The 6 stress hormones and their effects on the body

There are many ways that a person can react to a stressful situation because it is a subjective and personal response that will depend on how the person perceives and experiences this situation.

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

    What is stress?

    When a person experiences a state of tension and anxiety over a continuous period of time lives what is called stress. This condition can cause a range of physical conditions as well as an annoying feeling of heaviness in the person who suffers from it.

    Therefore, the two main characteristics of stress states are:

    • Psychological origin of stress, In which an element perceived as stressful by the person induces a series of changes in physical and organic activity.
    • Intervention of different 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 we have seen, a large number of physical and physiological changes.

    hormonal changes

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

    This activation causes a series of chain reactions in which the different hormones, cortisol being the hormone having the most weight within these reactions and which further impairs bodily functioning.

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

    Stress-related hormones

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

    1. Cortisol

    Cortisol has been established as the preeminent stress hormone. This is because the body, under stressful or emergency circumstances, produces and releases large amounts of this hormone, which acts as a trigger to respond quickly and skillfully to this situation.

    Under normal circumstances, the energy generated by our body aims to perform different metabolic tasks that maintain the balance of bodily functions. However, when a stressful event occurs, the brain generates a series of signals that travel to the adrenal glands, which begin to release large amounts of cortisol.

    Once cortisol is released, it is responsible for the flow of blood sugar. Glucose generates a large amount of energy in the muscles, which can move faster and provide a much more immediate response to the stimulus. When the stressor goes away, cortisol levels are restored and the body returns to normal.

    This response is not at all harmful to the person, as long as it is not maintained over time. When this happens, symptoms caused by hormonal deregulation begin to appear. These symptoms include:

    • irritability
    • Mood swings
    • tired
    • headache

    • palpitations
    • hypertension
    • under hunger
    • gastric conditions
    • muscle pain
    • ramps

    2. Glucagon

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

    The main task of this hormone is to let the liver release glucose at times when our body needs it, either for a stressful situation in order to activate the muscles, or for too low blood sugar.

    When faced with an emergency or stressful situation, the pancreas releases large doses of glucagon into the bloodstream to charge our body with energy. This hormonal imbalance, while useful in threatening situations it can be dangerous in people with a certain type of diabetes.

      3. Prolactin

      Although this hormone is known to be involved in the secretion of milk during lactation, prolactin levels can be seriously affected in situations of prolonged stress, leading to hyperprolactinemia.

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

      As a result, inhibition of female sex hormones leads to reduced estrogen, menstrual disturbances and, in women, even lack of ovulation.

      4. Sex hormones

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

      4.1. Testosterone and stress

      Testosterone, a male sex hormone in its own right, is responsible for the development of male sex characteristics as well as the sexual response.

      When the person experiences high stress levels for long periods of time, testosterone production decreasesAs the body prioritizes the release of other hormones like cortisol, more useful in stressful or dangerous situations.

      As a result of this prolonged submission to the effect of inhibiting testosterone, the person may experience sexual problems such as impotence, Erectile dysfunction or lack of sexual desire.

      Symptoms of gold related to low testosterone levels are:

      • Mood swings.
      • Constant fatigue and fatigue.
      • Sleep problems and insomnia.

      4.2. estrogen

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

      however, the correspondence between estrogen and stress occurs bidirectionally. Thus, the effects of stress contribute to the reduction of estrogen levels and at the same time play a protective role 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 on the effects of estrogen, So that these do not exceed their stimulation of cell growth.

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

      Conclusion: a link between psychology and physiology

      The existence of stress hormones shows how closely the endocrine system is linked to our mental states and styles of behavior. The release of one or another type of hormone is able to produce measurable changes both in the neurobiological dynamics of the body and in the frequency of occurrence 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 how human beings workBut this does not necessarily correspond to a border naturally present in the biology of our bodies.

      Bibliographical references:

      • de Weerth, C., Zijl, R., Buitelaar, J. (2003). “Development of the circadian rhythm cortisol in childhood.” Early Hum Dev 73 (1-2): pages 39-52.
      • Hara, Y., Waters, EM, McEwen, BS, Morrison, JH (2015). “Effects of Estrogen on Cognitive and Synaptic Health Across the Lifespan.” Journals physiological. 95 (3): 785-807.
      • Neave, N. (2008). Hormones and behavior: a psychological approach. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Hurry. ISBN 978-0521692014. Abstract lay – Muse Project.
      • Voet, JG. (2011). Biochemistry (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.

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