Hormones

HORMONES AND NEUROSTEROIDS

Hormones and your health go hand and hand so when your hormones decline so does your health. It’s that simple. Replacing low levels with bio-identical hormones can greatly improve your health.

Pregnenolone:

Having optimal pregnenolone levels will increase all other hormones if needed as it is the “Mother” of all other hormones. It is made from cholesterol so that shows you the importance of cholesterol.

Pregnenolone’s Cortisol-neutralizing Power

Small amounts of cortisol are essential to promote health and even for life itself. Yet under the prodding of chronic stress and aging, our adrenal glands often over-produce cortisol. Indeed, cortisol is the only steroid hormone whose levels tend to increase with age. The level of all other steroids, including pregnenolone, tend to decrease (often radically) with age. Excessive cortisol promotes a host of negative side-effects. High cortisol levels promote depression, as does chronic, unremitting stress in many people (which results in chronically elevated cortisol). Experimental subjects such as factory workers and airplane pilots who were given pregnenolone under stressful conditions actually reported an enhanced sense of well-being and happiness.

Excessive Cortisol

The following are indications of an excessive cortisol level:
(1) accelerated skin aging and deterioration;
(2) damaged structure and function of mid-brain regions involved in memory;
(3) impaired wound healing, poor skin quality and excessive scar tissue;
(4) excess fluid retention and puffy, flabby skin.
(5) poor quality of sleep.

Most of these adverse effects of cortisol are directly counteracted by pregnenolone. For example, Papa and Kligman reported in 1965 that topical application of a pregnenolone-containing skin cream restored youthful properties to aged skin.

Experiments with humans and animals show that pregnenolone enhances the function of the same pro-memory areas of the mid-brain that are damaged by cortisol. A 1994 report by Guth and colleagues found that pregnenolone actually promoted successful healing of otherwise crippling spinal cord injuries in rats. Ray Peat, Ph.D., has reported successful use of pregnenolone to rid the body of cortisol-induced excessive fluid and puffiness, promoting a more lean and taut, youthful appearance to the face. Steiger (1993) used a mere 1 mg of pregnenolone in human volunteers to increase the restorative delta, slow-wave, stage IV sleep. (Larger doses of pregnenolone taken inappropriately at night may, however, also promote insomnia through ‘over-energization’). Thus, pregnenolone seems in many ways to be a natural ‘antidote’ to the ‘dark side’ of cortisol, which tends to manifest ever more with aging and chronic stress.

Pregnenolone has been used in studies for many psychiatric disorders.
Here 500 mg/day was used for bipolar depression (source)
Here 400 mg was used to raise allopregnanolone levels to reduce anxiety (source)
Low pregnenolone in social phobia (source)

Progesterone:

Progesterone helps to counteract the effects of estrogen on the male body. Not only is progesterone found in males, but men rely on the alleged “female hormone” to preserve their masculinity. In fact, progesterone is a precursor to testosterone – the male sex hormone. As men age and testosterone begins to decline, estrogen levels steadily rise. As estrogen levels increase, progesterone levels plummet.

Symptoms of low progesterone in men include:
Low libido
Hair loss
Weight gain
Fatigue
Depression
Gynecomastia (“man-boobs”)
Erectile dysfunction
Impotence
Bone loss
Progesterone has been used to raise the allopregnanolone levels in cocaine addicts in a study done by Yale University Stress Center. (source)
Muscle loss

Highlights

  • Progesterone was used to increase allopregnanolone (ALLO) levels in cocaine addicts.
  • Individuals with high ALLO levels demonstrated a normalized HPA axis function.
  • Individuals with high ALLO levels displayed increased cognitive performance.
  • Individuals with high ALLO levels experienced reduced cocaine craving.
  • Increasing allopregnanolone levels in CD individuals may provide therapeutic benefit.

Conclusions

As expected, cocaine dependent individuals administered progesterone showed significantly higher ALLO plasma levels. High levels of ALLO appeared to normalize basal and stress response levels of cortisol, decrease cocaine craving and also contribute to improvements in positive emotion and Stroop performance in response to stress and drug-cue exposures. These findings suggest that the neuroactive steroid ALLO plays a significant role in mediating the positive effects of progesterone on stress arousal, cognitive performance and drug craving in cocaine dependence.

