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Understanding Cortisol, DHEA and Testosterone; Unraveling the Mystery of Low T

So you've probably heard that chronic stress can trigger the release of cortisol, from your glands, which in turn can impact your hormone balance. This is a held belief that suggests cortisol, derived from pregnenolone plays a role in our hormonal system. However there's a twist. It is believed that when cortisol production goes into overdrive it may prioritize supply at the expense of other hormones like DHEA. Since DHEA serves as a precursor to testosterone this could potentially result in a shortage of testosterone. This phenomenon is often referred to as the "pregnenolone steal."

Debunking the Myth: Is the Pregnenolone Steal Real?

Let's take a moment to consider reality. We are currently living in perilous times compared to our ancestors. We don't have saber-toothed tigers chasing us nor do we face machine gun fire on beaches as part of our routine. So it's important to note that our bodies are more resilient than an overflowing email inbox might suggest.

The Role of Stress, Insulin, and Inflammation in Hormone Regulation

Now here's the thing; the scientific validity behind the concept of pregnenolone steal is quite uncertain and lacks foundation. The theory is based on the concept that we all have a supply of pregnenolone, which cells can take from each other. However the truth is that pregnenolone actually comes from cholesterol in our mitochondria, and there is no way for cells to steal pregnenolone from their neighboring cells. So it's not possible for cells to raid each other's stash of pregnenolone.

Exploring the Complex Relationship Between Stress, Hormones, and Testosterone

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Before the paleo enthusiasts get upset and send emails, it's important to clarify that there is a connection between cortisol levels and reduced production of DHEA. It's crucial to remember that correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

Maintaining a Healthy HPA Axis: Strategies for Stress Management and Hormone Balance

To delve into the heart of the matter, there isn't a proven mechanism that explains how high levels of stress lead to low testosterone.

The Role of Insulin and Inflammation in Hormone Regulation

Shifting our focus to insulin levels and inflammation. Studies indicate that elevated glucose and insulin levels tend to suppress DHEA production and individuals with type II diabetes lack the enzyme for converting pregnenolone and DHEA. Moreover, increased levels of cytokines increase cortisol production while impairing the ability of the enzyme involved in converting pregnenolone and DHEA in cows.

In essence, avoiding testosterone isn't about avoiding stress. Instead, it involves preparing your body to handle stress by adopting a diet and combating inflammation.

Maintaining a Healthy HPA Axis: Strategies for Stress Management and Hormone Balance

If you're wondering how to maintain a HPA axis, here are some steps to consider:

  • Make insulin sensitivity a priority by following a diet that includes foods and moderating your carbohydrate intake.
  • Incorporate apple cider vinegar into your routine to help manage your blood sugar levels.
  • Consider adding a nutrient partitioning agent like ShredPM to your regimen to assist in regulating insulin levels.
  • Address inflammation by including fish oil and curcumin in your routine for their combined effects.
  • If you're concerned about cortisol production affecting your sleep, you could explore herbs such as Rhodiola or Ashwagandha as potential solutions.
  • Remember, it's not about avoiding stress; it's also about equipping your body with the tools it needs to thrive when faced with stress.

In summary, taking these steps can help ensure that your HPA axis remains in shape and ready to handle whatever challenges come its way.

James Freeman


Meet James Freeman, a California native whose passion for fitness emerged during challenging times, reshaping his life. With over two decades of coaching experience, he's not just a coach; he's a real-life example, shedding over 100 pounds in a journey to a healthier lifestyle. Beyond his coaching career, James is passionate about inspiring at-risk youth and promoting wellness in schools. In his downtime, he enjoys swimming and cycling, connecting with nature. Join him on his Instagram and LinkedIn profiles for insights into his empowering fitness journey.