the miracle of the hormones

The Adrenal Glands

Almost everyone knows that there are two kidneys and that they are of vital importance, but most people do not know that there are two small pieces of tissue, weighing only 5-6 grams each, on top of both kidneys that are also of vital importance.

When we examine these glands, called the adrenal glands, each one is two separate laboratories. The first of these is the external part of the adrenal gland (the adrenal cortex), which produces three different hormones; the second is the internal part of the adrenal gland (the adrenal medulla), which produces two different hormones. The hormones produced by these glands are so important that the secretion of too much or too little of them results in death.22

The Fight or Flight System

Some people owe their lives to a miraculous hormone called adrenaline: when these people are in danger, this fluid makes them stronger, more agile, faster and more attentive. It even doubles their physical capacities as if they had drunk a very powerful potion to give them strength. For example, a pilot notices a mechanical failure in his plane while flying. After a mechanical failure, which threatened to bring down his plane, a heroic pilot lands safely at the airport, saving the lives of hundreds of passengers. But there is a very important point that journalists usually fail to add: what saved the lives of the pilot and the passengers was that marvelous fluid mentioned above.

Adrenaline is secreted immediately in the body of a pilot whose airplane malfunctions. This fluid sends more sugar and blood to the brain, making the pilot more attentive. His blood pressure and heartbeat increase, making him more alert. These are only a few of the changes that adrenaline causes in the pilot's body.

The fluid sent an alarm to the pilot's brain cells, causing more blood and sugar to be sent to his brain and made him more alert. At the same time, it increased his heartbeat and blood pressure, enabling him to move faster and be more attentive. His respiratory system capacity increased so that he could utilize more oxygen (and more blood could flow to his brain and muscle cells). His muscles and limbs became more intensely focused and the increase in the level of sugar in his blood gave him the extra energy that he required.

Adrenaline (epinephrine) is produced and stored in the adrenal medulla-the inner portion of the adrenal glands. Everyone has this hormone in him all his life; you have it in you right now. If it is needed, the adrenal glands will produce it so that you may become stronger, faster, and much more alert. If you are in some danger, you will be given about twice your normal strength to enable you to fight against the source of the danger (or to run away) to save your life.

Although such an important hormone, the concentration of adrenaline in the bloodstream is surprisingly small compared to the work it does. It has been calculated, for example, that if the amount of blood in our bodies were compared to a lake 100 meters in diameter and two meters deep, the adrenaline in our blood would be the equivalent of one teaspoon of fluid poured into the lake.23

In the adrenal glands there are two separate laboratories that produce very important hormones. The first is the adrenal cortex; the other is the adrenal medulla. The hormones produced in these laboratories are essential for human life.

The powerful effect of a small amount of this fluid on the human body is the result of wonderful design. When we look at the functional system of an adrenaline hormone, we more clearly understand the perfection of God's creation.

The physical requirements of a normal person will certainly not be the same as that of a person in danger. Consider the needs of a person who is confronted by a dangerous situation: he must run fast, his muscles must work more quickly, his blood pressure must rise, and his heart must beat more quickly. So, he will be able to run faster, escape more quickly or fight more strongly against the danger. How does all this happen?

When the danger occurs, an alarm button is pushed in the body, and the brain sends a lightening-fast command to the adrenal glands. The cells in the interior section of the adrenal gland then go into alarm mode and secrete adrenaline hormone to deal with the emergency. The adrenaline molecules mix with the blood and disperse throughout the various areas of the body.

Adrenaline molecules have a special function in the veins and arteries that ensures the vital organs receive a greater supply of blood at the times of danger, and to do this, they dilate the blood vessels going to the heart, brain and muscles. The cells surrounding the vessels obey the adrenaline and supply the extra blood required by the heart. In this way, the extra blood needed by the brain, muscles and heart is supplied.24

The adrenal cortex plays an important role in reducing stress on the body. When the body is under severe stress, the hypothalamus sends a command to the pituitary gland to secrete ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). ACTH, on the other hand, stimulates the adrenal cortex, causing the production of corticosteroids. These corticosteroids ensure the production of glucose from molecules such as proteins, which contain no carbohydrates. As a result, the body receives extra energy and stress is reduced.

While dilating the blood vessels going to the heart, brain and muscles, adrenaline constricts the vessels that supply the liver and the skin to ensure extra support needed by the body. There is another reason for the reduced amount of blood pumped to the skin: in the likely case of a wound, the amount of blood loss would be reduced. The reason for paleness observed in the skin in times of excessive excitement is because less blood is pumped to the skin then.25

An error never occurs that dilates the vessels going to the heart (or the brain) that constricts vessels going to the liver (or skin); the adrenaline molecule knows what it must do. A microscopically small hormone adjusts the diameter of the hundreds of blood vessels in your body where the blood is to be directed.

In times of danger, the body goes into a state of alarm by means of a link between the brain and the adrenal glands.

For every organ in the body, the action of adrenaline is different; when the adrenaline molecule goes to the blood vessels, it causes them to dilate; when it goes to the heart, it quickens the contraction of the heart cells. This makes the heart beat faster and supplies the extra strength that the muscles need.

When the adrenaline molecule reaches the muscle cells, the muscles can contract with much more strength. The adrenaline molecules that go to the liver command the cells located there to mix more sugar with the blood. This causes the amount of sugar in the blood to increase and supplies the extra fuel needed by the muscles.

This activity of the adrenaline hormone in the body requires a great amount of intelligence, knowledge and skill. This tiny molecule knows what it must do and when; when the body does not need it, the alarm mode is never set into operation. Apart from this, it knows very well to which cells it must go, and what kind of command it must give to them. Moreover, this shows that it is well acquainted with the cells, with the organs and their functions, and it never makes an error as to when the body must be taken out of this emergency mode.

If it made such an error, the body would be irreparably damaged. But these little molecules function with a keen awareness of their responsibility. How is it possible for an unconscious, lifeless fluid, without a brain, eyes or knowledge, and composed of a certain combination of atoms too small for the eye to see to act in such an intelligent, organized, and timely way?

As we can see in the picture, when the woman sees the snake, she becomes afraid and an alarm button in her body is pushed. Her brain sends a lightening-fast command to her adrenal glands. The cells in the inner part of the adrenal glands go into a state of alarm and secrete adrenaline for the emergency. The adrenaline molecules mix with the blood and are distributed to various parts of the body. The body is then enabled to react appropriately to the danger. For example, the woman's heart beats faster, and the sugar in her blood increases, giving her muscles added strength and she is able to escape the danger.

This clearly shows that every molecule in our bodies is created by God and that, throughout our lives, every moment's activity is controlled by God's power, will and command. After knowing how the body works in detail, no one with intelligence can claim that living things, cells, hormones, molecules or atoms are the purposeless works of chance. God's power, strength and sublimely intelligent knowledge, witnessed to by creation, are manifested in every place and at every moment. As the Qur'an says:

What is in the heavens and in the Earth belongs to God. God encompasses all things. (Qur'an, 4: 126)

22 Selahattin Kologlu, Endokrinoloji Temel ve Klinik (Basic and Clinical Endocrinology), p. 533
23 Invitation To Biology, p. 467
24 Eldra Pearl Solomon, Introduction to Human Anatomy and Physiology, WBSaunders, 1992, p. 140
25 Biyoloji 2 (Biology 2), p. 133