Cortisol to DHEA ratio:

The cortisol to DHEA ratio is believed to be so important to your health, that numerous functions in the body are deficient without it. Cortisol and DHEA are both powerful adrenal hormones that have a variety of physiological functions. Cortisol and DHEA are steroid hormones, both synthesized from pregnenelone, the master steroid hormone, which is derived from cholesterol. In many ways, the Cortisol to DHEA ratio modulates biological energy output, and their effects are felt at the cellular level all over the body.

Functions of Cortisol & DHEA
Cortisol is a primary stress hormone produced by the adrenals, and is also a potent anti-inflammatory hormone. Cortisol’s action can suppress immune function. Another of its primary functions is to raise blood sugar through gluconeogenesis. High amounts of glucocorticoids can suppress thyroid function, chiefly the inhibition of the conversion of T4 into the active T3. CRH (cortico-tropin releasing hormone), which is a hypothalamus precursor to cortisol can inhibit thyroid function as well, suppressing TSH.

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is called an androgenic hormone. It is a precursor for testosterone and the estrogens. DHEA antagonizes the effects of cortisol. DHEA is a very powerful anti-aging hormone. Low levels of DHEA are found among those with Cancer, CVD, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Depression, Hypothyroidism and Adrenal Fatigue.

Since cortisol and DHEA have opposing effects, they should be viewed together as a ratio. Like with every major control system in the body, cortisol and DHEA work through their alternating, dualistic balance.

The ratio between cortisol and DHEA has numerous effects in the body. When cortisol is elevated disproportionately to DHEA, the ratio is higher. When the cortisol to DHEA ratio is elevated, the numerous biological effects that this ratio has in the body is augmented. Here are some of the major effects of the Cortisol to DHEA ratio:

The balance of pro/anti-inflammatory stasis

Immune Regulation. Remeber that cortisol suppresses immune function

Protein, Fat and Glucose metabolism. Evidence suggests that hyperglycemia, which can result in diabetes, in many cases can be caused specifically from imbalanced cortisol and DHEA levels

Thyroid, Pancreas and ovarian function

Detoxification capacity. Since the body needs energy to properly deal with toxic metals, the hormones produced by the adrenal glands are considered to be the cornerstone to heavy metal and xenobiotic elimination.

Skeletal health. High levels of cortisol can cause breakdown of bone as well as the collagen matrix that holds bone together.

Memory. DHEA is a critical component for brain function and cognition.

Cortisol and DHEA have intrinsic relationships with numerous other steroidal hormones such as progesterone and aldosterone. If adrenal function is compromised, the body may bypass the pregnenelone > progesterone > cortisol pathway and “steal” pregnenelone. This can cause numerous complications including the transference of progesterone into androgenic testosterone.

Estrogen:

New research from Yale University may help explain why women are twice as likely as men to suffer from stress-related mental illnesses such as depression. Animal studies show that high levels of the female sex hormone estrogen affect the brain’s ability to deal with stress.

Estrogen was found to amplify the stress response in areas of the brain most closely identified with depression and other stress-related mental illnesses. Researchers say the findings may one day lead to the development of treatments for depression that specifically target women.

“These findings suggest that there is a difference between men and women in how the prefrontal cortex responds to stress,” says graduate student Rebecca M. Shansky, who was the study’s lead researcher. (source)

Testosterone:

High levels of the stress hormone cortisol play a critical role in blocking testosterone’s influence on competition and domination, according to new psychology research at The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, led by Robert Josephs, professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, and Pranjal Mehta, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, is the first to show that two hormones–testosterone and cortisol–jointly regulate dominance.

The findings, available online in Hormones and Behavior, show that when cortisol–a hormone released in the body in response to threat–increases, the body is mobilized to escape danger, rather than respond to any influence that testosterone is having on behavior.

