Stress Hormones

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Stress Hormones

The impact of stress on the body is profound and far-reaching. Prolonged exposure to stressors can result in dysregulation of hormones, impacting our mood, energy, sleep patterns, and immune function. Stress and mental and physical health are intrinsically linked, underscoring the importance of holistic care. Therefore, finding effective ways to better manage stress can play a pivotal role in maintaining overall well-being.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a structured program at Comprehensive Rheumatology Center that uses mindfulness to cultivate awareness and reduce stress. By incorporating MBSR techniques into your daily routine, you can learn to respond to stressors with resilience and clarity, fostering a sense of inner peace and balance.

Seek help for chronic stress with MBSR expert Sharzad Firooz at Comprehensive Rheumatology Center, serving the Greater Los Angeles area and beyond. To book your consultation, call our office at (818) 598-0000 or complete this form online.

About Stress

Stress Hormones

Stress is the body’s response to any demand or challenge. It can manifest in various forms, and has a significant impact on our mental and physical well-being. It is also a whole-body response.

  • Psychological stress involves emotional and cognitive responses to external pressures, leading to feelings of tension, anxiety, and overwhelm.
  • Physical stress pertains to the body’s physiological reactions to stressors, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and muscle tension.

Recognizing stress symptoms is crucial in identifying when one is experiencing excessive stress levels. These symptoms may include irritability, fatigue, insomnia, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating. Effective stress management strategies are essential for mitigating the detrimental effects of stress on overall health. Chronic stress, if left unaddressed, can contribute to long-term health issues, and even exacerbate existing conditions, particularly symptoms of chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases.

How Are Stress and Hormones Linked?

Understanding the intricate interplay between hormones is crucial in managing stress effectively. Hormones are chemical messengers that play a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions. They affect everything from growth and metabolism to mood and reproductive processes. These powerful substances are produced by the endocrine system, which comprises several glands throughout the body and maintains the body’s hormonal equilibrium. Chronic stress can disrupt this delicate balance, leading to dysfunction in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a crucial system responsible for coordinating our stress response. (1)

Stress Hormones

Stress Hormones

Stress hormones play a crucial role in the body’s response to stress. These changes are designed to help us deal with stressful situations by increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. That is great when we are faced with an acute or imminent physical threat. While these hormones are essential for survival in short-term stressful situations, chronic stress can cause prolonged changes in the serum levels of these hormones, causing short-term and long-term problems.


One of the key players in the stress response is epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. Adrenaline is released into the bloodstream by the adrenal glands, located on top of our kidneys. Its primary function is to increase heart rate and blood pressure, (2) ensuring that oxygen and nutrients are delivered to our muscles and organs more efficiently. This heightened cardiovascular response makes us more physically capable in moments of danger or urgency. Too much can lead to anxiety, irritability, and difficulty sleeping.

Norepinephrine and Other Catecholamines

Catecholamines are released in response to emotional stress. They increase cardiac output and blood sugar and are involved in skeletal muscle blood flow, digestive problems, sodium retention, cutaneous vasoconstriction, and bronchiolar dilatation. Like adrenaline, norepinephrine is released by the adrenal glands and acts as a neurotransmitter and hormone. Norepinephrine boosts alertness and vigilance. It is a metabolite of dopamine, which plays a role in mood, motivation, and pleasure. Like epinephrine, too much norepinephrine can lead to anxiety, irritability, and difficulty sleeping.


Cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, plays a crucial role in regulating our body’s response to stress. It helps to mobilize energy stores, increase glucose levels in the bloodstream, regulate blood pressure, and suppress non-essential bodily functions such as digestion and reproductive processes. Additionally, cortisol has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to modulate the immune system response. (3)

Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH)

ACTH is produced by the pituitary gland. It stimulates the release of cortisol in response to stress. It also plays a key role in memory processing. A decreased concentration of ACTH in the blood can lead to adrenal insufficiency, which can cause: 

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)

Too much ACTH can cause high blood pressure and fragile and thin skin, and is a predictor of severity and persistence of depression.


Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is a key initiator of the stress response. CRH is also involved in selective attention, memory, and diseases that cause inflammation. It stimulates inflammation and swelling (particularly in the gut), increases anxiety, and suppresses appetite. Too much CRH is suspected of causing clinical depression and sleep disturbances, in addition to certain inflammatory problems, including psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Depletion of CRH is currently suspected in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but more research is needed to confirm this finding.


