What Are The 3 Stress Hormones And How Do They Impact Your Body?

Anjali Jaiswal

Anjali Jaiswal
Aug 2023

2 min read
what are the 3 stress hormones

Table of content

What Are The 3 Stress Hormones? Stress is an inevitable part of life, and our bodies have evolved to respond to it through a complex system involving various hormones. Among these are three primary stress hormones – cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common 3 stress hormones, how they impact our health, and what we can do to manage them.

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What Are Stress Hormones?

  • The body produces various hormones to manage innumerable functions or processes in the body, on a day-to-day basis. When we experience stress, our bodies release hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline), cortisol, and norepinephrine. 
  • These hormones are designed to help us deal with stressful situations by increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. However, chronic stress can take a toll on our bodies and minds over time. So here’s a closer look at some of the main 3 stress hormones.
  • When we are stressed, these hormones make us more alert, increase our heart rate, and send more blood to essential organs and muscles. While 3 stress hormones are necessary for survival, having them at high levels for a long time can cause health problems. 
  • Managing stress through a healthy lifestyle, mindfulness, and exercise can help keep these hormones in balance and improve our overall well-being.

What Are The Major 3 Stress Hormones And How It’s Work?

The major 3 stress hormones are adrenaline (epinephrine), cortisol, and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Each of these hormones plays a critical role in the body’s stress response, helping it adapt to and cope with stressful situations. Here’s how each stress hormone works:

What Are The Major 3 Stress Hormones

1. Adrenaline (Epinephrine):

Adrenaline is a hormone and neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in the body’s stress response system. It prepares the body for the “fight or flight” response in the face of stress, fear, or excitement.

Produced By: Adrenal Glands.

How It Works: 

  • Binds to specific receptors on cells throughout the body, including the heart, blood vessels, and lungs.
  • Triggers are a cascade of events that result in increased heart rate, blood vessel constriction, and increased oxygen delivery to the muscles.
  • Prepares the body for a “fight or flight” response, providing energy and focus while inhibiting digestion.

2. Cortisol:

Function: Cortisol is a steroid hormone that helps the body maintain homeostasis during stressful situations. It regulates various physiological processes, including glucose metabolism, immune response, and blood pressure.

Produced By: Adrenal glands.

How It Works: 

  • Binds to specific receptors on cells throughout the body, including the liver, muscle, and fat tissue.
  • Activates various intracellular signaling pathways, leading to physiological responses.
  • Stimulates the breakdown of glycogen in the liver, increasing blood glucose levels.
  • Inhibits glucose uptake in muscle and fat tissue, sparing glucose for use by the brain.
  • Follows a diurnal pattern with levels highest in the morning, gradually decreasing throughout the day.
  • Chronic stress can lead to dysregulation of cortisol levels, impacting physical and mental health.
  • Chronic stress can have adverse effects on physical and mental health.

3. Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline):

Function: Norepinephrine acts as both a neurotransmitter and a hormone. It is involved in the “fight or flight” response to stress and helps regulate attention, learning, memory, mood, and arousal.

Produced By: Adrenal glands And Specific Neurons In The Central Nervous System.

How It Works: 

  • Binds to adrenergic receptors on cells throughout the body, including the heart, blood vessels, and lungs.
  • Triggers are a series of events that lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.
  • Redirects blood flow to the muscles and decreases it in non-essential areas like the digestive system.
  • Acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, transmitting signals between nerve cells.

How Do Stress Hormones Impact The Body?

3 Stress hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine, play a significant role in the body’s stress response system. When the body encounters a stressful situation, these hormones are released into the bloodstream and activate various physiological responses to help the body cope with the stressor. While the stress response is essential for survival and adaptation, chronic or excessive activation of these hormones can have detrimental effects on the body. Here’s how 3 stress hormones impact the body:

Increased Heart Rate And Blood Pressure: 

  • Adrenaline and norepinephrine cause the heart rate to increase and blood vessels to constrict. 
  • This response helps pump more blood to vital organs and muscles, preparing the body for action in response to a perceived threat.

Enhanced Oxygen Delivery: 

  • Adrenaline and norepinephrine dilate the air passages in the lungs, increasing oxygen intake. 
  • More oxygen is delivered to the muscles, improving physical performance during the stress response.

Mobilization Of Energy: 

  • Adrenaline stimulates the liver to convert stored glycogen into glucose, providing a quick source of energy for the body to respond to stress.

Suppressed Digestion: 

  • Stress hormones reduce blood flow to the digestive system, leading to inhibited digestion. 
  • This allows more resources to be allocated to other bodily functions that are crucial during stress, such as increased alertness and physical readiness.

Glucose Regulation: 

  • Cortisol helps regulate glucose metabolism by increasing blood glucose levels through the breakdown of glycogen and reducing glucose uptake in muscles and fat tissue. 
  • This ensures a continuous supply of energy to the brain during stress.

Immune System Suppression: 

  • Chronic stress and prolonged exposure to stress hormones can suppress the immune system’s functioning, making the body more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Negative Impact On Metabolism: 

  • Dysregulated cortisol levels due to chronic stress have been linked to weight gain, especially around the abdominal area. 
  • This can contribute to an increased risk of obesity and related health conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Impact On Mental Health: 

  • Prolonged stress and excessive cortisol levels have been associated with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. 
  • Stress hormones can affect neurotransmitter levels and brain function, influencing mood and emotional well-being.