The study provides new evidence that hormonal axes (complex feedback networks between hormones and particular brain areas that regulate testosterone levels and cortisol) work against each other to regulate dominant and competitive behaviors.

“It makes good adaptive sense that testosterone’s behavioral influence during an emergency situation gets blocked because engaging in behaviors that are encouraged by testosterone, such as mating, competition and aggression, during an imminent survival situation could be fatal,” Josephs said. “On the other hand, fight or flight behaviors encouraged by cortisol become more likely during an emergency situation when cortisol levels are high. Thus, it makes sense that the hormonal axes that regulate testosterone levels and cortisol levels are antagonistic.”

As part of the study, the researchers measured hormone levels of saliva samples provided by 57 subjects. The respondents participated in a one-on-one competition and were given the opportunity to compete again after winning or losing. Among those who lost, 100 percent of the subjects with high testosterone and low cortisol requested a rematch to recapture their lost status. However, 100 percent of participants with high testosterone and high cortisol declined to compete again. All subjects who declined a rematch experienced a significant drop in testosterone after defeat, which may help to explain their unwillingness to compete again, Josephs said.

The researchers suggest these findings reveal new insights into the physiological effects of stress and how they may play a role in fertility problems. According to research, chronically elevated cortisol levels can produce impotence and loss of libido by inhibiting testosterone production in men. In women, chronically high levels of cortisol can produce severe fertility problems and result in an abnormal menstrual cycle.

“When cortisol levels remain elevated, as is the case with so many people who are under constant stress, the ability to reproduce can suffer greatly,” Josephs said. “However, these effects of cortisol in both men and women are reversed when stress levels go down.”

 

Female Hormone Profile

Hormone Normal reference range Optimal range
DHEA- S 30 – 700 mcg/dL 150 – 350 mcg/dL
Cortisol 5 – 20 mcg/dL 9 – 14 mcg/dL
Estrogen 30 – 480 pg/mL 180 – 200 pg/mL
Progesterone 300 – 26,000 pg/mL 2,000 – 14,000 pg/mL <50 yr
Progesterone 300 – 26,000 pg/mL 2,000 – 8,000  50 yr +
Total Testosterone 140 – 760 pg/mL 120-900 pg/mL
TSH 0.2 – 5.5 mU/L 1.0 – 2.0 mU/L
Free T3 2.60 – 4.80 pg/mL 2.80 – 3.20 pg/mL
Free T4 0.70 – 1.53 ng/dL 1.2 – 1.4 ng/dL
IGF-1 114-492 ng/mL 200-300 ng/mL

 

Target Hormone Ratios for Women

DHEA/cortisol 15-25
Progesterone/estrogen 10-20
Total Estrogen/estradiol Less than 2.5
Total Testosterone/estrogen 2-5

* To calculate a ratio, divide the first value by the second. For example, DHEA ÷ cortisol = DHEA/cortisol ratio

 

Male Hormone Profile

Hormone Normal reference range Optimal range
DHEA- S 20 – 620 mcg/dL 250 – 450 mcg/dL
Cortisol 5 – 29 mcg/dL 9 – 14 mcg/dL
Total Estrogens 40 – 115 pg/mL Less than 100 pg/mL
Pregnenolone 22 – 237 ng/dL 180 ng/dL
Total Testosterone 2700 – 9700 pg/mL 6000 – 9000 pg/mL
Progesterone 300 – 1200 pg/mL 1500 – 1500 pg/mL
TSH 0.2 – 5.5 mU/L 1.0 – 2.0 mU/L
Free T3 2.60 – 4.80 pg/mL 2.90 – 3.20 pg/mL
Free T4 0.70 – 153 ng/dL 1.2 – 1.4 ng/dL
IGF-1 114 – 492 ng/mL 200 – 300 ng/mL

 

Target Hormone Ratios for Men

DHEA/cortisol 15-25
Progesterone/estrogen 15-20
Total testosterone/estrogen 80-120
Estradiol/free testosterone Less than 1.0

*To calculate a ratio, divide the first value by the second. For example, DHEA ÷ cortisol = DHEA/cortisol ratio