All humans follow the same hormone pattern, with differences due to individual sensitivities and with timelines which vary from person to person, but our beginnings and our ends are the same and it is possible to predict our course, by the decade.
AREN’T THE 20S MARVELOUS?
My skin is clear, the zits are gone.
Every race I’ve run, I’ve won!
When they say, “jump high”, I leap.
Why do elders need more sleep?
We have 10 fingers and 10 toes [well, most of us: there is a tribe in Africa, many of whose members have six digits per limb].
Our 10+10 design accounts for the decimal-based numerical system, which in turn is the reason for our preference for a decade–based way of thinking about time.
Although it seems serendipitous, our changing attitudes and abilities can conveniently be attributed to one or other “decade”. Thus 1-10 is the decade of the child, 11-20 the decade of the developing adult.
21-30 is the decade of the young adult, of fully fledged abilities, still inquiring but capable, confident and outgoing, healthy and problem-free.
The third decade is a time of personal optimism [tempered perhaps by social pessimism].
It is a time of planning and preparation, a time of enjoyment and procreation.
For most of us, this is a time of smooth progress when no Mountain seems too high to climb, no Sea too wide to navigate;
but then, there comes the fourth, which for many of us, begins with a wrenching sense of insecurity!
THE DIRTY THIRTIES
Oh, it’s been great, these last ten years!
Why do I have these strange new fears?
My zits are back! I feel so dirty!
Is this still me? I’m only thirty!
Atitudes vary: ……… “life begins at 40” – “I want to retire by 50” – “freedom 55” – “60 is the beginning of old age” – “mandatory retirement at 65” – “how did I get to be 70?” – “you can’t be 80 when you don’t look a day over 60!” ………..
But for many of us, 30 is a watershed year: a career has been chosen (or forced upon us), children are growing, or being seriously contemplated. Burgeoning problems of marriage, work schedules, social networking, financial planning, child schooling, housing and myriad other considerations begin to get in the way of social, psychological and physical self-care.
Stress rises as the hormones fall 1% or 2% per year.
Both men and women lose hair and gain weight.
For some, acne raises its ugly head (again) and for many, a strange lassitude, bordering on ennui, slows life down.
Any tendency to depression, panic attacks or pessimism balloons and can become a difficult burden.
THE NAUGTY FORTIES
Hey, look at me: I’m only 40!
Hey, I’m still young and I’m still naughty!
No need to ask: I’m free, of course.
My hangups went with my divorce!
Another watershed: for many men, the flowing hair is no longer missed and for many women, continuing hair loss has begun to seem normal.
The fragile fingernails are a nuisance, but what can you do?
The psychiatrist says that depression is a natural response to life’s difficulties and the therapist says that all you need is retraining.
The Doctor and the dietitian can’t explain why your spare-tire persists, in spite of diet and as much exercise as you can find time for.
Your partner can’t understand why you spend so much on makeup and the hairdresser seems congenitally unable to understand what your hair color is supposed to be.
Well, never mind: all your friends have some kind of problem and yours aren’t so bad, really – the fat lady around the corner is going to have her hip replaced and even that superfit, squash-player friend has trouble with his knees.
And why worry? – your new boyfriend (or girlfriend) loves you more than your spouse ever could have and who cares if s/he isn’t all that interested in making love? – You’re not so interested yourself, anymore!
THE NIFTY FIFTIES
I’m not so bad: I’ve still got looks!
The kids have left – they’re off the books!
I like your style: give me a tumble
I love to dance, baby; let’s rumble!
So now you’re 50: it’s not as bad as you thought it was going to be.
You still feel like 30 inside and although your income hasn’t gone up much, you have so much more to spend because the kids don’t need it anymore.
And the smaller house is so much more economical!
It would be better if your waist were smaller and you didn’t have the cholesterol problem, the diabetes and the high blood pressure, but the doctor says that as long as you keep taking your medication, all will be well.
The doctor doesn’t know about the antidepressants of course and you’re doing all right, according to the psychiatrist.
THE SICKISH SIXTIES
Her heat now only comes in flashes.
His member rises, then it crashes.
Who needs a man? They’re all so fake!
She isn’t funny: she’s a flake.
60: I made 60!
Retirement in five years!
Funny, I still feel like 30 inside.