Cardiovascular Effects: 

  • Chronic stress and elevated stress hormones can contribute to increased risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

Sleep Disturbances: 

  • Stress hormones can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful sleep. 
  • Poor sleep quality further exacerbates the effects of stress on the body and mind.

Stress hormones have essential functions in preparing the body for coping with stressful situations. However, prolonged or excessive activation of these hormones due to chronic stress can have adverse effects on various physiological systems, contributing to physical and mental health issues. It underscores the importance of managing stress through healthy coping mechanisms and adopting lifestyle habits that promote overall well-being.

How To Control Stress Hormones

Managing stress hormones is crucial for maintaining overall well-being and preventing the negative effects of chronic stress. Here are some effective ways to manage stress hormones:

Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and increase the production of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters.

Mindfulness And Meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help calm the mind and reduce the body’s stress response. It promotes relaxation and improves the body’s ability to handle stress.

Deep Breathing: Deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, can activate the body’s relaxation response and lower stress hormone levels.

Get Enough Sleep: Prioritize getting enough quality sleep each night. Sleep helps regulate stress hormones and allows the body to recover from daily stressors.

Healthy Diet: Eat a balanced and nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid excessive caffeine, sugary foods, and also alcohol, as they can contribute to stress and anxiety.

Social Support:

Stay connected with friends and family. Social support can help reduce the impact of stress and provide a sense of comfort and belonging.

Time Management: Effective time management can reduce feelings of overwhelm and stress. Plan and prioritize tasks to create a sense of control over your schedule.

Set Boundaries: Hence, learn to say no to commitments that may overwhelm you. Setting healthy boundaries can prevent excessive stress and burnout.

Engage In Hobbies And Relaxation: Participate in activities you enjoy, such as hobbies, reading, or spending time in nature. Engaging in relaxing activities can help counteract the effects of stress.

Seek Professional Help: Although, If stress becomes overwhelming or starts affecting your daily life, consider seeking support from a mental health professional or counselor.

Limit Exposure To Stressors: Identify and reduce exposure to stress triggers when possible. This may involve limiting exposure to negative news, avoiding toxic relationships, or making changes in your environment.

Laughter And Humor: Find moments of joy and laughter in your daily life. Laughter can help reduce stress hormones and improve mood.

Eat These Foods To Reduce Stress

Certain foods are believed to have stress-relieving properties, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. Here are some stress-relieving foods:

  1. Fatty Fish: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are all omega-3-rich foods, which have been shown to reduce stress and also anxiety.
  1. Nuts And Seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are sources of magnesium and omega-3s, both of which can help lower stress levels.
  1. Dark Chocolate: In moderation, dark chocolate with a high cocoa content can trigger the release of endorphins, promoting feelings of pleasure.
  1. Avocado: Avocados are packed with healthy fats and potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and also reduce stress.
  1. Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which can combat stress and boost the immune system.
  1. Oranges: Citrus fruits such as oranges are high in vitamin C, which has been linked to lower cortisol levels.
  1. Green Leafy Vegetables: Spinach, kale, and so other leafy greens are rich in magnesium, which can help relax muscles and reduce stress.
  1. Chamomile Tea: Chamomile tea has calming properties and can help reduce anxiety and also promote better sleep.
  1. Herbal Teas: Various herbal teas, such as lavender, peppermint, and valerian root, can have soothing effects and help alleviate stress.
  2. Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt contains probiotics that support gut health, which is linked to reduced stress and anxiety.
  3. Whole Grains: Whole grains such as brown rice, and whole wheat bread can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce stress.
  1. Herbal Supplements: Some herbal supplements such as ashwagandha and Rhodiola have adaptogenic properties, which can help the body adapt to stress.

Remember that while these foods can complement stress management, they should be part of an overall healthy and balanced diet.


Stress hormones are chemicals the body releases in response to stress. Cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine are common stress hormones that can significantly affect the body.

For overall health, it’s crucial to keep stress hormone levels in check. Deep breathing, exercise, and emotional processing are just a few methods that can assist with stress management. Healthy stress hormone levels are maintained by relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Hormone Is Stressed In The Body?

The hormone primarily affected by stress is cortisol. It is produced by the adrenal glands and also plays a crucial role in regulating the body’s response to stress.

What Are The Hormonal Causes Of Stress?

Hormonal causes of stress can be attributed to the overproduction of cortisol and adrenaline in response to stressful situations or chronic stress. Additionally, imbalances in other hormones like thyroid hormones and sex hormones can contribute to stress.

What Are The Effects Of Stress Hormones On Our Bodies?

Stress hormones can have various effects on the body, including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, heightened alertness, increased glucose production, and also suppressed immune function.

What Are The Major Ways To Manage Stress Hormones?

Some major ways to manage stress hormones include practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing, engaging in regular physical exercise, getting enough sleep, and seeking social support.

What Constitutes A Healthy Diet To Control Stress Hormones?

Hence, a healthy diet to control stress hormones includes consuming balanced meals rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Reducing or avoiding excessive caffeine, sugar, and processed foods can also help regulate stress hormones.

What Can I Do To Manage Stress Hormones?

To manage stress hormones effectively, incorporate stress-reducing activities into your daily routine, such as yoga, mindfulness practices, spending time in nature, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy and relaxation. Prioritize self-care and ensure you get enough rest and nourishing food to support your body’s natural stress response.

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This blog post was written to help you to make healthy and better food choices altogether. So, be aware and take care. The important thing to consider is your own health before starting a diet that is restrictive. Always seek advice from a doctor/dietitian before starting if you have any concerns.

Eat Healthy, Live Healthy. Enjoy a long happy life.

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