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The 6 stress hormones and their effects on the body

The 6 stress hormones and their effects on the body

June 17, 2024

There are different ways in which a person can respond to a stressful situation, since this constitutes a subjective and personal response that will depend on how the person perceives and experiences this situation.

However, there are a series of processes and physiological reactions common to all people. These reactions are triggered by a series of effects produced by hormones related to stress .

  • Related article: "Types of hormones and their functions in the human body"

What is stress?

When a person experiences a state of tension and anxiety for a continuous period of time He is living what is known as stress. This state can originate a range of physical affections as well as an annoying feeling of grief in the person who suffers it.

Therefore, the two main characteristics of stress states are:

  • Psychological origin of stress , by which an element perceived as stressful by the person induces a series of changes in physical and organic activity.
  • Intervention of the various hormones related to stress , which are responsible for these physical alterations.

These hormones are released from the brain to all corners of our body, causing, as discussed, a large number of physical and physiological changes.

Hormonal alterations

The main structure related to states and stress responses is the neuroendocrine system , which is activated by the appearance of stressful events or situations by accelerating the functioning of the adrenal glands.

This activation causes a series of chain reactions in which the different hormones, being cortisol the hormone with more weight within these reactions and which alters to a greater extent the corporal functioning.

However, there are various hormones involved in stress processes, which are affected by the action of cortisol.

Hormones related to stress

As mentioned above, the hormones involved in the stress response act on other hormones modifying their action on the body.

1. Cortisol

Cortisol has established itself as the stress hormone by antonomasia . The reason is that the body, under stressful or emergency circumstances, produces and releases large amounts of this hormone, which serves as a trigger to respond to this situation quickly and skillfully.

In normal circumstances, the energy generated by our body is aimed at performing the different metabolic tasks that maintain the balance of bodily functions. However, before the appearance of a stressful event the brain generates a series of signals that travel to the adrenal glands, which begin to release large amounts of cortisol.

Once the cortisol is released, this is responsible for the discharge of blood glucose . Glucose generates a large amount of energy in the muscles, which can move faster and offer a much more immediate stimulus response. When the stressor disappears, the cortisol levels are restored and the organism returns to normal.

This response is not at all harmful to the person, as long as it does not remain in time. When this happens, symptoms caused by hormonal dysregulation begin to appear. Among these symptoms are:

  • Irritability
  • Humor changes
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Palpitations
  • Hypertension
  • Low appetite
  • Gastric complaints
  • Muscle pain
  • Cramps

2. Glucagon

The hormone called glucagon is synthesized by the cells of the pancreas and its main focus of action focuses on the metabolism of carbohydrates .

The main purpose of this hormone is to let the liver release glucose at times when our body needs it, either because of a stressful situation with the aim of activating the muscles or because the blood glucose levels are low.

In an emergency or stress situation, the pancreas releases large doses of glucagon into the bloodstream to charge our body with energy. This hormonal imbalance, although useful in situations of threat It can be dangerous in people suffering from some type of diabetes .

  • Related article: "Types of diabetes: risks, characteristics and treatment"

3. Prolactin

Although this hormone is known for its involvement in the secretion of milk during breastfeeding, prolactin levels can be seriously affected in situations of stress that continue over time, coming to cause hyperprolactinemia .

As its name suggests, hyperprolactinemia refers to an increase in blood prolactin levels. This increased presence of prolactin in blood inhibits, by different mechanisms, the release of hypothalamic hormones responsible for the synthesis of estrogen.

As a consequence, the inhibition of female sex hormones leads to a reduction in estrogen in women, menstrual changes, and even, lack of ovulation .

4. Sex hormones

Under stressful circumstances, the sex hormones known as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone are disrupted in normal functioning.

4.1. Testosterone and stress

Testosterone, male sex hormone by merit, is responsible for the development of male sexual characteristics, as well as sexual response.

When the person experiences high stress levels for long periods of time, the production of testosterone decreases , since the body prioritizes the release of other hormones such as cortisol, more useful in situations of stress or danger.

The result of this prolonged subjection to the effects of the inhibition of testosterone, the person may experience sexual problems such as impotence , erectile dysfunction or lack of sexual desire.

Other symptoms related to the reduction of testosterone levels are:

  • Humor changes .
  • Fatigue and constant tiredness.
  • Problems to fall asleep and insomnia.

4.2. Estrogens

As mentioned above, high levels of stress decrease the release of estrogen, disrupting a woman's normal sexual functioning.

However, the correspondence between estrogen and stress occurs bi-directionally . Thus, the effects of stress contribute to the reduction of the estrogen level and at the same time they exert a protective function against the effects of stress.

4.3. Progesterone

Progesterone is made in the ovaries and among its many functions is that of adjust the menstrual cycle and intervene in the effects of estrogen , with the purpose of these do not exceed their stimulation of cell growth.

When a woman is subjected to situations or stressful situations for a long time, the production of progesterone decreases, causing a large number of effects and symptoms such as extreme fatigue, weight gain, headaches, alterations in mood and lack of sexual desire.

Conclusion: a nexus between psychology and physiology

The existence of stress hormones shows the extent to which the endocrine system is linked to our mental states and our behavioral styles. The release of one or another type of hormone is capable of producing measurable changes both in the neurobiological dynamics of the organism and in the frequency of appearance of certain actions.

So, we see once again that the separation between physiological and psychological processes is an illusion, something that we use to understand the complex reality of the functioning of the human being , but that does not necessarily correspond to a frontier naturally present in the biology of our bodies.

Bibliographic references:

  • from Weerth, C., Zijl, R., Buitelaar, J. (2003). «Development of cortisol circadian rhythm in infancy». Early Hum Dev 73 (1-2): pp. 39-52.
  • Hara, Y., Waters, E.M., McEwen, B.S., Morrison, J.H. (2015). "Estrogen Effects on Cognitive and Synaptic Health Over the Lifecourse". Physiological Reviews. 95 (3): 785-807.
  • Neave, N. (2008). Hormones and behavior: a psychological approach. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0521692014. Lay summary - Project Muse.
  • Voet, JG (2011). Biochemistry (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.

How to Reduce Cortisol Naturally (Stress Hormone) (June 2024).

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