Getting to Know Your Thyroid

Written by: Sarah Vadeboncoeur & Anita Kushwaha

What is your thyroid?

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland situated at the base of the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple.

thyroidgland

What does your thyroid do?

The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones:

  • Triiodothyronine (T3)
  • Thyroxine (T4)

These hormones produced by the thyroid gland — T3 and T4 — have a great impact on your health, affecting all aspects of your metabolism.

The thyroid’s hormones regulate vital body functions. For instance, they maintain the rate at which your body uses fats and carbohydrates, help control your body temperature, influence your heart rate, and help regulate the production of proteins.

If your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally, it may affect:

  • Heart rate
  • Nervous system
  • Body weight and metabolism
  • Muscle strength
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Body temperature
  • Cholesterol levels

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism (i.e. underactive thyroid) is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the above mentioned hormones. When this occurs, bodily functions slow down.

Hypothyroidism may either be genetic or develop in the course of life. There can be many different causes for an underactive thyroid. For example, one reason might be a lack of iodine. Getting enough iodine through your diet is therefore important for normal thyroid function. Similarly, a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis –  an auto-immune condition that causes chronic inflammation of the thyroid – can also lead to underactivity.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue, tiredness
  • Slowed heart rate and metabolism
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle weakness, aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Constipation, digestive upset
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Heavy or irregular menstruation
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Hair loss or dry/brittle hair
  • Dry skin
  • Joint pain, stiffness or swelling
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Loss of sexual desire

Concerned about your thyroid function? Contact Dr. Sarah to inquire about getting your thyroid levels tested.

 References:

  1. Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/home/ovc-20155291
  2. PubMed Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072572/
  3. EndocrineWeb: https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/hypothyroidism-too-little-thyroid-hormone