The Thyroid – What it is and What it Does

I’m currently working on my certificate in hormone health through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition where I received extensive nutrition training in 2020-2021. As a health and wellness coach, I wanted to learn more about hormones because they are poorly understood by traditional medicine. I know I am NOT a medical professional and any and all information provided here is for your information only. If you suspect you have a thryoid issue, I highly recommend that you work with a doctor to get a full thyroid panel. At the minimum it should include your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).

The pituitary gland (which is the power house of the endocrine system) secretes Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, aka TSH. TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete hormones such as T3 & T4 that affect metabolism. In a nutshell, the metabolism is vital to chemical changes that take place in a cell. These changes make energy and the materials our cells need to grow, reproduce, and stay healthy.

Triiodothyronine, which is more commonly referred to as T3, is produced by the thyroid gland and other tissues through a process known as deiodination. This allows the hormone to be enzymatically converted to T4 in the body. T3 is important on its own as well as it helps the body maintain muscle control, brain function and development as well as digestive and heart functions. T3 also plays a significant role in the body’s metabolic rate and maintenance of bone health.

Thyroxine (T4) is produced by the thyroid gland under regulation from the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, setting up the HPT axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Thyroid). The feedback loop signals to the hypothalamus in to release thyrotropin-releasing hormone, which then stimulates the pituitary gland to release the thyroid stimulating hormone. It really is a powerhouse.

Problems related to T3 and T4 can be rather significant and affect nearly aspect of our metabolism. When the thyroid is out of whack, the body doesn’t function properly. For example, if you have too much T3 in the bloodstream, you are struggling with thyrotoxicosis. This condition often results from overactivity in the thyroid gland, which is also referred to as hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism occurs in conditions such as Graves’ disease, inflammation of the thyroid or a benign tumor. Signs of thyrotoxicosis include weight loss, increased appetite, palpitations, irregular menstrual cycle, tiredness, irritability, and hair thinning. Hyperthyroidism can also occur when supplements with T3 are ingested.

Conversely, hypothyroidism occurs if the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone. This may be due to autoimmune conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition which essentially has the the body treat thyroid hormones as invaders. Certain medications can also cause hypothyroidism such as lithium and glucocortocoids and any medication containing iodine. Hypothyroidism can also occur in pituitary dysfunction, such as pituitary tumors or inflammation.

While hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism, both conditions require the assistance of a medical professional, preferably a functional medicine practitioner. You can check your local listings to find functional medicine doctors in your area. They can be expensive and most don’t take insurance, but they may be the best defense you have in combatting thyroid dysfunction.

To assess the state of thyroid function, experts recomment that you ask for a complete Thryoid Panel (it’s a simple blood test) and it includes thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), T3 (free and total), T4 (free and total), reverse T3, and thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and anti-thyroglobulin (TG) and antibodies. I recommend a functional medicine practitioner in part because most general practitioners only test TSH, total T3 and total T4.

Remember this article is not to be interpretated as medical advice nor is it a substitute for medical treatment. Thyroid dysfunction is a serious condition and should be monitored by a medical professional.

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