The adrenal glands are a pair of small organs located atop the kidneys. Each gland has two sections: cortex (outer section) and medulla (central section).
The adrenal cortex is responsible for producing the hormones cortisone, cortisol, aldosterone, androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).
The adrenal medulla secretes the hormone adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) and norepinephrine, which functions as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter.
Adrenaline, cortisol, DHEA and norepinephrine are the four major stress hormones. The highest levels of these hormones are released in the morning. Adrenaline speeds up metabolism and produces other changes to help the body cope with danger.
Aldosterone helps to maintain electrolyte (salt) and water balance in the body.
Androstenedione and DHEA are androgens, hormones that can be converted to testosterone.
Under extreme stress, the adrenal glands release large amounts of cortisol, which can lead to a host of health problems. Cortisol is also involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and the regulation of blood sugar.