Acute stress, physical or psychological, leads to the rapid release of vasopressin. Vasopressin, or Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH) increases blood pressure, regulates water metabolism and sodium homeostasis, and plays an essential role in the regulation of kidney functioning.

Thyroid Hormones

Stress inhibits the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secretion and decreases T3 and T4 levels. Chronic stress can contribute to hypothyroidism, a condition characterized by reduced thyroid hormone production and activity. In addition, stress exacerbates autoimmune thyroid diseases.

Growth Hormone

Released by the pituitary gland, growth hormone is involved in various physiological processes, including metabolism and tissue repair. Chronic activation of the stress response system has negative impacts on growth, thyroid function, reproduction, and metabolism.


Insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels. Stress can impact insulin sensitivity, decrease insulin, and increase antagonistic hormones, potentially leading to changes in blood sugar levels and contributing to stress-induced hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).


When stressed, the body prepares itself by ensuring that enough sugar or energy is readily available. Released by the pancreas, glucagon helps increase blood sugar levels, by promoting the breakdown of glucose in the liver. Although this has adaptive significance in a healthy patient, in the long run, it can cause insulin resistance and lead to diabetes. Hyperglycemia during stress is common in patients admitted to the hospital. Repeated episodes of stress also increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).


Prolactin is influential in over 300 processes. Too much can cause fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, nausea, weight gain, chest pain, back pain, and acne. It can also reduce the production of hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. Too much prolactin can also prevent the release of eggs in the menstrual cycle, cause a low sex drive and erectile dysfunction, and lower sperm production.


Gonadotropins can affect both FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone) and progesterone levels. Stress suppresses the circulation of gonadotropins and gonadal steroid hormones. In women, this can disrupt the normal menstrual cycle and inhibit ovulation. In men, it can result in decreased sperm production and motility, as well as testosterone deficiency. Prolonged exposure to stress can cause complete impairment of reproductive function.

How Can MBSR Reduce Stress?

Strategies to manage stress, such as mindfulness-based practices like MBSR, regular exercise, and social support, can help mitigate the negative impact of stress hormones on the body. Through various mindfulness practices, participants of MBSR learn to identify signs of stress response activation, and cultivate an intentional and non-judgemental awareness of the present moment, fostering a sense of calm amidst life’s inevitable storms. Mindfulness practice triggers a relaxation response in the body, helping to bring the body back to homeostasis and limit the effects of hormones deployed in response to stress.

Individuals completing an MBSR program have shown an average of 35% reduction in medical symptoms. They also report an improved ability to tolerate pain and other symptoms, improved ability to fall and stay asleep, and improved quality of life in general. Remarkably, this is achieved without use of any diet change or medication or surgical intervention.

Our MBSR program includes:

  • A rheumatological consultation
  • 10 weeks of one-on-one guidance with our mindfulness expert
  • Instruction in how to detect the activation of the stress response and how to disrupt it
  • Instruction and in person practice of meditation, mindful grounding, and a variety of other mindfulness activities
  • Instruction of gentle mindful movement and how to adapt for each individual’s current condition and limitations (No requirement to get on the ground or sit cross-legged)
  • Additional vetted resources to use at home during and after the program
  • Realistic expectations of daily practice based on research findings (10-12 minutes)
  • Additional tailored instruction available based on individual need or circumstance

MBSR has also been shown to induce neuroplasticity effects, reshaping the brain’s neural pathways in ways that promote emotional balance and mental clarity. By actively engaging with mindfulness practices, individuals can tap into the inherent health benefits of mindfulness, experiencing reduced stress, reduced chronic pain, improved focus, and enhanced overall well-being.

How Much is Stress Reduction Treatment in Los Angeles?

Your MBSR program will be unique to you. The cost will vary according to your individual treatment plan and may be covered by your insurance. See how MBSR can help you with stress management. Call Comprehensive Rheumatology at (818) 598-0000 or use our simple online form to book a consultation.


  1. Sheng JA, Bales NJ, Myers SA, et al. The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis: Development, Programming Actions of Hormones, and Maternal-Fetal Interactions. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 2021;14(601939). doi:
  2. Chu B, Marwaha K, Sanvictores T, Ayers D. Physiology, Stress Reaction. PubMed. Published 2023.
  3. Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy. 2014;94(12):1816-1825. doi: