Progesterone and Pregnenolone: Two Ps in a Pod
Progesterone and pregnenolone are steroid hormones manufactured in several areas of the body: the adrenal cascade, ovaries and testicles. Progesterone is made from pregnenolone and both are metabolized into DHEA. In the adrenal cascade, pregnenolone is the first hormone to be made from cholesterol and progesterone is the second. Besides DHEA both can be converted into several other adrenal hormones, including the sex hormones, aldosterone and cortisol. Hormones like pregnenolone and progesterone are incredibly versatile, letting your body’s wisdom choose which other hormones it will make from them based on your individual needs.
With adrenal fatigue, sex hormone levels often fall because your adrenal glands are not able to manufacture adequate amounts. One key function sex hormones serve is to act as antioxidants that help prevent the damage caused by cortisol. The lower the levels of sex hormones, the more damage there is to tissues, especially when stress levels are high. This oxidative damage is one of the key factors contributing to rapid aging.
Both progesterone and pregnenolone have been used with success to ease premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This is not surprising considering that the most common cause of PMS seems to be too little progesterone and/or too little magnesium. The addition of oral pregnenolone or natural progesterone cream is often used as relief for the side effects and symptoms of PMS. Both pregnenolone tablets and progesterone cream are available from many health food stores and some pharmacies.
It is important to note that we are speaking of natural progesterone and not the synthetic tablet-form progestins typically prescribed by a doctor. Synthetic progestins can have many side effects and should be avoided. The reason most progestins have side effects is that none of them are exactly like the natural progesterone your body makes. The progesterone contained in progesterone cream, however, is usually a naturally-derived plant progesterone (phytoprogesterone) that has been converted into the same molecule as the progesterone in your body. In my experience, this form can be used safely by most women.
Use of progesterone cream for PMS typically involves rubbing 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cream into the tender areas of your skin (swimsuit areas plus the inside of thighs and arms) each morning and evening. Premenopausal women should apply it from the 12th day of the menstrual cycle to the 26th day (the first day of bleeding is counted as the 1st day). Post-menopausal women can use it for 21 days each month. A great resource for more information on this topic is What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause by Dr. John Lee.
Both pregnenolone and progesterone can be used to raise the hormonal levels in both men and women, and decrease some aspects of adrenal fatigue. Bypassing the very complex and energy consuming steps required to make pregnenolone or progesterone from cholesterol means fatigued adrenals do not have to work nearly so hard to keep hormone levels adequate. Using hormone replacement therapy for adrenal fatigue is an area that requires skill. Although some of the hormones mentioned here can be purchased without a prescription, I highly recommend using a physician familiar with hormone replacement in cases of adrenal fatigue. If you cannot find one in your area, try our Find a Practitioner section to see if we have someone near you.
Hormones work together in symphony to perform in the concert of life. To throw in a hormone here and another there in a haphazard way is like having a heavy metal band thrown in with an orchestra. Hormones are powerful engineers of body processes and balancing them calls for delicate precision. The timing, the quantity and the form of hormone used are all critical. It is best to work with an expert who will monitor your progress using laboratory tests. If you do embark upon this yourself, use caution: start low and go slow.
About the Author: With a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.