And I’m fine, once I get going. I kind of wonder why I’m so stiff in the mornings though: maybe the backache’s because we need a new mattress, but what’s the reason for my fingers being so crampy?
Anyway, life begins with grandkids, right? – I just love young Mark; man, can he throw a ball! He throws so hard, it hurts to catch!
Okay, no more doggerel: everyone’s familiar with this story.
I’m sure it wasn’t really necessary to tell it, but it does set the mood for questions:
Why does it have to be this way?
Is there a way around the problem or at least, can we make life a little easier?
Where can I find information?
And the answers are:
(1) we’re designed with a certain life expectancy and we’re programmed to deteriorate over time.
(2) yes, there is a way.
(3) see the notes below.
EVERYBODY DOES THEIR THING
Currently, we can’t explain the reason why we lose first our abilities and then our faculties, but our understanding is improving as more information is posted to the online literature.
Every cell in the body has an internal factory, to make its own micro-hormones: this is called ‘Intracrine hormonogenesis’ and its study is termed ‘intracrinology’, a term coined by Prof. Fernand Labrie, of Laval University, Québec.
SO LET’S LOOK AT IT CLOSELY
There are things we know.
And, there are things we don’t know.
There are effects which we understand and
There are effects we know nothing about.
UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS
The CEO of the entire hormonal organization is the hypothalamus:
The hypothalamus is responsive to:
(1) Smells, including pheromones.
(2) Blood-borne information: hormones, toxins, enzymes, auto-control chemicals from the kidneys, hormones from the pancreas, stomach and other parts, blood concentration, oxygen levels, emergency messages from the Adrenals and other organs, even invading germs and viruses.
(3) Information sent through nerves from central organs; heart, intestine, lungs, kidneys etc,
(4) Heat and Cold stress,
(5) Possibly, Magnetic information.
Based on information about the body’s health and circumstances, the hypothalamus figures out what needs to be done to keep things in balance.
It sends “releasing hormones” to the pituitary gland, which then sends out hormones to tell the various glands what to do.
For example, the Pituitary sends TSH to the thyroid, to call for thyroid hormone (T4).
It sends ACTH (“Adreno-Cortico-Tropic Hormone”) to the adrenal glands for cortisol.
It sends a hormone to the kidneys for water and salt control and two others to the ovaries (or testicles) for sex hormones and eggs (or sperms).
The Pituitary even sends a message to the “brown fat” (the Brown Adipose Tissue – the “BAT”) and the skin, for temperature regulation.
The CPU (the brain) however is the actual-factual owner-operator and while the CEO is busy outputting instructions to the managers, the CPU is busy operating its intracrinological * factory, producing “neurosteroid” hormones for its own use and to some extent, micro-managing the Hypothalamus – more on that, later: let us begin by explaining the simpler systems….
* see “references”, 7 B in the article titled “what is a hormone”.
The Endocrine Glands
The Pineal, a pea-sized gland in the middle of the brain, is the body’s timer, controlling the “diurnal rhythm”. It produces Melatonin to set the sleep/wake cycle, restricts growth in the first decade and delays the onset of sexuality until puberty (maybe by holding back DHEA production).
It tends to stop working in the third decade because it literally turns into stone: for some reason it progressively calcifies, with hydroxyapatite, the same type of calcium crystal found in the teeth. Because of calcium the position, it can be seen on x-rays, sometimes as early as age 20.
The Thyroid makes “T4” thyroid hormone, an inactive “raw material” with 4 iodine atoms which is converted into active “T3” hormone by removal of one iodine atom, within the cells.
T3, your accelerator, increases the speed of the chemical reactions (the metabolic rate) of the body.
Thus it increases efficiency, optimising all the cells’ reaction speeds and regulating temperature and energy usage.
Speaking of efficiency – when stress elicits extra cortisol, the cortisol cancels T3 formation and some of your cells shut down completely because they can’t work without T3 – here’s a link to that one!
The thyroid also makes calcitonin, which reduces the blood calcium level.
These glands [at least two, but up to eight, or more], sit behind, below and/or inside the thyroid.
They make Parathyroid hormone (the opposite of calcitonin), which regulates calcium levels and speeds up bone maintenance.
