Have you ever wondered why you get that sudden rush of energy when you are suddenly faced with a physical challenge such as in a physical competition, or when you have a sense of facing danger? How about that feeling you get after riding a wild roller coaster ride or after watching a thrilling movie full of excitement? Your heart is pumping, you are breathing more, you may even be sweating a little and you feel ready to spring into action. All these reactions are caused by adrenaline.
Adrenaline is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that causes the heart rate to increase, the air passages and blood vessels to dilate. The adrenal glands are found in the human body just above the kidneys. It is a stress response of the human body and is also known an epinephrine. It prepares the body to spring into action, by contracting the muscles, increasing the heart rate and blood pressure. It redirects oxygen, blood and energy from the immune and digestive system to the respiratory system where it is immediately needed. It takes away blood from the skin giving a pale appearance to the individual and dilates the eyes to enable better vision. Taking away blood form the digestive system also makes the individual have a sick feeling in the tummy.
The stress can be an actual life and death situation, such as encountering a mugger on the street or getting involved in a car accident. The stress can also be caused by fear. This is where the term “fight or flight response” comes from. The body is prepared to engage the threat or attacker or flee the scene, such as in animal attacks. In extreme situations, this explains superhuman strength, such as how a small woman has the sudden strength to life a heavy object such as a car or debris to free a trapped child. Or how during an enemy encounter, a soldier doesn’t feel any injuries such a scrapes, cuts or other wounds inflicted by the enemy when running to safety or deeply engaged in battle.
The stress may be just a perceived threat, such as watching an exciting action or suspense movie, or riding a roller coaster in a theme park. An athlete also has adrenaline coursing in his veins during a match against a competitor when he knows he has to win.
At the moment the adrenaline is pumped into the body, the person feels alive, strong and alert. However, after the moment passes, the individual suffers the effects of the adrenaline crash. There is headache, insomnia, jitteriness or even a stomach ache after the surge of adrenaline has died down. Any injuries sustained are suddenly felt by the person. If this happens, the person must expend the adrenaline through physical activity. Running, jumping or walking around are some ways to expel this energy.
In 1895, adrenaline became the first hormone to be identified by Napoleon Cybulski. It was later synthesized in 1904 by Friedrich Stolz. The hormone is used in the medical treatment of anaphylactic shock due to allergies.
It is important that a person learns to relax to balance out the release of adrenaline in the body. Constant release of the hormone is detrimental to the overall health of the person but its proper release may mean life or death.