Adrenal Estrogens: Are we missing something?

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy


Dr. Al Plechner, veterinarian, has authored books about the importance of cortisol produced by the adrenal glands in preventing allergies, autoimmunity, and cancer. Citing Dr. William McK. Jefferies’ classic book, Safe Uses of Cortisone, Dr. Plechner stresses that low cortisol production by the body due to stress, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and other factors contributes to the same conditions in humans as it does in animals.

Low levels of cortisol in the body cause the pituitary gland in the brain to produce more and more ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) in an attempt to stimulate the adrenal glands to make more cortisol. However, when the adrenal glands are fatigued and unable to produce more cortisol, the continuous stimulation of the adrenal glands by ACTH causes them to produce estrogens and androgens like DHEA instead.

Dr. Plechner maintains that estrogens produced by the adrenal glands contribute to inflammatory diseases. He suggests that we measure total estrogen levels in the body to see the entire picture. If a practitioner only measures estradiol levels and then supplements with estrogen when the estradiol levels are low, this could lead to an excess in total estrogen levels in the body leading to problems resulting from too much estrogen.

As more men and women turn to testosterone supplementation, Dr. Plechner reminds us that we should pay attention to the aromatization (conversion) of testosterone to even more estrogen. He recommends measuring total estrogen levels in both women and men prior to supplementation with testosterone to avoid potential complications resulting from excess estrogen.

  • Plechner A. Elevated Estrogen is Feared by the Medical Profession; However the Medical Profession Does Not Measure Total Estrogen. Townsend Newsletter. 2015 April: 79-80.
  •  Jefferies WM. Safe Uses of Cortisol. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas; 2004.