What You Need to Know About Your Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland is a bow- tie looking gland that sits just above your collarbones. The thyroid is filled with colloid. And colloid is made up mostly of thyroglobulin. When you ingest iodine, it joins the thyroglobulin and changes into two major thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. These hormones travel through your bloodstream and do their work.

What do T3 and T4 do?

Both T3 and T4 are active, but T3 is more potent. Much of the T4 that is produced is later converted to T3. Most of the T3 and T4 in your blood are attached to carrier proteins that protect them and serve as a reservoir for when the body needs them. A small portion of free, unattached thyroid hormone (FTH) is the hormone that does all the work.

FTH penetrates into the nucleus of the cells and switches on genes that control your bodily function. Here are some things it FTH does:

  • increases your heart’s ability to contract
  • controls the rate at which you breathe
  • affects the motility of your gastrointestinal system
  • influences the rate at which your bones remodel themselves
  • affects your mental alertness.

Regulating thyroid hormone levels

The body carefully controls how much thyroid is available to the different organs. Both too and too little can be dangerous. The pituitary gland, which sits at the base of your brain, senses the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood. It releases a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Depending on how much you need, TSH turns on and off the production and release of T3 and T4 from the thyroid gland.

What causes hyperthyroidism?

This happens usually when the body’s immune system attacks its own thyroid gland. It’s called Graves’ disease. Antibodies stimulate the TSH receptors in the thyroid. This leads to increased production and release of thyroid hormone. You’ll feel like your body is racing.

What are the symptoms?

  • a rapid heartbeat
  • profuse sweating
  • heat intolerance
  • bulging of the eyes
  • a tremor
  • insomnia, diarrhea, and weight loss

Treatment options are medications, radioactive iodine and surgery.

What causes hypothyroidism?

This happens when the body’s own antibodies attack and damage the thyroid gland. It often affects women between 20 and 60 years of age.

What are the symptoms?

The onset of symptoms is usually very gradual, evolving over months to years. Look out for low energy, weight gain, intolerance to cold, muscle aches, joint aches, and constipation. A simple thyroid hormone pill can fix it up.

An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. Now that you know what to look out for, you can be more aware of potential thyroid trouble.