What should you know about your thyroid.
The thyroid gland is small, but plays a big role in how you feel and your day to day health.
The thyroid is made up of two small glands located at the lower aspect of your neck on each side of your wind pipe. You can frequently feel the thyroid if it is abnormally enlarged. Enlargment can also give you a sensation of pressure on your throat , trouble swallowing, choking or sensation of needing to cough.
This butterfly-shaped gland can be found in the lower part of your neck. The two “wings” fold around your windpipe. The thyroid is responsible for secreting hormones: T3 (trio-iodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) into the bloodstream.
These hormones are involved in the delivery of energy to the cells of the body.
Here is how the system works. The thyroid helps regulate your metabolism along with the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. When the body needs more energy, a chain reaction is touched off.
The hypothalamus is first to respond. It releases TRH (thyrotrophin releasing hormone). This then signals the pituitary to produce TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). The message it sends to the thyroid is to produce T4. This hormone hangs around in the bloodstream until it is needed. T4 doesn’t have a direct job in the cycle except to be converted to T3 which produces the energy the body needs.
The T4 hormone is converted to T3 when more is needed by the body.
It then increases the metabolic rate of the cells throughout the body. It initiates the fight-or-flight response in the body (heart rate increases; fats are broken down for energy consumption).
The entire body starts producing energy.
The thyroid has two jobs in its normal state. It helps the enzymes needed by the cells to pass through the cell membranes. Inside the cell, it helps the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) to produce energy.
Diseases of the Thyroid
The thyroid, like other glands and organs, can have problems.
The two that most people are familiar with are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is often blamed for weight gain or the inability to lose weight, feeling tired or lack of energy, dry skin, coarse hair, psychological changes such as depression.
The thyroid produces thyroid hormone which plays a roles in many bodily functions including your bodies metabolism and the utilization of nutrients available for energy.
During hypothyroidism, the thyroid is not producing enough energy for the body. This can lead to weight gain, tiredness, depression, dry skin, dry brittle nails and problems with other organs of the body.
It can be due to a lack of sufficient iodine in the system; however, this is rare in developed countries.
Another reason could be Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease where the body begins producing antibodies against the thyroid causing it to slow down hormone production.
Hyperthyroidism can have the opposite effect.
It can be linked to overactive nodules within the thyroid, inflammation of the thyroid or an autoimmune disease called Graves’ disease.
In any case, the thyroid shoots into overdrive and produces more hormone than the body needs. That can lead to weight loss, muscle weakness, sleeplessness, excessive perspiration, anxiety, palpitations of the heart and other organ problems.
Thyroid diseases tend to affect women more than men.
Thyroid disease can affect many aspects of your life including productivity and health. If you are concerned you may have a thyroid problem, talk to your doctor. A simple blood test will tell your doctor if your thyroid is functioning appropriately or if you have a problem with an overactive or underactive thyroid gland.