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What are Adrenaline, Norepinephrine and Cortisol?

In this guide we will talk you throught the three main hormones that are produced due to stress and the physical reactions they are responsible for.

The body’s Sympathetic Nervous System Fight or Flight takes over when we are stressed and our body goes into survival mode.  Our bodies not only react both physically and mentally, but stress hormones flood our system.


This Fight or Flight hormone is produced by the adrenal glands (situated on top of each kidney) when something is stressful or threatening. It is triggered by the Vagus cranial nerve, which starts in the brain travelling downwards through the neck, thorax and abdomen.

Adrenaline is responsible for our immediate reactions, which allows for:

  • a surge of energy

  • an increase in heart rate

  • our muscles to tense ready for action, and

  • our attention to focus


This hormone is similar to adrenaline in that it is produced in the adrenal glands, but has an added bonus in that it’s also in the brain.  We have both hormones, adrenaline and norepinephrine as backup to each other so if the adrenal glands are not working too efficiently, norepinephrine will also be present.


This is a steroid hormone called the Stress Hormone and is produced in the adrenal glands. It takes longer to activate (minutes rather than seconds) and takes effect when we are stressed because the release of the cortisoldepends on two additional minor hormones to be released: corticotropin (CRH) and adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), which are stimulated by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland respectively.

When are bodies are under threat, the body goes into survival mode and as well as releasing the life-saving cortisol, other parts of the body’s immune system (growth, digestive and immune systems) go on hold.

However, cortisol becomes a problem when our stress doesn’t subside and we end up with a continuous stream of cortisol, which in large doses:

  • suppresses the immune system

  • increases blood pressure and sugars

  • decreases libido

  • produces acne, and

  • encourages obesity

When we can recognise how detrimental a constant drip of cortisol can be to our well being, we are part way to finding a positive solution in reducing this stress hormone.  Being aware of and being able to shake off stress that might only be a one-off or has a short-lived impact will enable us to move on quickly and healthily.


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