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What are stress hormones?

Stress hormones or counter-regulatory hormones are hormones released during stressful situations, such as an illness or infection. These hormones include glucagon, epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, cortisol, and growth hormone. They cause the liver to release glucose and the cells to release fatty acids for extra energy. If there’s not enough insulin present in the body, these extra fuels can build up and lead to hyperglycemia.

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Stress hormones are secreted in response to stressful or exciting situations. Long-term stress is associated with high levels of cortisol. This is a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex which has a marked effect on carbohydrate metabolism and acts as an immunosuppressant. In the short term, physiological and psychological arousal results in the secretion of adrenaline into the blood, and noradrenaline into tissues. These hormones evolved so that we could deal rapidly with impending danger. They prepare our bodies for action by improving the blood supply to skeletal muscles and mobilizing energy stores. If stress hormones are too low, muscles have insufficient fuel and oxygen to respond quickly; however, excessive secretion of stress hormones can disturb the balance between fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and damage physical performance with inflammation.

Stress hormones are produced by your body in situations that might be perceived as potentially dangerous. Daily activities, physical and emotional, that cause increased anxiety may cause your body to release some of these hormones and may cause you to feel more stressed about a routine situation. Stress hormones are a normal body response, but when constantly under stress by daily situations, this can lead to long-term health problems, such poor sleep, weight gain and increased anxiety.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.