Epinephrine is commonly known as adrenaline.
Your body naturally produces it during times of stress. The hormone is also necessary for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system — it makes the heart beat more strongly, and diverts blood to tissues during times of stress.
Production during times of stress:
Strong emotions such as fear or anger cause epinephrine to be released into the bloodstream, which causes an increase in heart rate, muscle strength, blood pressure, and sugar metabolism. This reaction, known as the “Flight or Fight Response” prepares the body for strenuous activity.
When the hormone enters the bloodstream, the following will increase:
- Heart rate
- Cardiac output
- Blood pressure
- Sugar metabolism
The above responses help to prepare your body for a "fight or flight" reaction, making you ready for rapid, strenuous activity.
The following health conditions are linked to epinephrine levels:
- Addison's disease is a severe or total deficiency of the hormones made by the adrenal glands, including epinephrine, cortisol, and aldosterone.
- Adrenal tumors, some called pheochromocytoma, can cause too much adrenal hormones to be produced. In the case of pheochromocytoma, the hormones produced are epinephrine and noradrenaline.
This over-secretion of epinephrine can lead to a dangerous and severe elevation in blood pressure.
In different types of adrenal tumors, other hormones are over-produced, including cortisol, aldosterone, and androgens.
- What is Adrenaline? (https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/adrenaline)
- What is Adrenaline? (http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Adrenaline.aspx)
Low levels of adrenaline are very rare, even if you have lost your adrenal glands due to disease or surgery. This is because your nervous system can make noradrenaline or norepinephrine, which functions very similarly to epinephrine. However, it is possible to have adrenaline deficiency caused by rare genetic enzyme deficiencies. There are also some cases of adrenal insufficiency that result in low levels of hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Some people also believe in adrenal fatigue, or mild and undetectable (via current blood tests) decreased production of these critical hormones that results in a variety of symptoms.
In times of severe stress, epinephrine is released at high levels. The sudden increase is normal and subsides after the stress has faded. In most cases, adrenaline is only needed for those periods of stress.
However, some people have high levels of adrenaline even when there is no danger present. Producing adrenaline during stressful events that don’t require sudden activity is fairly common, but true, constant overproduction is rare.
High levels of epinephrine can be caused by:
- Stress in daily life. Even when we don’t need to flee or fight, our body experiences stress from things such as sudden noises, work events, the pressure of managing a hectic schedule and more. The chronic stress caused by daily demands can lead to continually raised levels of stress hormones. This includes adrenaline as well as cortisol, which boosts sugar levels in the blood and curbs our immune, digestive, reproductive and growth processes. Together, consistent high levels of these stress hormones can cause major problems for our wellbeing.
- Obesity and untreated obstructive sleep apnea. When the body struggles to breathe at night, adrenaline kicks in to give the heart and lungs a burst of energy and a temporary increase in wakefulness to the brain. Over time this may lead to high blood pressure.
- Adrenal tumors or adrenal cancer. Tumors called pheochromocytoma grow on the adrenal glands, or paraganglioma grows along the nerves in the chest and abdomen. These tumors can run in families and cause periodic symptoms of an adrenaline rush. However, sometimes symptoms are very mild and people may not even notice the excess adrenaline.
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