We'll break down the pathway as having a "right side" and a "left side". The right side includes pregnenolone > DHEA > Testosterone and the 2 estrogens. The left side involves pregnenolone > progesterone > cortisol and progesterone > aldosterone.
This article is going to investigate some of the basic steroidal hormones, the pathways they inhabit and problems that can interfere with their utilization. There are 5 classes of steroidal hormones: glucocorticoids, mineralcorticoids, androgens, estrogens and progestagens. The steroidal hormones have regulatory functions in major parts of the body, including: immune function, inflammatory processes, metabolic processes, fluid dynamics and sexual functions and characteristics.
Although DHEA is the most abundant naturally-occurring hormone in the human body, the real "Mother Hormone" is pregnenolone, not DHEA. The internal synthesis of steroid hormones begins when the body converts cholesterol to pregnenolone, creating the basic hormonal substance. From pregnenolone, there are two major pathways: one toward DHEA and one toward progesterone. The hormones in the progesterone pathway, including aldosterone, cortisol and progesterone itself, are not directly derivable from DHEA. This means that although DHEA can be a remarkable help in the case of DHEA, estrogen, or testosterone deficiency, the truly balancing hormonal substance is pregnenolone. In fact, even when taking DHEA, better results may be obtained by taking pregnenolone as well.
Species differences associated with the periovulatoryperiod:
1. In rats, the LH surge is associated with increased levelsof estrogen stimulating a GnRH surge. In other species, suchas primates, the LH surge is believed reflect an increasedsensitivity of pituitary gland to GnRH (rather than a surge inGnRH from the hypothalamus). [The follicular phase rise inestradiol stimulates synthesis of GnRH receptors and enhancespituitary responsiveness to GnRH; although this is also true of boththe deterministic or permissive model (rat or primatemodels).]
Before it was pushed aside by the promotion of other hormones such as cortisone and their analogs such as prednisone, pregnenolone was known to have a wide range of beneficial actions for people who were sick or under stress. These included helping arthritic conditions, countering fatigue, and in general improving the quality of life and awareness. Because it occurs naturally, it cannot be patented. We now know that these other patentable chemicals, even though promoted as "wonder drugs", have very bad side effects. For example, synthetic varieties of cortisone can weaken immunity and can cause osteoporosis, diabetes, and rapid aging, with loss of pigment in the skin and hair. Pregnenolone at worst will have no effect - in healthy, unstressed subjects - and in sick or stressed people, will promote the correction of such problems as these. Reputable researchers such as Ray Peat, Ph.D., can find no unbalancing or deleterious effect even with large doses of pregnenolone.
A potential problem from low DHEA is a diminishment or abnormal testosterone production. Instead of using DHEA to make testosterone, hydroxyprogesterone > androstenidione > testosterone is the back-up system. The problem with this scenario is that if progesterone is being used instead to make testosterone and/or the estrogens via androstenidione, it can impair the viability of progesterone to cortisol production. These are some common examples of how hormone deficiencies can cause "non viability" to the steroidal hormone principal pathways.