Your Thyroid Called, it Wants its Hormones Checked

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The thyroid gland is one of the most essential glands in our bodies. In fact, the thyroid was named after a Greek shield at the time of its discovery. This butterfly shaped gland is responsible for regulating the metabolic rate, which controls heart, muscle, and digestive function, as well as brain development and bone maintenance. The thyroid gland relies on a sufficient supply of iodine to function correctly. See Image 1.

Image 1: Courtesy of National Institute of Health [NIH]
Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid). (2021, June 4). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The thyroid gland releases three hormones: T3 (Triiodothyronine), T4 (Tetraiodothyronine), and Calcitonin. These hormones are essential for growth, neuronal development, reproduction, regulation of energy, and metabolism. In fact, our body sometimes requires different levels of these hormones and depends on whether these demands are met to a sufficient level. Thyroid levels can cause changes in an individual’s lifestyle, energy, and mood. If the thyroid’s hormones become deregulated, it can lead to thyroid disease. Women are affected by thyroid disease much more often than men, with prevalence rates up to 8 times higher. Even though thyroid conditions are more common among women, the symptoms experienced by both women and men are essentially the same.

For example, high levels of T3/T4 hormones will raise the resting metabolic rate and the body’s temperature, known as hyperthyroidism. This condition occurs when the thyroid produces too much thyroxine, meaning the thyroid is overactive. The prevalence of hyperthyroidism is about 1.2% of people in the United States. Signs and symptoms of this condition include feeling agitated and jittery, as well as heart palpitations, restlessness/nervousness, and unintended weight-loss. These are just a few of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, as they can manifest in a variety of ways in different individuals. Fortunately, hyperthyroidism is treatable by a doctor. Methods of treatment include anti-thyroid medication and radioactive iodine, which are meant to slow thyroid hormone production. In some cases, surgery is needed to remove part or all of the thyroid.

Low levels of T3/T4 hormones can do the exact opposite, known as hypothyroidism. This condition occurs when the thyroid isn’t producing enough T3/T4 hormones, also called an underactive thyroid. This dysfunction can cause fatigue, depression, weight gain, intolerance to warmth, hair loss, and even constipation. In fact, 5 out of 100 Americans aged 12 years and older have hypothyroidism. The most prevalent cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which means the thyroid is mistakenly attacked by the immune system. Hypothyroidism is treatable via medication that replaces the lack of thyroid hormones, but the medication will need to be continually taken.

So, how do we check our thyroid? Visiting your primary care doctor is a great start. Healthcare providers can perform a thyroid panel and get exact data about at what levels the thyroid is producing hormones. Not to mention, doctors can perform a physical assessment as well if the thyroid is inflamed. So, if you haven’t checked your thyroid, there is no better time to start than the present!