Never underestimate the importance of preserving the health of different parts of your body. You never know the knock-on effect it could have in the long run. So here are a few pointers you need to know regarding your thyroid and how it works in regards to your overall health.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a small gland located at the front of the neck in the shape of a butterfly. It is made up of two halves called lobes, lying along the windpipe. Joining the two is the isthmus, a narrow band of thyroid tissue.
What does the thyroid do?
The thyroid gland is the only body cell that can regulate iodine – which can be found in foods such as fish and dairy products. From then on, iodine is combined with the amino acid tyrosine to create thyroid hormones called triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These two hormone types are then released into the bloodstream to stabilise metabolism, the process of converting oxygen and calories into energy. Health metabolism is dependent on thyroid hormone intake. A normal thyroid gland produces 80% T4 and 20% T3. Ironically, T3 is noted to be four times stronger than T4.
While metabolism is the main element impacted by the thyroid gland, the gland also contributes to the regulation of breathing, heart rate and body temperature to name but a few. The speed at which you regulate food is dependent on your T3 and T4 levels. The lower your T3 and T4 levels are, the slower your heart beats. You also run the risk of constipation and weight gain due to an inactive metabolism. But be warned; if the T3 and T4 levels are too high, you risk incurring a rapid heartbeat and excessive weight loss.
On occasions where your body is unable to produce the necessary T3 and T4 levels, you may be required to take medication. These include liothyronine – an artificial equivalent of T3 (also known as Cytomel in some markets). And the synthetic counterpart for T4 is levothyroxine (also known as Synthroid). Both substitute the hormones while keeping the gland balanced, preventing health difficulties.
The thyroid gland and the pituitary gland
The thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland, a minimal gland no bigger than a peanut. If thyroid hormones drop below the required intake, then the pituitary gland acts as a back-up producing Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which encourages the thyroid gland to speed up the hormone-making process.
However, one of the side effects of TSH-dependent hormones is that T3 and T4 will raise the blood levels, at which point TSH will dial back its production.
The pituitary gland and the hypothalamus
Going up the gland control chain, the pituitary gland is itself controlled by a gland known as the hypothalamus, which produces TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH), which acts as a catalyst for the production of TSH.
Hopefully, you’re coming away feeling a bit more confident of what the thyroid gland is supposed to do and what needs to be done to maintain it.