What is needed by the body to free up energy stores in response to stress?
The 'stress hormone' cortisol.
Environmental stressors signal the hypothalamus to secrete corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) among other hormones. CRH in turn stimulates the anterior pituitary to produce corticotropin which then stimulates the production of cortisol.
Cortisol is a hormone that is primary responsible for the stress response. The main function of cortisol is increasing the glucose levels by:
- stimulating gluconeogenesis
- stimulation glycogen synthesis in the liver
- inhibiting insulin (insulin usually lowers blood glucose levels)
Cortisol also inhibits the production of CRH (feedback inhibition) to limit the stress response. This is a delicate balance that can be disrupted in case of chronic levels of high stress. In that case the feedback inhibition is less functional, leading to the continued release of cortisol.