Stress and Fear Hormone
Adrenaline is a stress hormone produced within the adrenal gland that quickens the heartbeat, strengthens the force of the heart’s contraction, and opens up the bronchioles in the lungs, among other effects. The secretion of adrenaline is part of the human ‘fight or flight’ response to fear, panic, or perceived threat, also known as epinephrine. It is mainly released in response to stressful events, which lead to the activation of nerves connected to the adrenal glands, which trigger the secretion of adrenaline and thus increase the levels of adrenaline in the blood. This process happens relatively quickly, within 2 to 3 minutes of the stressful event being encountered. When the stressful situation ends, the nerve impulses to the adrenal glands are lowered, meaning that the adrenal glands stop producing adrenaline.
Stress also stimulates the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone from the pituitary gland, which promotes the production of the steroid hormone cortisol from the cortex of the adrenal glands. This steroid hormone is more important in altering the body’s metabolism (i.e. raising plasma glucose) under conditions of longer-term, chronic, rather than acute, stress.
Adrenaline is associated with negative emotions that can be experienced by people such as grief, fear, anxiety, nervousness and anger. Key actions of adrenaline include increasing the heart rate, increasing blood pressure, expanding the air passages of the lungs, enlarging the pupil in the eye, redistributing blood to the muscles and altering the body’s metabolism, so as to maximize blood glucose levels (primarily for the brain). A closely related hormone, noradrenaline, is released mainly from the nerve endings of the sympathetic nervous system (as well as in relatively small amounts from the adrenal medulla). There is a continuous low level of activity of the sympathetic nervous system resulting in release of noradrenaline into the circulation, but adrenaline release is only increased at times of acute stress.
Overproduction of adrenaline is rare. Too much adrenaline can be caused by a variety of things, including a rare tumor of the adrenal medulla. Symptoms may include rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, anxiety, weight loss, excessive sweating and palpitations. When anxiety becomes very extreme, you may experience constant adrenaline rushes and high levels of stress and emotions generally pose a threat to human life due to the fluctuation of adrenaline levels.
Symptoms that indicate high levels of adrenaline:
- Feeling anxious and tense in general
- Chronic headaches
- Heart rate increase and palpitations
- Body aches and pains
- Shaking (tremors)
How to control adrenaline levels
The adrenaline level in the body can be controlled by reducing stress, anxiety, and having enough sleep, as fatigue due to lack of sleep increases stress levels.
We can also avoid high adrenaline levels by reducing the consumption of added sugars, saturated fats and white flour because they are unhealthy foods, and it can be make it hard to cope with life pressure. Deep breathing can help your body distribute oxygen to your body, which can reduce heart rate and normalize your pulse. It will also help relax tense muscles that may be exacerbating the adrenaline rush. Inhale and exhale completely and in a balanced manner through your nose.
Following these steps would contribute to reducing high adrenaline levels:
- Slow and deep breathing when exposed to panic
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid thinking about work pressures and life requirements
- Try neglecting any cause of pressure and tension
- Have enough sleep, because sleep deprivation causes increased adrenaline levels
- Reduce the consumption of stimulants as they contain caffeine, which increases the secretion of adrenaline hormone.
- Eat healthy food
- Get a 45-minute massage using an essential oil that relaxes muscles and removes tension
- Drink a cup of chamomile or anise tea.
Effect of adrenaline on the heart
The adrenaline hormone has a positive and negative effect on the health of the heart. It is necessary for the body to prepare for movement and face danger. For example, an athlete needs it to exercise, as the average person needs adrenaline to do the simplest things such as climbing stairs.
Beta-adrenergic receptors are linked to the myocardial cells which cause increased heart rate and blood pumping to all body tissues. Adrenaline is also used to increase the heart rate when it begins to slow down. In some very dangerous cases, adrenaline-based drugs are used to control very low blood pressure.
Adrenaline can negatively affect the heart if the person suffers from cardiovascular disease. In such cases, this hormone has a bad impact on the heart as it contributes to increase the heart rate, which may cause a heart attack in some patients.
Effect of adrenaline on the skin
The effect of epinephrine on the skin is mainly caused by it binding to alpha-adrenergic receptors, the alpha-2-adrenergic receptor in particular. Restriction of the arteries is caused by the binding of epinephrine to these alpha-adrenergic receptors. This cuts off blood supply to the skin. A signaling cascade is also stimulated. This results in the contraction of the smooth muscle cells in the skin, which cause the raising of the hairs on the surface of the skin.
Effect of adrenaline on the lungs
The lungs contain smooth muscle. Epinephrine causes smooth muscles to relax. Specifically, epinephrine binds to beta-2-adrenergic receptors on bronchiole muscle cells. This allows the bronchioles to relax, which enables intensified respiration.
Effect of adrenaline on the liver
One of the places where epinephrine has an effect is in the liver. Epinephrine, along with another hormone called glucagon, is responsible for the breakdown of glycogen in liver cells. Epinephrine binds to a receptor on the outside of a liver cell causing a conformational change to occur. The second messenger then causes the activation of a protein kinase which activates phosphorylaze, an enzyme which catalyzes the breakdown of glycogen to glucose.
Doctors use adrenaline in medicine as a drug in some cases such as:
- Stimulating and revitalizing the heart during a heart attack.
- Narrowing of blood vessels
- Opening the airways to reduce breathing difficulties,
- Narrowing the blood vessels to combat low blood pressure and to ease the faint feelings.
- One of the roles of adrenaline is to promote the release of glucose from the locations in the body where it’s stored.
Skeletal muscles–those that promote movement and that humans can contract at will–store glucose, as does the liver. The muscles and liver store glucose in the form of a long chain of glucose molecules, called glycogen. Released adrenaline causes the liver and muscles to break down glycogen into glucose.
Gland that secretes adrenaline
It is the adrenal glands, one of the most important and essential glands in the body, sitting on top of the kidneys. The importance of the adrenal glands and their benefits are endless, as they perform many significant functions and the body cannot function normally without them. The adrenal glands also produce a large number of hormones, including sex hormones, but adrenaline is the most important hormone produced as nerve signals stimulate the core of the adrenal glands in order to secrete adrenaline.
It is excreted in the bloodstream through which the body is given the ability and strength to react in case of sudden stress and it will help the body adapt to such situations and make a quick reaction to any fear, danger or threat.