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.
Research shows that patients with ADHD and concomitant anxiety (self-reported) excrete higher norepinephrine and epinephrine levels than controls (Pliszka, et. al. 1994; Dvorakova, et. al. 2007).
Epinephrine produced by the adrenal medulla, regulates the "fight or flight" response in reacting to stress. In the absence of immediate threat, this neurotransmitter increases alertness, focus attention, sustain thought, fine-tune vigilance and facilitate many cognitive functions. The brain and body norepinephrine and epinephrine systems function in direct and interactive ways (Pliszka, et. al. 1999). In ADHD, these systems may be dysregulated and likely to contribute to inappropriate modulation of attention, impulse control and anxiety (Hunt, 2006).
Stimulant medications commonly used in ADHD increase norepinephrine and epinephrine levels. However, if these neurotransmitters are too high, symptoms associated with depression, irritability, high blood pressure, increased sweating and sleep difficulties may arise. Urinary norepinephrine and epinephrine levels are also elevated in patients with abdominal obesity (Landsberg et al., 1991), anxiety and depression (Hughes et al., 2004), bipolar disorder (Koslow et al., 1983), hyperglycemia (Troisi et al., 1991), hyper-insulinemia (Troisi et al., 1991), obstructive sleep apnea (Kheirandish-Gozal et al., 2013), post-traumatic stress disorder (Yehuda et al., 1992), and stress (Holzman et al., 2009; Fujiwara et al., 2004).
If symptoms of high norepinephrine and epinephrine are problematic, consider evaluation for medications and/or supplements that may contribute to higher neurotransmitter levels in this this individual.
Supplements such as SAMe, magnesium, vitamin B2 may aid with promoting norepinephrine and epinephrine metabolism. Additionally, nervines, adaptogens, biofeedback and meditation may help quiet down the overactive sympatho-adrenal response.
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