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Thyroid's Important Role In Your Health

Updated: Nov 12, 2022

The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is an important endocrine gland. It that produces and releases (secretes) a number of critical hormones that affects many aspects of your body. If you’re experiencing changes in your weight, or heart rate and temperature sensitivity, you can have your healthcare provider run a simple blood test to see if your thyroid is the cause of your symptoms. Thyroid disease is very common and treatable.

Is it possible to live without a thyroid?

Yes, you can live without your thyroid. However, you’ll need to take hormone replacement medication for the rest of your life in order to stay healthy and prevent certain side effects and symptoms.

Your thyroid produces and releases important hormones!

  • Thyroxine (T4): The primary thyroid hormone. Once T4 is released into your bloodstream, it is converted into T3 through deiodination process.

  • Triiodothyronine (T3): The thyroid produces lesser amounts of T3 than T4, but it has a much greater effect on your metabolism than T4.

  • Reverse triiodothyronine (RT3): Your thyroid makes very small amounts of RT3, which reverses the effects of T3.

  • Calcitonin: This hormone helps regulate the amount of calcium in your blood.

In order to make thyroid hormones, your thyroid gland needs IODINE!

The main way to keep your thyroid healthy is to make sure you’re getting enough iodine in your diet. The level of hormones your thyroid makes and releases depends on the amount of iodine available in your body. Your thyroid gland traps iodine and transforms it into thyroid hormones. However, it’s important not to consume too much iodine because it can cause problems.

Iodine is most commonly found in iodized table salt. Other food sources that contain iodine include:

  • Cheese

  • Eggs

  • Yogurt

  • Saltwater fish

  • Shellfish

  • Seaweed, kelp

When your thyroid isn’t working properly, it can impact your entire body. Your thyroid hormones affect the following bodily functions:

  • Thyroid gland's main job is to control the speed of your metabolism — the process of how your body transforms the food you consume into energy and uses the energy.

  • Heart rate.

  • Breathing.

  • Digestion.

  • Body temperature.

  • Brain development.

  • Mental activity.

  • Skin and bone maintenance.

  • Fertility.

What diseases affect the thyroid?

Thyroid conditions are common and can affect anyone at any age. About 20 million people in the US are diagnosed with some type of a thyroid condition -women are about 5-8 times more than men. Some factors may put you at a higher risk of developing a thyroid condition, including:

  • Having a family history of thyroid disease.

  • Having an autoimmune condition, such as Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

  • Taking a medication that’s high in iodine.

Thyroid diseases are split into two types:

  • In primary thyroid disease, the disease originates in your thyroid gland. As an example, if you have a nodule on your thyroid that’s releasing excess amounts of thyroid hormones, it would be called primary hyperthyroidism.

  • In secondary thyroid disease, the disease originates in your pituitary gland. If a tumor in your pituitary gland is releasing excess amounts of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which then stimulates your thyroid to produce excess thyroid hormones, it would be called secondary hyperthyroidism.

The two main conditions (the other two conditions are goiter -enlargement of thyroid- and thyroid cancer) that affect your thyroid include:

  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

Hypothyroidism is a fairly common, yet a treatable condition that affects about 10 million Americans. When your thyroid doesn’t produce and release enough thyroid hormones, certain aspects of your metabolism slows down.

Causes of hypothyroidism include:

  • Hashimoto’s disease --an autoimmune disease.

  • Thyroiditis --inflammation of the thyroid

  • Iodine deficiency

  • A non-functioning thyroid gland --from birth

  • Over-treatment of hyperthyroidism --excessive medication

  • Thyroid gland removal

  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

1 out of 100 Americans over the age of 12 have hyperthyroidism. When your thyroid produces and releases more thyroid hormones than your body needs, certain aspects of your metabolism speeds up. The condition is treatable.

Causes of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Graves’ disease --an autoimmune condition

  • Thyroid nodules

  • Thyroiditis --inflammation of the thyroid

  • Postpartum thyroiditis --inflammation of the thyroid after giving birth

  • Excess iodine in your blood from diet and/or medication

  • Over-treatment of hypothyroidism --excessive medication

  • A benign (noncancerous) tumor in your pituitary gland

A quick look at Endocrine System

The endocrine system controls many of your body’s important functions. It is your network of glands that create and secrete (release) hormones, digestive juices, sweat and tears. The hormones created by the endocrine glands are released directly into the bloodstream.

The main glands of the endocrine system that produce hormones include:

  • Hypothalamus: This gland is located in your brain and controls your endocrine system. It uses information from your nervous system to determine when to tell other glands, including the pituitary gland, to produce hormones. The hypothalamus controls many processes in your body, including your mood, hunger and thirst, sleep patterns and sexual function.

  • Pituitary: This little gland is only about the size of a pea, but it has a big job. It makes hormones that control several other glands such as the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries and testicles. The pituitary gland is in charge of many different functions, including how your body grows. It’s located at the base of your brain.

  • Pineal: This gland manages your sleep cycle by releasing melatonin, a hormone that causes you to feel sleepy.

  • Thyroid: Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It’s responsible for your metabolism (how your body uses energy).

  • Parathyroid: These four tiny glands are no larger than a grain of rice. They control the level of calcium in your body. For your heart, kidneys, bones and nervous system to work, you need the right amount of calcium.

  • Thymus: The thymus is a lymphoid gland comprised of two identically sized lobes, located behind the sternum (breastbone), in front of the heart. Thymus is involved in protecting your body against infection, by producing and delivering immune cells, known as T lymphocytes, to areas where the immune response has been triggered.

  • Adrenal: You have two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney. They control your metabolism, blood pressure, sexual development and response to stress.

  • Pancreas: Your pancreas is part of your endocrine system, and it plays a significant role in your digestive system too. It makes a hormone called insulin that controls the level of sugar in your blood.

  • Ovaries: In women, the ovaries release sex hormones called estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Women have two ovaries in their lower abdomen, one on either side.

  • Testes: In men, the testes (testicles) make sperm and release the hormone testosterone. This hormone affects sperm production, muscle strength and sex drive.


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