Hormones and Stress

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In the modern-day environment, people are exposed to several stressful conditions such as stress of work pressure, psychosocial stress and physical stresses that cause trauma, endocrine disorders and various other medical disorders. Stress leads to significant changes in levels of hormones. Reaction to stress is linked with the increased secretion of a number of hormones which help increase the mobilization of energy sources and make the individual acclimate to its new circumstance.

Different types of stress regulating hormones:
Hormones control main body functions such as heart rate, digestion, blood pressure, metabolism, sleeping, mood balancing, reproduction, energy levels, and many others.
Although there are several hormones, but there are a few most important hormones that can disturb your body functions, if become unbalanced.

1. Serotonin:
People consider serotonin as the ‘feel-good’ hormone; however, it controls many other functions. This hormone is produced in the digestive system and the only source to get serotonin is from your nutrition.
It controls functions, including
• Bone health
• Controls anxiety
• Cuts depression
• Bowel functions
• Controls nausea
• Stimulates wound healing
• Reduces symptoms of stress
• Feeling of happiness, calm, and helps to focus
• Sleeping and waking
• Blood clotting

Serotonin Imbalance:
If your body is having the low levels of serotonin hormone, you can experience symptoms such as fatigue, depression, nausea, hunger, and poor sleeping habits. In case, you have the high levels of serotonin, this could lead to a condition called serotonin syndrome. This can be a life-threatening situation, if not treated.

2. Cortisol:
As your body perceives stress, your adrenal glands make and release the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. Often called the “stress hormone,” cortisol causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. It is your natural “flight or fight” response that has kept humans alive for thousands of years.
Normal levels of cortisol also are released when you wake up in the morning or exercise. These levels can help regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels and even strengthen your heart muscle. In small doses, the hormone can heighten memory, increase your immune system, and lower sensitivity to pain.

3. Noradrenaline:
Noradrenaline is a stress hormone produced in the adrenal glands and its main function is ‘fight or flight’ response in times of stress.
Its main functions include:
• Increase heart rate
• Increase blood pressure
• Improves alertness
• Memory storage
• Increase blood sugar levels to produce more energy
• Break down fat to produce more energy
• Mood and emotional regulation
If your body has the low levels of this hormone, the symptoms may include depression, low energy, and difficulty in concentrating. If the levels are too high, it could be resulting to anxiety, panic attacks, or sudden feeling of joy.
Both serotonin and noradrenaline hormones can fight mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, focus, and motivation.

4. Melatonin:
Melatonin is a hormone that works in sleep regulation. This hormone is produced by your brain in response to darkness.
The production of melatonin reduces with age and that’s why the older population suffers from sleeplessness. Poor bedtime routines can affect the production of melatonin.
In addition to your ability to sleep, its main functions include:
• Help in digestion
• Reduces oxidative stress
• Improves cognitive function
• Improves cellular function
• Improves eyesight
You can consume foods that contain melatonin, such as
• Barley
• Oats
• Tomatoes
• Sweet potato
• Oranges
• Pineapple
By maintaining an adequate level of melatonin, you will get better sleep, improve heart health, digestive health, boost immunity, and reduce acid reflux.

How do you know whether you are stressed?
In case of short-term stress, you may experience the feeling of being nervous, worried, and distracted. If your stress lasts for a long time, you might experience the following symptoms.
• Fatigue, depression
• Dizziness, difficulty breathing
• Chest pain, fast heartbeat
• Irregular menstrual periods, loss of libido, and erectile dysfunction
These symptoms may lead to loss of appetite, lack of sleep, and overeating and it has overall effect on your health.

What to do to reduce stress?
You can take some steps to manage your stress. Doing regular exercise, enough sleep of around 7-8 hours in night and getting emotional support from friends and family help lift your mood. Avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol and eating a healthy & low-fat diet helps cut down the chronic stress.
If the symptoms persist, you should consult your doctor. Get the medical help to determine the actual cause of your stress and manage it effectively.