November 26, 2015

Thyroid Part 1 of 5

Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

I’m going to start a series of articles relating to the thyroid. I’ve always found endocrinology to be a difficult subject for me to comprehend even at a basic level. It takes a special doctor to be able to learn and remember all the functions of the body’s endocrine system. I am not that guy, but we can still take a closer look at the thyroid and learn some basic facts and how to apply them.

The thyroid is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body and has some impact on every cell in your body. The greatest job of the thyroid is regulating your metabolism and weight by controlling the fat burning process. The thyroid hormones are also necessary for growth and development in children and nearly every physiological process of the body. Too much or too little of these hormones can mean trouble for your overall health and well-being.

Research shows that 10 to 40 percent of the population has suboptimal thyroid function. An estimated one in eight women aged 35 to 65 has some form of thyroid disease. More than 25% of perimenopausal women have hypothyroidism, or too little thyroid production. Females are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than males.

The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland found at the front of your neck under the voice box. It has two lobes located at each side of the windpipe, connected by a piece of tissue called the isthmus.

The hormones produced are called master hormones because they control many other hormones that affect all cells of the body. The thyroid hormones interact with insulin, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone to name a few. The fact that all these are linked so closely together and necessarily have constant communication explains why any interruption in function of the thyroid has wide ranging health effects.

There are three types of hormones made by the thyroid. The largest percentage is in the form of T4, the inactive form. Your liver converts T4 into the active T3 form with help from other enzymes. T4 is short for Thyroxine. T3 refers to Triiodothyronine and T2 is Diiodotyronine. T2 is the least understood of the three.

T3 is important because it tells the nucleus of your cells to send messages to you DNA to increase your metabolism by burning fat. That is why T3 lowers cholesterol, regrows hair and helps keep you lean.

There are three common terms associated with the thyroid; hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. Hyperthyroidism means the thyroid is over producing hormones, it is not that common. Hypothyroidism is the most common condition and is under production of the hormones. Hashimoto’s is a disease, where the other two are conditions. It is also known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, autoimmune thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, and is an autoimmune disease. In Hashimoto’s, antibodies react against proteins in the thyroid gland, causing gradual destruction of the gland itself, and making the gland unable to produce hormones. It results in hypothyroidism.

In the next article, we will cover some of the disruptors of thyroid function.