What do Adrenal Hormones do?

Christy Bowles

The adrenal glands are located above both kidneys and produce the adrenal hormones. Adrenal hormones influence and regulate a wide variety of body functions, including metabolism, inflammatory reactions, blood pressure, and sex characteristics. Adrenal hormones are typically divided into those that are produced by the outer adrenal gland, or adrenal cortex, and those that are produced by the adrenal medulla, or inner region of the adrenal gland.

An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.
An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.

The adrenal cortex excretes fours main hormones. Hydrocortisone hormones, often called cortisol, are adrenal hormones that regulate the body's metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. The second adrenal hormone, corticosterone, aids in the body's anti-inflammatory processes and helps to regulate the body's immune system. Aldosterone is an adrenal hormone that controls sodium levels in urine, which are essential to healthy blood pressure. Finally, the adrenal cortex also produces the androgen hormones. Androgens are adrenal hormones that influence, to a minor degree, the development of male sex characteristics such as facial hair.

Adrenoline increases heart rate and blood flow.
Adrenoline increases heart rate and blood flow.

The adrenal medulla, or the inner area of the adrenal gland produces two main hormones that help an individual cope with stress. Epinephrine, or adrenaline, is a hormone that increases heart rate, blood flow, muscle control, and the body's conversion of glucose, or blood sugar. Adrenaline is the adrenal hormone most commonly associated with the body's "fight or flight" response, which occurs during episodes of marked stress or fear. This hormone increases blood flow and heart rate and energy levels, allowing an individual to react to a stressful or fear-producing situation. A second hormone produced by the adrenal medulla is norepinephrine, an adrenal hormone that causes rapid narrowing on the blood vessels, a process that changes blood pressure.

Experts note that proper adrenal function regulates many health factors including blood pressure and metabolism. When adrenal hormones are secreted at high levels, they can often produced a longer term stress reaction that contributes to higher blood pressure, heart disease and sleep disturbance. Stress reduction techniques such as exercise, relaxation, and a proper sleep schedule can help control stress and reduce the negative effects of adrenal hormones. Medical experts have noted that some individuals are often genetically prone to having a stronger stress response, with higher production of cortisol and adrenaline.

Serious disorders of the adrenal glands can produce extremely high or low levels of adrenal hormones in the body. Doctors may test a patients levels of cortisol through blood or urine tests. Individuals diagnosed with a adrenal gland disorders will typically be treated with synthetic hormones.

High levels of adrenal hormones can lead to sleep disturbances.
High levels of adrenal hormones can lead to sleep disturbances.

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Discussion Comments


If you suspect you have adrenal fatigue, go to your doctor and ask for a cortisol test four times in one day and two tests for DHEA-S in a day. This will probably tell you where you stand as far as the stage of adrenal fatigue you have - acute, fatigue, or exhaustion.

There are a variety of treatments depending on whether you are treated by a medical doctor, a nutritionist or a holistic health practitioner. One naturopath states that improvement in diet, rest, supplements and laughter will rebuild those adrenal glands.


When too much cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands during periods of on-going stress, adrenal fatigue may result. This stress may be mental, emotional, or physical stress.

If an individual is suffering from adrenal fatigue, the hormone levels are drained and the glands are not working at optimal levels.

This condition is now starting to be recognized and treated by doctors and other medical professionals.

As our society is becoming more and more stressful and complicated, more people are being plagued by this condition. Symptoms include general tiredness, disruption of sleep patterns, and infections.


@tolleranza - The main definition of synthetic that I think of as important is that it means not natural, so basically it does not occur naturally. So a synthetic hormone is a hormone that is made to act as its natural hormone counterpart.

Uses of synthetic hormones include treating hormone imbalances, there is a controversial synthetic hormone used to lose weight, and there are synthetic hormones that are used to increase growth in livestock.


Wow. I learned a ton in this article. I have often heard of the thyroid playing a role in metabolism, but I did not know about the adrenal glands and andrenal hormones.

Another thing that was talked about in this article that I have never heard of are synthetic hormones. What are these? And are they used in the treatment of other health issues?

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