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Meet Your Stress Hormones
Stress does more than wear us out mentally. It alters us on a genetic level. That’s because our body triggers a set of hormones in moments of stress. In small bursts, these stress hormones are beneficial, even life-saving. However, as chronic stress persists, our stress hormones take over. In turn, it leaves little room for our sleep and happy hormones. It’s about time you met your stress hormones.
What Are Hormones?
We know hormones are responsible for teens hitting puberty and adults becoming intimate. However, there’s more at play when it comes to hormones than sexual reproduction. Our hormones pretty much regulate everything.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine,
“Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They travel in your bloodstream to tissues or organs. They work slowly, over time, and affect many different processes…Hormones are powerful. It takes only a tiny amount to cause big changes in cells or even your whole body. That is why too much or too little of a certain hormone can be serious 1.”– U.S. National Library of Medicine
As you can see, it’s important to keep your hormones in balance. Otherwise, you can develop a litany of long-term negative effects. These issues can become extremely troublesome when your body is inundated with stress hormones.
How Are Stress Hormones Made?
Our hormones are produced by the endocrine system. Glands within this system have special cells that produce hormones.
Endocrine glands include:
- • Pituitary (Master Gland, Regulates Human Functions)
- • Pineal (Controls Sleep Cycles)
- • Thymus (Regulates Immune System)
- • Thyroid (Regulates Muscle Contractions, Heart and Gut)
- • Pancreas (Excretes Enzymes for Digestion of Foods)
- • Adrenal (Secretes Stress Hormones)
When it comes to concerns about stress hormones, the adrenal glands are what you have to worry about the most. Doctors refute the validity of adrenal fatigue 2. However, many experience the so-called symptoms. That’s because many of us experience chronic stress.
What Are Stress Hormones?
Whenever we endure stress, our body secretes specific hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones act as neurotransmitters, alerting the body that something we deem a threat is approaching.
Thanks to stress hormones, we might dodge a car accident ahead, or break free from an assault. However, our stress hormones can also cause us to tense up during a presentation and cause us to lash out in moments we should remain cool.
How Stress Hormones Work
When we encounter a potentially stressful situation, the hypothalamus takes note of how we react. At night, the physical and mental results are recorded in the amygdala. So, when we encounter that instance in the future, we know how to react.
For instance, as children, we might be scared of dogs. We pump stress hormones to alert the body. Then, we get licked, and our guards go down. The hypothalamus takes note of that, and stress hormones cease.
Now, let’s say the dog bit you. You now have a lifetime fear of dogs. Every time you see them, the amygdala remembers that it’s not always going to be a positive interaction. So, you remain on high alert, with a fairly steady amount of stress hormones being produced until the dog leaves our line of sight.
What Are Your Stress Hormones?
Now that you have learned a little bit about stress hormones, let’s meet the ones at play. Here are the three stress hormones you should know.
Epinephrine is best known as adrenaline. Adrenaline is more than just a buzz word to describe how you feel during intense moments. It’s an actual stress hormone.
These hormones are produced in the medulla (center) of the adrenal glands. Some neurons can also produce epinephrine. This hormone is our first line of defense in the chain of reactions that happen on a molecular level in potentially stressful moments.
Adrenaline is described as our “fight-or-flight’ instinct 3. It’s the initial feeling of, “Oh man, it’s going down.”
When we produce adrenaline, we experience:
- • Excessive Blood Glucose Levels
- • Blood Rushes
- • Enlarged Pupils
- • Rapid Blood Pressure
- • Anxiety
As you can see, adrenaline kickstarts a ton of reactions. It also doesn’t work alone. It works very closely with our next stress hormone.
These stress hormones are secreted from nerve endings throughout our sympathetic nervous system (SNS). When it comes to stress hormones, norepinephrine and epinephrine are partners-in-crime. There’s just one major difference, and that’s how much influence the two have 4.
Both norepinephrine and adrenaline influence our alpha receptors. That means both of these stress hormones can constrict blood vessels. When this happens, our blood pressure naturally rises. Therefore, chronic stress hormone production can lead to cardiovascular problems.
What sets these two stress hormones apart is that adrenaline also influences beta receptors. In turn, blood vessels become dilated. This reaction is why we get sudden bursts of energy.
Oxygenated blood vessels get smaller and shoot through the arteries. That causes more blood flow to happen. Thus, these cells can power us to run from a predator or power out of a flipped-over vehicle.
The most well-known of stress hormones is cortisol. In fact, this neurotransmitter is known simply as the stress hormone. The production of cortisol goes back to our old memory bank, the amygdala.
Whenever we encounter a situation that we know for a fact is stressful, the amygdala reaches back into the past. It then signals for the short-term memory section, our hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then tells releases
corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) 5.
Next, CRH signals for the pituitary gland to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then contacts the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.
Cortisol regulates so many essential bodily functions, including:
- • Body Temperature
- • Blood Pressure
- • Water to Salt Balance
- • Memory Formulation
As long as we remain stressed, this draining process keeps happening. In turn, we have no room for beneficial hormones. That’s why it’s so essential to keep your cortisol levels in balance.
How to Manage Stress Hormone Levels
Managing stress hormones isn’t easy. However, it’s possible. To learn more about managing stress, check out our stress and gut health blog post.
However, there are a few quick tips you can use to get stress hormone balance back:
You need to find ways to lower stress naturally. In turn, your hormones will fall into place. Remove yourself from stressful situations and lower the amount of stress hormones in your body!
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