Where is the Thyroid located?
The thyroid gland is located in front of the trachea, more commonly known as the windpipe, and just below the larynx or Adam’s apple in the neck.The shape of the thyroid is similar to a butterfly with two halves or lobes. Two portions are connected by a band of thyroid tissue called the isthmus. The loose connective tissue allows the thyroid to move and change position when we swallow.Interestingly, the thyroid is developed in the back of the tongue and has to migrate to the front of the neck before birth. On average, the thyroid weighs between 20 and 60 grams (that’s up to 2 ounces). Each lobe contains a high number of small vesicles (sacs) –called follicles –which store thyroid hormones in the form of little droplets.
The Endocrine System
To understand the functions of the thyroid gland, it’s essential to discuss the endocrine system.The endocrine system is a collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things.In addition to the thyroid gland, the pituitary gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries (in females) and testicles (in males) all make up the endocrine system. Each gland of the endocrine system stores hormones to be released into the bloodstream and transferred into the body’s cells.
The Thyroid and Iodine
The thyroid gland uses iodine to make two main hormones:Triiodothyronine (T3)Thyroxine (T4)To a lesser extent, the thyroid also produces calcitonin, which helps control blood calcium levels. The body can not make the mineral iodine, which is why it is required through the diet. Iodine is absorbed into our bloodstream from food in our bowel. It is then carried to the thyroid gland, where it is eventually used to make thyroid hormones. Thyroid cells are unique in that they are highly specialized to absorb and use iodine.
Thyroxine is called T4 because it contains four iodine atoms. To exert its effects, T4 is converted to triiodothyronine (T3) by the removal of an iodine atom.A thyroid that is functioning normally produces approximately 80% T4 and about 20% T3, though T3 is the stronger of the pair.T3 and T4 travel in your bloodstream to reach almost every cell in the body to regulate the speed with which the cells/metabolism work. For example, T3 and T4 regulate your heart rate and how fast your intestines process food. So if T3 and T4 levels are low, your heart rate may be slower than normal, and you may have constipation/weight gain. If T3 and T4 levels are high, you may have a rapid heart rate and diarrhea/weight loss.
The Pituitary Gland and the Hypothalmis
The pituitary gland and hypothalamus both control the thyroid. When thyroid hormone levels drop too low, the hypothalamus, located at the base of the brain, secretes a hormone alerting the pituitary gland to produce thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).The thyroid responds to this chain of events by producing more hormones. The amount of TSH that the pituitary sends into the bloodstream depends on the amount of T4 that the pituitary sees, and once the T4 in the blood goes above a certain level, the production of TSH is shut off.You can imagine this cycle like a heater and a thermostat. When the heater is off, and it becomes cold, the thermostat reads the temperature and turns on the heater. When the heat rises to an appropriate level, the thermostat senses this and turns off the heater. Thus, the thyroid and the pituitary, like a heater and thermostat, turn on and off.
People with an overactive thyroid have a condition called hyperthyroidism. Excess amounts of T3 and T4 are produced and released, causing disruptions throughout the body. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism include the following:
fatigue or muscle weakness hand tremors mood swings nervousness or anxiety rapid heartbeat heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat dry skin dryness trouble sleeping weight loss increased frequency of bowel movements light periods or skipping periods
Under active Thyroid
Hypothyroidism is just the opposite-too little T3 and T4. Approximately 10 million Americans are likely to have this common medical condition. In fact, as many as 10% of women may have some degree of thyroid hormone deficiency. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include: fatigue weakness weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight coarse, dry hair dry, rough pale skin hair loss cold intolerance (you can’t tolerate cold temperatures like those around you)muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches constipation depression irritability memory loss abnormal menstrual cycles decreased libido.
Other Conditions of the Thyroid
Several conditions result from the abnormal function of the thyroid. In addition to hyper and hypothyroidism, the following conditions can occur.
A goiter is a bulge in the neck. This toxic goiter is associated with hyperthyroidism, and a non-toxic goiter, also known as a simple or endemic goiter, is caused by iodine deficiency.
Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid that may be associated with hyperthyroidism. Inflammation can cause the thyroid’s cells to die, making the thyroid unable to produce enough hormones to maintain the body’s normal metabolism. There are five types of thyroiditis, and the treatment is specific to each.
This type of cancer is relatively common, and long-term survival rates are excellent. This type of cancer can affect anyone at any age, though women and people over thirty are most likely to develop the condition.
As you now know, the thyroid gland is where the production and secretion of the hormones T3 and T4 take place. But what are the functions of the it?This gland is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood, and bone maintenance. Its correct functioning depends on having a good supply of iodine from the diet.
The Metabolic Rate
Your metabolic rate is the rate at which your body burns calories. You can separate the types of calories your body burns into two categories: resting calories or activity calories. Even when we’re just sitting on the couch watching TV, our body is burning calories. This is your baseline or basal metabolic rate and in fact, accounts for about 60–75 percent of the total amount of energy you burn. While at rest, your organs and essential biological functions are still working hard for you, which is why we need energy in the form of nutrition even when we’re inactive.
When energy is used for things like eating, walking, and other physical activity it is called thermogenesis. A few examples of specific metabolic effects of thyroid hormones include: Increased thyroid hormone levels stimulate lipid metabolism. This is the process of using fat for energy or storing it in the body for later use. Thyroid hormones also stimulate almost all aspects of carbohydrate and glucose metabolism.
Support a healthy thyroid
There are numerous natural techniques you can utilize to help boost the health and function of your thyroid gland. Reduce Stress. Stress is a natural part of life. However, today, more people are experiencing higher levels of stress, which can wreak havoc on our health. Living in a constant state of fight or flight can tax the adrenal glands. This can suppress the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. Both of which directly influence function. Find ways to minimize stress through calming activities that you enjoy.
Get Rest. The body requires sleep for overall health and healing. However, thyroid conditions can impact sleep patterns, which lead to adverse health effects. Adults need from 7 to 9 hours each night. Keep in mind if you miss a few hours, you can’t ‘catch-up’ later on. If you have trouble sleeping, try eating dinner at least two hours before bed. Have a cup of calming herbal tea, and dab a few drops of lavender oil on the bottoms of your feet.
Move Daily. Physical activity is excellent for assisting in hormone production! If you’re experiencing a sluggish metabolism, aim for at least 30 minutes a day of low-intensity exercise. Walking is a wonderful way of achieving this.
Eliminate sugar and alcohol. Refined sugar and carbohydrates, as well as alcohol, can wreak havoc on your body and your thyroid. These foods cause inflammation, weight gain, and blood sugar issues. If you have a sweet tooth, turn to fresh fruit.
Foods that support the thyroid
A diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals, such as selenium, iodine, zinc, thiamine, B12, and vitamin D can help heal your thyroid and reduce inflammation. Fill your plate with dark leafy greens, quality fats, and plant-based protein sources. You can also test out incorporating more sea vegetables like seaweed into your diet. In fact, just one dried sheet of dried seaweed contains well above the daily recommended value of iodine.
I hope you learned some interesting things about this marvelous mysterious gland.