Epinephrine and Norepinephrine - Role in the Body

Epinephrine and norepinephrine, also called catecholamines, are hormones similar to each other chemically but differ in their functions. Both substances are used by our body to regulate different body functions. Let's discuss this further by discussing their functions and role in our body individually!

What is Norepinephrine?

Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger in the brain) produced in the adrenal glands. It is also synthesized from two amino acids, tyrosine and phenylalanine, found in foods rich in protein, particularly turkey, duck, cottage cheese, oatmeal, pork, eggs, chicken, and dark chocolate. It belongs to the catecholamine family and acts as a hormone. It, therefore, influences different parts of the body and stimulates the central nervous system.

Any stressful stimulus increases norepinephrine levels, whether a simple argument or a traumatic event like a terrorist attack. This is because these stimuli require more attention on our part to prevent their recurrence. This phenomenon associated with norepinephrine plays a very important role in conditioning fear. Thus, the effect of norepinephrine is so powerful that it is very difficult to let go of an acquired fear.

These stressful stimuli that increase norepinephrine may also prove beneficial. For example, it has been shown that the stress of learning a new instrument or exploring an unfamiliar city increases the level of this neurotransmitter in the brain and promotes the connection between neurons.

Thus, norepinephrine modulates attention and learning. It also facilitates the response to reward signals: the greater the noradrenergic sensitivity, the more these traits are amplified.

What is Epinephrine (Adrenaline)?

Epinephrine is a hormone manufactured by our body that activates the fight or flight response in the face of threats. It is also synthesized from tyrosine. Sweaty hands, racing heart, accelerated breathing, epinephrine is the hormone responsible for these reactions in stress.

When the brain detects a source of stress (traffic jams, a deadline to meet, a bad boss, etc.), it sends a signal to the hypothalamus, the center of our emotions, located at the base of our brain. The hypothalamus will send a nervous message to the adrenal medulla glands, located above the kidneys. They are the ones that secrete the adrenaline.

The presence of adrenaline in the blood instantly triggers reactions throughout the body: the heart rate increases, breathing quickens, blood pressure rises, the brain and muscles receive more oxygen, the pupils dilate to increase alertness while our digestion slows down. It makes it possible to mobilize the person to face the danger.

What is the Difference Between Epinephrine and Norepinephrine?

Chemically, adrenaline and norepinephrine are very similar. However, norepinephrine only works with alpha receptors, while adrenaline can work with alpha and beta receptors. Alpha receptors are found only in the arteries, while beta is found in the heart, lungs, and muscles. This explains why these two substances have slightly different functions.

Epinephrine has powerful effects on the body, including:

  • increased blood sugar
  • an increase in heart rate and the intensity with which the heart contracts
  • relaxation of smooth muscles in the airways, which improves breathing

These effects are intended to give extra energy to the body. In the event of stress or fear, the body releases a flood of adrenaline to allow a rapid response.

Norepinephrine increases:

  • glycemia
  • heart rate
  • the intensity with which the heart contracts

It can also constrict blood vessels, which increases blood pressure. It is thus administered urgently to people whose blood pressure drops dangerously.

Besides their presence in protein-rich foods, amino acids that synthesize these hormones can also be attained through supplements.

We hope the information we shared has helped you understand the role of Epinephrine and Norepinephrine in our bodies. Do not forget to share this with your friends, and let us know what you think of the information.

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