Understanding Your Thyroid
Functions of the Thyroid Gland
Your Thyroid Gland is a small bow (or butterfly) shaped gland, located in the front of the neck, below the voice box or larynx (Adam’s Apple) on either side of the trachea (windpipe).
It produces hormones (called T4, T3, T2, T1 and calcitonin) that play a role in relaying messages to many different organs throughout your body. The thyroid gland takes iodine found in foods and combines with the amino acid tyrosine to convert these hormones into their active form - importantly Thyroxine -T4 to the active Triiodothyronine -T3. They are then released into the blood stream and transported throughout the body where they control metabolism to either speed up or slow down our vital functions.
Thyroid hormones are like the spark plugs of the body. They ignite the fuel in the mitochondria of the cell to produce energy with which the body performs all of its functions. So a problem with the thyroid gland can causes energy problems and usually fatigue is one of the first to present.
A thyroid disease can develop when your thyroid makes either too much or too little of these hormones. Some conditions are hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Graves disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. There are other conditions that may contribute to thyroid dysfunction that can also create ongoing and serious health problems.
Hypothyroidism is when an under-active thyroid produces insufficient thyroid hormones causing the body’s metabolic functions to slow down, resulting in many different adverse effects on bodily functions. Heart disease, infertility, and poor brain development in children are some of the serious consequences.
In Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormones causing the body’s metabolic functions to speed up creating adverse effects sometimes opposite (but sometimes similar) to hypothyroidism such as weight loss, rapid heartbeat, increased appetite, and irritability.
The Thyroid may be small but it does a LOT
Regulates the rate at which calories are burned, fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism, affecting weight loss or weight gain
Can slow down or speed up the heartbeat, affects the brain and central nervous system
Can raise or lower body temperature and affect circulation
Influences our bowel function, and the rate at which food moves through the digestive tract
Controls the way muscles contract, muscle tone and suppleness
Controls growth, bone development and the rate at which dying cells are replaced
Affects our innate and adaptive immune responses
Affects our appetite, energy, blood sugar and cholesterol levels
Symptoms you may experience
There are a number of symptoms and health challenges you might be facing if your thyroid is not functioning such as brittle nails, dry skin, muscle weakness, irregular uterine bleeding, delayed puberty, slow growth, sexual dysfunction - AND THE LIST GOES ON.
Fatigue - Sugar Cravings - Cold Sensitivity - Balance Issues - Stimulant dependant - Hair Loss - Anxiety - Sleep problems - Poor memory - Hyper activity
Weight gain/loss - Poor concentration - Fluid retention - Mood fluctuations - Menstrual irregularities - Depression - Digestive issues - Poor immunity - Hormonal fluctuations - Low libido
If you have any of the above symptoms and they are affecting your quality of life, we can assist you in investigating these.
Book a Thyroid Discovery Call
About T4 and T3
Every single cell in the body relies on thyroid hormones for regulation of their metabolism. A healthy thyroid gland produces about 80% of T4 and about 20% of T3, however, T3 possesses about four times the strength as T4, which means it needs to be adequately converted.
In the intestines we convert about 20% of our thyroid hormone T4 into T3, but only in the presence of enough healthy gut bacteria.
When the levels of hormones T3 & T4 drops too low, the pituitary gland (in the brain) produces Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more T4 and T3 hormones to raise blood levels.
If the thyroid gland is like a furnace, the pituitary gland is the thermostat. Thyroid hormones are like heat. When the heat gets back to the thermostat, it turns it off. As the room cools down (eg. thyroid hormone levels drop), the thermostat turns back on (TSH increases) and the furnace produces more heat (thyroid hormones). It’s a feedback loop.
TSH is not the only test of Thyroid Function
Testing for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is important as it’s sensitive to changes in T4 levels, and gives us an idea of how your thyroid may be functioning. However TSH could be within normal ranges, and you still feel unwell and may be due to a variety of reasons. We also know that T3 is required in all cells to run your metabolism, so further testing of this and other markers may be recommended
In order to get a holistic perspective of your Thyroid function there are multiple tests that can be undertaken such as measuring female/male hormones and immune system agents (known as antibodies) that can help in understanding what is actually going on. PLUS - we want to discuss your symptoms, nutritional status, digestion, and undertake other examinations to get to the depth of imbalances. After all, if a tree’s leaves are pre-maturely falling, we may need to look further than the trunk to find the root causes of the problem.
Thyroid Disorders affect 10 times more women than men, worldwide.
Iodine Deficiency has re-emerged in Australia and can cause ‘Goitre’ (swelling and enlargement of the thyroid gland)
As we get older Thyroid Disorders, especially hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid gland) become more common
Approximately 10% of pregnant women in Australia suffer from mild hypothyroidism (subclinical)
Hypothyroidism affects up to 5% of the global population, with a further estimated 5% being undiagnosed. Over 99% of affected patients suffer from primary hypothyroidism.
Worldwide, environmental iodine deficiency is the most common cause of all thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism, but in areas of iodine sufficiency, Hashimoto’s disease (chronic autoimmune thyroiditis) is the most common cause of thyroid failure.