What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the frontal portion of the neck, below Adam’s apple. This thyroid gland uses iodine to produce vital hormones, especially important for the body’s metabolism, energy and heat regulation. Thyroxine, also termed T4 is the primary thyroid hormone. When this hormone reaches the body tissues via the blood stream, it is converted to tri-iodothyronine termed T3, the more active hormone.
What are the typical functions of the Thyroid?
The thyroid, rich in blood vessels, influences certain important functions in the human body like metabolism, body temperature, growth and development. It also participates in brain development during infancy and childhood.
Thyroid gland functions are based on a feedback mechanism provided by the hypothalamus part of the brain that also contains the pituitary gland.
When thyroid hormone levels are low, the hypothalamus produces thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) which in turn signals the pituitary gland to produce thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This in turn signals the thyroid to secrete more T4.
Abnormal production of thyroid hormones have two scenarios:
Hyperthyroidism is a case where there is overproduction of thyroid hormones.
Hypothyroidism is a case where there is less than required amount of thyroid hormones.
Disorders related to Thyroid
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder. By contrast the most common cause of hypothyroidism is under production of T4. World-wide this is generally due to an iodine deficient diet. In the US it is more likely to be caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also an autoimmune disorder.
The second most common cause of “apparent” hypothyroidism is the reduced capability of the body to convert T4, the secreted form, into T3, the more active form at the cellular level. We are seeing this more and more commonly in women where there is now an imbalance in the T4/T3 ratio and a reduced effectiveness of thyroid’s metabolic effects.
This manifests itself with symptoms of thyroid deficiency:
The 3 F’s:
- Freezing cold
The 3 D’s:
- Dry skin
- Dopey (decreased cognition, fuzzy thinking)
So, if you feel your metabolism is not up to par or if you exhibit the dreaded 3 F’s and 3 D’s, contact us for an evaluation.