This long and narrow organ, which produces insulin, glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptide, nestles within the curve of the first part of the small bowel [the duodenum], has a head at its the right end, a body and a tail that is almost long enough to touch the left kidney.
The head and body produce juices which flow into the duodenum to digest proteins and also secretes gastrin, which stimulates the stomach to make carbohydrate- splitting acid.
The “Islets of Langerhans”, tiny groups of cells located mostly in the tail, make a hormone called amylin, in their “alpha” cells (Amylin converts sugar to glycogen, for storage) and in their “beta” cells, they make insulin and Gastrin, to trigger stomach acid.
The tail also makes Glucagon, to convert glycogen back to sugar as needed, in the “alpha” cells.
The intestine also makes hormones: hormones for controlling the gallbladder, causing hunger and influencing the brain and nervous system.
This is a very complicated system and is peripheral to “HRT”: for detail, click here, to go to Wikipedia.
THE OVARIES AND TESTICLES
The ovaries and testicles are controlled by two pituitary hormones, Luteinizing hormone [LH], which stimulates their production of Estrogen and Testosterone, and Follicle-stimulating hormone [FSH], which encourages the production of eggs or sperm.
The adrenal glands are very thin, sandwich-like “caps”, with an outer “cortex” layer wrapped around their “medulla” layer. They sit on top of the kidneys.
They only weigh between six and ten grams each, but they are very busy:
In their outer layer, the “cortex”, they turn Cholesterol into Pregnenolone and then use the Pregnenolone to make a range of hormones: DHEA, male and female hormones, Cortisol and others.
In their inner layer, the medulla, they produce “mineralocorticoids”, for salt-control by the kidneys.
DHEA, produced for the body in general as raw material for “steroid hormone” production, is the adrenals’ main product: they make more DHEA than all the other hormones, put together.
The cortex is controlled by the pituitary, which sends out ACTH (Adreno-Cortico-Trophic Hormone) and the medulla is directed by nerves from the sympathetic system, but the adrenals produce DHEA on their own, without instruction from the Pituitary or any other gland and with no feedback mechanism to reduce their DHEA output.
The kidneys produce Renin and related hormones, to control the blood pressure, this is essentially, a matter a matter of self-interest for the kidneys, since their main reason for maintaining the blood pressure is to ensure an adequate blood flow for themselves.
NOW, TO THE COMPLICATED PART!
The individual glands are relatively sedate, slow and steady, but the body as a whole must be ready to respond to emergency situations.
It must be ready to move quickly for hunting, or avoiding danger.
It may need to shut systems down after injury, or defend against infection, or accomodate for sudden changes in the environment.
In addition, the individual parts must be ready and willing to kill abnormal cells [apoptosis] before they can reproduce themselves and grow a cancer.
REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE
The body needs mechanisms to repair and maintain the various types of cells, including the cells which make up the brain, the Hypothalamus and the hormone producers.
The Hypothalamus is the general manager, but in fact every tiny cell in the body runs its own maintenance and repair system, synthesizing its personal mix of micro-hormones from DHEA, which is generously supplied by the adrenals in youth, but is less and less available as the years progress.
Science is now learning that DHEA is necessary for efficient function of all parts of the body, from the hair roots to the nails on the fingers and toes.
Without DHEA, only the fat cells function normally: thyroid function suffers, the glands begin to ignore the signals from the Pituitary, the muscles become flabby and the bones become thin, the skin loses firmness and elasticity, the eyes become dim, the pancreatic cells give out and diabetes results, the electrical conductivity of heart muscle decreases, self-confidence goes and the libido begins to fail.
In short, the entire system goes haywire, but most importantly, when production falls, the facility for killing abnormal cells (apoptosis) is weakened in one or another part, setting the stage for a cancer to start.
WHERE IS DHEA MADE ?
In mammals as a group, the brain is the only source of DHEA, but in humans and other great apes, starting when the growth spurt begins at puberty and continuing until maturity is complete, the adrenals make huge amounts of DHEA: during this time the adrenals make more DHEA by weight, than all the other hormones together!
At full maturity, DHEA production begins to fall progressively: the reduction becomes noticeable around age 25 and thereafter, we make roughly 1% less every year for the rest of our lives.
Thus an 80-year-old’s DHEA level is 10-20% of whatever it was at 25.
