say here is, pregnenolone helps with learning and also preserving memory by protecting brain cells.
Other helpful uses for pregnenolone:
- Memory: short-term
- Brain fog
- Mental energy and mental motivation
- Helpful for learning new information
Pregnenolone, like most hormones declines with age. However, pregnenolone can also drop in response to high levels of chronic stress. Whether that stress is mentally induced such as dealing with a family member’s illness, PTSD or a stressful high paced life. Or physical stress such as intense daily cardiovascular exercise can diminish levels of pregnenolone.
This is also known as ‘pregnenolone-steal.’ In times of chronic stress, the body will shunt the production away from the other steroid hormones to produce more cortisol. For women, the body will shunt production away from progesterone to make more cortisol.
You can test for pregnenolone levels in the blood, but the lab reference ranges are so vast that most everyone will fall in normal ranges. Quest has a reference range of 22-237 ng/dL, and LabCorp’s is anything less than 151 ng/dL.
Both are broad reference ranges. I like to see pregnenolone 80-100. If a pregnenolone blood test is less than 80 ng/ dL, I will treat the patient with pregnenolone. And after being on the pregnenolone for 1-3 months, I will retest the blood work to see where their levels are and how they are feeling.
As we all know, too much of a ‘good thing’ is not-so-good. Taking too much pregnenolone can have side effects. There is not a lot of research on pregnenolone. There are some animal studies but not any real prolific human studies. For the layperson, there is not a lot of information about pregnenolone online. There are some contradictory statements on dosing, side effects, and safety.
What I can tell you from my experience with patients, there are relatively little side effects with pregnenolone, as long as you keep the dosage uniquely prescribed for the patient based on their symptoms and the blood work readings.
Pregnenolone is available over the counter/online without a prescription. Many pregnenolone doses are just way too high. I have had new patients walk into my office, and they are on 100mg or more of pregnenolone per day. There are a few exceptions based on blood work. But the very most I prescribe for pregnenolone is 30mg.
Like I said, too much of a ‘good thing’ is not good. Pregnenolone is a hormone, specifically a prohormone. Meaning pregnenolone can convert into other hormones. If someone is taking a higher dose of pregnenolone, it can convert into DHEA, estradiol, cortisol, or progesterone. The side effects would occur due to the conversion of these hormones. So you might see:
- Hair growth on face
- Hair loss on head
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Sleep issues
These side effects come from the conversion of pregnenolone into other hormones. That is why testing for pregnenolone and patient report is essential. When used based on the patient’s blood work and symptoms, pregnenolone can really help with quality of life and aging.
Some people are not candidates for pregnenolone. As I stated before, there is not a lot of research or information on pregnenolone itself, let alone safety issues, and much of the online info regarding the safety of pregnenolone is contradictory.
Pregnenolone can convert into other hormones, so if a person has a personal or family history of a hormone receptor cancer, it is not wise to take pregnenolone. These cancers could be breast cancer or prostate cancer to name a couple.
As stated, there is not a lot of information on safety and pregnenolone; however, knowing that pregnenolone will convert to other hormones makes it potentially not a good idea for people with a personal or family history of hormone-related cancers. But we might find out otherwise in the future with more studies and research.
You are going to find that your primary care doctor is most likely not going to know what pregnenolone is, let alone test your levels. I have had primary care doctors have fits because they got pregnenolone confused with prednisone, which is of course, entirely different.
If you are interested in testing your pregnenolone, you need to see a physician that specializes in Functional Medicine. Perhaps there is not a Functional Medicine doctor in your area, or they charge more than you have budgeted for your healthcare needs. And your primary care doctor refuses to order you a pregnenolone blood test. What can you do? Order it yourself. If you are interested in pregnenolone blood testing, you can go to our website and order it yourself.
There is more to know and learn with pregnenolone. And there will be more information coming out with pregnenolone in the future as we are all learning. Hopefully, this has been informative and helpful to you. If you have any questions or personal stories about pregnenolone, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org