The next few hormones we discuss are called “steroid hormones,” as their chemical structure is based on what is called a steroid molecule, a specific backbone of seventeen carbon atoms arranged in three six-atom rings and one five-atom ring. The most common steroid in the body is cholesterol, and from cholesterol is synthesized both active vitamin D (cholecalciferol) and pregnenolone.
Pregnenolone is known as the “mother hormone” because the remainder of the steroid hormones are synthesized from it. These include cortisol, aldosterone (important for salt and water balance in the body), DHEA, and the “sex steroid” hormones, which are testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen.
A common problem in those with chronic illness and wounds is “pregnenolone steal” syndrome. Pregnenolone is the substrate from which either cortisol or the important sex steroid hormones is made. Because of its evolutionary importance to survival, the production of cortisol is prioritized over the sex steroid hormones. In conditions of chronic stress (like a non- healing wound), much of the available pregnenolone may be shunted down the cortisol pathway, and not enough is available to synthesize the other important hormones.
Like most of these hormones, pregnenolone levels can be tested, and, in the United States, pregnenolone is available over the counter, although as usual, buyer beware. It is possible to overuse it, and many OTC preparations do not contain exactly what they say they do.
If you have a chronic wound or non-healing wound, you should have your pregnenolone levels tested and consider supplementation to the top quartile. Although the specific effects of pregnenolone on wound healing have been only sparsely studied, it stands to reason that having enough pregnenolone around will improve wound healing, and indeed, we have found this to be the case. If you are on statin drugs to decrease your cholesterol—not something we are fans of—you may also find that you have very low pregnenolone levels.