The reasons for reduced DHEA production are unknown; but as implied above, perhaps the decline of the “third eye”, the pineal gland, leads to deconditioning of a feedback mechanism which controls DHEA production by the adrenals.
CONVERSION OF CHOLESTEROL TO STEROIDS
A quick review of this flowchart will lead you very quickly to my conclusion:
PREGNENOLONE is the grandmother of the steroids and
CHOLESTEROL is the “Great grandmother of all [steroid] hormones”.
What is not evident from the flowchart, is that Progesterone [via Conversion to Allopregnanlolone (link)] and Testosterone are particularly active within the brain and central nervous system. Progesterone and Testosterone elevate mood, self-awareness, self-esteem and empowerment.
On the other hand the glucocorticoids, cortisol being the principal one, produced as part of the body’s emergency response, tend to lower mood, self-awareness, self-esteem and empowerment.
Also not evident is that processing of Pregnenolone to Progesterone, of Progesterone to Allopregnanolone and of DHEA to Testosterone, is performed inside every individual cell, including brain and nerve cells, and not only by the Adrenal glands. This is termed “Intracrinology” (See the article regarding Professor Fernand Labrie).
Thus the brain, like the rest of the body, processes Pregnenolone and DHEA, to produce its own supply of Testosterone, Progesterone and their downstream hormones; the active hormones which are needed for maintenance and repair.
The brain however, is unable to produce enough of the raw materials, Pregnenolone and DHEA.
It needs an external supply and just as the rest of the body deteriorates as the raw material supply reduces with age, the brain is increasingly unable to manage its maintenance and repair systems as DHEA production falls.
Thus a deficiency of DHEA and Pregnenolone leads to deficiency of Testosterone, Progesterone and the all-important ALLOPREGNANOLONE, which is made from Progesterone. Allopregnanolone deficiency causes loss of the brain’s internal psycho-support system, reduced rapidity of thought, poor perception, lowered self-confidence “fuzzy” thinking and reduced resistance to pain.
Ironically, Cortisol produces even more psychological deterioration, reduction of self-confidence, depression etc. and although it is an excellent remedy for the physical symptoms of autoimmune conditions caused by low DHEA and Pregnenolone, it shuts down the active thyroid hormone, T3, thus producing a physical state which is very close to hibernation!
The reasons for reduction of DHEA production are unknown; but as implied above, perhaps the decline of the “third eye” (the pineal gland), leads to deconditioning of a feedback mechanism which controls DHEA production by the adrenals.
But let us examine the production and use of Pregnenolone, and its downstream derivatives.
Pregnenolone is chemically modified to yield multiple active products, the first of which is Progesterone, but the premier of which is DHEA [originally, DHEA was viewed as the mother of all sex hormones].
An enzyme system changes Pregnenolone into Progesterone, the “happy pregnancy hormone”.
Progesterone by itself, protects the breast, colon and some other tissues from the development of cancers and an adequate supply of Progesterone is required to “balance” the Estrogens, for normal menstrual cycles, ovulation, implantation of fertilized ova and progression of normal pregnancy. Also, it tends to produce weight loss by an increase in the metabolic rate, so it counteracts the weight-gain tendency of Estrogen.
“Downstream”, Progesterone is processed to:
Allopregnanolone is a direct product from Progesterone. It is the actual reason for the word “happy” in the descriptive phrase, “Progesterone, the happy pregnancy hormone”. It works with Melatonin, Triiodothyronine (T3: thyroid hormone #3), Vitamin D and magnesium, to do brain and nerve maintenance and repair. It puts us to sleep, promotes clear cognition, improves memory and increases self-satisfaction and optimism.
Allopregnanolone deficiency is the cause of many cases of depression, especially post-partum depression, and is usually found in nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Mineralocorticoids control salt and water balance through the kidneys; thus Progesterone works as a diuretic [water excretion] trigger.
Progesterone deficiency causes menstrual cycle disruption, dysmenorrhea and Allopregnanolone deficiency, with all its ill effects.
Testosterone is primarily responsible for normal development of male sex characteristics and reproductive organs, including the penis, testicles, scrotum, prostate, and seminal vesicles.
It facilitates the development of secondary male sex characteristics such as stronger muscles and bones, male fat and hair patterns, and the larger larynx which produces the male voice.
