A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Adrenaline: The body’s natural super power

Man and woman skydiving

Whether you seek the rush or need it for medical reasons, adrenaline can help our bodies do amazing things.

Can you remember a time you handled a stressful or dangerous situation like a boss?

Believe it or not, temporary stress can be a good thing because it causes the body to release the natural stress hormone adrenaline.

“Under normal circumstances, adrenaline helps us cope with daily life,” said Dr. Odette Morgan, a Marshfield Clinic endocrinologist. “It helps us deal with stressful situations, frightening experiences, severe illnesses and accidents.”

Adrenaline puts our bodies into fight or flight mode so we can handle these situations by increasing heart rate, raising blood pressure and helping us use oxygen more efficiently. Our bodies produce as much as we need for as long as we need it.

The same hormone we produce naturally can be duplicated in a lab and used in medical settings for life-saving purposes, Morgan said.

Adrenaline is a powerful little hormone that can do pretty amazing things.

7 fascinating facts about adrenaline

1. It can block the sensation of pain.

Adrenaline stops the brain from sending pain signals to help you handle the stress of an acute injury. When adrenaline is flowing, you might not even know you’re injured. The pain sets in after the rush wears off.

2. It makes us more alert.

Adrenaline helps you think and react quickly in stressful situations.

3. It makes “hysterical strength” possible.

Increased blood flow to the muscles makes people temporarily stronger to do things like lift cars off injured people.

4. It can stop an allergic reaction.

Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is the ingredient in EpiPens that stops deadly allergic reactions. Anaphylaxis causes blood pressure to drop and swelling in the airway that makes breathing difficult. Epinephrine increases blood pressure and relaxes muscles in the airway so you can breathe easier.

5. It can restart a stopped heart.

Adrenaline is used in advanced cardiac life support to resuscitate patients in some cases of cardiac arrest.

6. It stabilizes blood pressure.

Man-made adrenaline is one of the medications used to maintain blood pressure in extremely ill patients in critical care units.

7. It can cause health problems when the adrenal glands don’t work correctly.

Some types of adrenal tumors cause the body to make too much adrenaline. Extra adrenaline causes spells of excessive sweating, flushed skin, headaches, dizziness and fainting. It also causes high blood pressure that’s hard to control. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart failure, heart attack and stroke. Cancerous and non-cancerous adrenal tumors need to be treated with surgery. Make an appointment with your doctor if you have symptoms your body is overproducing adrenaline.

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