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An Overview of the Adrenal Gland

The adrenal gland, known as the suprarenal gland, is an essential part of the endocrine system. It is a triangle shaped structure situated on top of each of the kidneys and is responsible for releasing approximately 30 steroid hormones. The combination of hormones secreted helps to maintain a stable chemical environment required by the body. It is composed of two distinct regions the outer cortex and the inner medulla; they effectively function like two separate glands.

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The medulla produces two hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These two hormones, often called adrenaline, increase cardiac output and heart rate, dilate coronary vessels, increase mental alertness, increase respiratory rate, and elevate the overall metabolic rate. The release of these hormones is triggered when excitement or fright is detected.

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The cortex, the outer yellowish layer of the adrenal gland, produces a variety of hormones, including glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, and androgens. Cortisol is one of the most critical glucocorticoid hormones released by the adrenal cortex. Its function is to regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Cortisol also regulates the inflammatory response of the immune system and helps the body respond to stress. The release of this hormone is triggered by the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone, ACTH, from the pituitary gland. In turn, the amount of cortisol in the blood regulates the amount of ACTH produced by the pituitary gland.

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