Testosterone also works in concert with Estrogen, to maintain muscles, bones, energy level, healthy mood, awareness, quick reflexes and sexual desire in both males and females.
Particularly, Testosterone, along with Estrogen, maintains heart muscle, which is the reason for the lowered rate of heart disease in people who take DHEA.
Testosterone is produced directly from DHEA, so progressive DHEA deficiency results in reduced Testosterone production, with reduced muscle mass, slowing reflexes, loss of self-confidence (with an increase in anxiety), loss of libido and slowing cognition.
It is interesting that Testosterone deficiency is prevalent among the patient population afflicted by a long list of chronic conditions, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, autoimmune diseases of various types [for example lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and D.I.S.H.]. It is particularly interesting that low levels of Testosterone and DHEA are found in individuals with cancers of the prostate, breast, colon, bone marrow and many other organs.
DHEA supplementation facilitates production of Testosterone production via whole-body intracrine synthesis and is capable of stimulating production to supranormal serum levels in females, but males process the extra testosterone into estrogen, by process called “aromatization”, so there is no significant increase in Testosterone; Estrogen goes up instead.
There is a dose-related “downside” for each sex (wouldn’t you know it): oversupply of Testosterone in females can cause facial hair growth and in men, estrogen production can lead to breast enlargement and even the dreaded breast cysts!
However these side-effects disappear within a few days when the dose of DHEA is reduced.
There are 3 “flavors” of estrogen:
 Estrone, the “baddie”, comes in 4 forms, 2 of which are associated with cancers, particularly breast.
 Estradiol, the “working estrogen”, supports the breasts, uterus, vagina and the female secondary sex characteristics, including increased fat deposition in the “Coca-Cola-Bottle areas”. It is essential for support of the menstrual cycle and for normal bone metabolism, quality of skin, hair and fingernails, in both men and women.
A shortage of estradiol is the prime factor in osteoporosis, which kills more “lady seniors” than any other pathology.
 Estriol, the “protective hormone”, is active in retarding breast, colon, ovarian and other cancers.
Complete shutdown of estrogen production by the ovaries at menopause results in a constellation of symptoms, including hot flashes, nocturnal sweating, joint pain and stiffness, instability of mood, irritability, variable insomnia, vaginal dryness, fatigue, reduced libido and “fuzzy thinking”.
However, supplementation of estrogens is easy and safe, using a cream called “BIEST”, which contains 80% estradiol and 20% estradiol.
THE SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION OF DHEA
The 20th-21st century investigative instrument, the ten-thousand-patient, double-blinded, p-value studded, NNT [“Number Needed To Treat”, to produce one Cure] – embellished, armour-plated superstudy is admirable in intent, elegant in logic, perfect if well designed and complementary to this age of legalistically-oriented medicine.
However it has its flaws: it is too expensive, needing massive financial support from vested interests.
It is liable, because it is so complicated and often takes too long, to the problem of obsolescence-before-completion.
It asks huge numbers of placidly compliant sufferers to accept the idea that the therapy they desperately need may not in fact, be therapy at all: they may receive the dreaded “Placebo”, depending on the luck of the draw.
Perhaps the most unjust aspect of this paradigm is that such emphasis is put on super-expensive studies that our “vested interests” have become the initiators and drivers (thus, the directors) of our research.
This perhaps is among the reasons why DHEA, which was discovered in 1936, is cheap and cannot be patented, has not been fully investigated in humans, in spite of the 80-year-plus history of public interest in its properties.
This is unfortunate, because DHEA has
– been studied in hundreds, if not thousands, of animal experiments,
– been proven to be helpful, or promising, in many dimensions, including cancer prevention,
– been shown in small-scale studies to be helpful in AIDS, Lupus, Hypothyroidism, heart attack prevention, depression, schizophrenia, mild hypothyroidism and many other scenarios,
– costs about the same as aspirin,
– has an entirely benign side effect profile,
– has been prescribed in high dose, by infertility clinics for at least the past 18 years,
– has been available over-the-counter in the USA since 1995, with no significant side effects.
Perhaps also, this is the reason why the websites of the American superclinics uniformly manifest the opinion that the beneficial effects of DHEA (and other natural, non-Patentable, compounded Bioidentical hormonal substances) “have not been adequately studied and therefore cannot be recommended“.