Stress is the way your body reacts to what it considers a potential threat. This can push your body into a fight-flight-freeze response. Regardless of the reaction, adrenaline flows within your body’s system. Keep reading to learn the ways this stress response affects the endocrine system.
The adrenal glands are made up of two parts: the outer cortex, which is made up of epithelial tissue, and an internal medulla, made up of nervous tissue. Each of these parts houses different hormones. The medulla produces adrenaline, otherwise known as epinephrine. This is a primary hormone that interacts with the sympathetic nervous system when an initial stress response happens.
This initial response is referred to as a fight, flight, or freeze response. When you sense danger or a threat, your amygdala and adrenal glands are triggered—they press the panic button, so to speak.
Once the panic button has been pressed, the hypothalamus engages the sympathetic system nervous system to help. The hypothalamus then communicates to the adrenal glands to release adrenaline into the bloodstream. After adrenaline is released through the medulla, the hypothalamus releases a series of hormones that include cortisol. Cortisol can give the body energy and make changes to blood glucose levels. If there’s too much cortisol in a body, it will be stored as fat. These fat molecules are called lipids.
Without a proper hypothalamus response, you may not act properly, or you may even overreact to the stress.
The endocrine system keeps you safe and helps you cope with life’s unexpected curveballs. However, chronic stress and a chronically engaged endocrine system can affect your body. You may have an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, lung disease, or cancer. It may help to speak to a licensed therapist to learn some coping mechanisms that will help your body feel safe again.
Stress engages your endocrine system to keep you safe. If this happens too frequently, though, you may be at risk of mental or physical disease. Remember these ways stress affects the endocrine system, and the next time you feel stressed, get in tune with your body and help your endocrine system relax.