The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that controls metabolism and energy. This small gland is famous as the Master gland of our complex interdependent endocrine system (glands and hormones). It’s the trigger that controls the hormonal network by producing several hormones which transfer energy to every cell of the body. The gland acts as a “head” of our metabolism. Despite its small size, it is the very important gland of the human body which affects the whole body functions directly or indirectly. It is present at the base of the neck.
According to the American Thyroid Association, about 27 million Americans have a thyroid disorder. And the alarming situation is that 60% of those with these disorders are unaware of their condition and remain undiagnosed.
20 grams in weight and about 3-4 inches long, the small but powerful thyroid is the production house of hormones which also store them. It helps the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles and other organs working in a proper way.
Here are some important facts you should know about the thyroid gland. As this gland is very important for your whole body’s functions, you should be conscious about thyroid’s proper functionality. If you feel any of the symptoms related to thyroid’s disorders, you should immediately consult the best Endocrinologist in Lahore and other main cities of Pakistan through Marham.
16 Thyroid Facts Everyone Should Know
- The thyroid produces two significant hormones T3 (tri-iodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). The over and underproduction of these hormones produces significant changes in one’s health. Another hormone calcitonin is also produced by the thyroid gland which regulates calcium stores in our body and helps in the bone-building process.
- Iodine is essential for the formation of both T4 and T3 hormones.
- T4 is an inactive form which readily converts to T3 in our liver in significant amounts. So proper liver functioning is also necessary for thyroid health.
- T3 affects nutrient absorption from carbohydrates and fats, the rate of protein metabolism, the rate of food digestion, muscle building, oxygen utilization in cells and energy production efficiency in the cells.
- Thyroid hormone production is controlled by the hypothalamus (brain part) and pituitary gland (located in the brain). So the proper functioning of the brain and pituitary gland is required for the optimal balance in the body with the help of thyroid hormones.
- Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, stimulates the hypothalamus to release TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and as a result, influences T3 production. Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine, so consuming good quality proteins (containing tyrosine) is important to both for thyroid and brain health.
- Thyroid disease becomes more common as we age. But according to research, women are more prone to thyroid disorders than men.
- The overproduction of the thyroid hormone is referred to as hyperthyroidism. It increases metabolic rate, sensitivity to heat, restlessness, anxiety, weight loss, and goiter production.
- Hypothyroidism is an underproduction of thyroid hormone and has symptoms like weight gain and fatigue, constipation, depression, low body temperature, sleep disturbances, difficulty in concentrating, fluid retention (edema), hair loss, infertility, Joint aches, and light sensitivity.
- Hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism
- The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks its own thyroid tissues. This autoimmune disease accounts for 90% of Americans with hypothyroidism.
- Blood tests are available to diagnose thyroid disorders. Usually, a blood test for TSH level is done. But other tests are also available to check the detailed functionality of the gland and its hormones. Usually, doctors figure out the disorder according to the symptoms.
- The disorders of thyroid gland produce very common symptoms. This misleads the diagnosis. Usually, patients take it easy due to common symptoms like constipation or depression. And try to relieve their symptoms and not understanding the root cause.
- Synthetic thyroxine (T4) is available for the treatment of thyroid disorders.
- The doctors usually advise to reduce gluten from the diet and take foods with thyroid friendly vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, iron, selenium, and zinc.
- Foods that inhibit thyroid health are raw cruciferous vegetables, soy, sugar, caffeine. Some foods, otherwise healthy and important for us, are detrimental for the thyroid gland. Such as foods that contain phytoestrogens, e.g. nuts, seeds, legume, and grains. Soy and products having soy like infant formula have also effect on thyroid functioning. Similarly, foods containing proteolytic enzymes can also affect the efficacy of thyroid gland. They include potatoes, seeds, and legumes.
- Family history is also linked to thyroid disorders.
Awareness about the thyroid gland, how it works, what foods affect its efficacy and what are the symptoms of its disorders is an important step towards improving thyroid function and overall health.