The thyroid gland is a very small organ found below the larynx. Although the endocrine gland weighs only 20 to 60 grams, it is extremely important to human health.
The thyroid is irreplaceable, especially for optimal metabolism. The good thing about thyroid disease is that it is generally easy to treat, so if you have an excessive or insufficient function, this is not a reason to be alarmed.
Thyroid gland tasks
The main task of the organ is the production of hormones, more precisely T3 (also called triiodothyronine), T4 (thyroxine, tetraiodothyronine), and calcitonin. While T3 and T4 are produced in specific cells within the organ, calcitonin is produced in C cells ( parafollicular cells ) of the thyroid.
Ultimately, it’s the hormones themselves that make the organ’s work so important. T3 and T4 have a great influence on metabolism and therefore also in many other different areas.
Hormones work alongside other complex mechanisms and perform relevant tasks throughout the body. For example, T3 and T4 ensure that the absorbed energy is perfectly available to the body.
Thyroid hormones contribute to the optimal utilization of nutrients. For example, they help with lipolysis, which is the process of breaking down fat. In addition, they allow the body to use fatty acids and sugar for energy.
The organ even influences the growth of the body and the maturation of cells. Hormones already play an important role in this area in fetuses. That is why a functional thyroid, or rapid diagnosis of an underlying disease, is particularly important in children and adolescents.
In addition, hormones affect the regulation of body temperature and the cardiovascular system. They affect the mood, concentration, and fertility of a man.
T3 and T4 ensure that the nerves and skeleton thrive after body growth is complete. In addition, they are concerned with keeping the cholesterol level as healthy as possible and thus avoiding secondary diseases.
Can do it all
Ultimately, it can be said that the thyroid gland controls almost all the important functions of the body: metabolism and the intestine, the cardiovascular system, the stomach, as well as the nerves and muscles. However, the effects are not limited to the physical components.
The organ can do much more and it also influences personality, mental well-being, sexuality, and fertility and even spreads to the tips of the hair by the growth of nails and hair.
Without the organ, optimal and healthy growth of fetuses and children, and even in adults would not be possible. Serious symptoms sometimes arise as soon as the hormone level becomes unbalanced due to gland disease.
Low functioning: if the gland produces too few hormones
The underlying problem with an underactive thyroid is quickly explained: Ultimately, there are simply too few T3 and T4 hormones in the body. Consequently, the entire metabolism of those affected slows down and various symptoms occur due to the powerful task of the organ.
Causes of an under-function
An underactive thyroid gland can develop for several reasons. Sometimes there are children who are born with this problem. However, such a cause is quite rare. In contrast, many patients experience the destruction of thyroid tissue in the course of life, for example, due to inflammation of the organ.
As a general rule, inflammation of the thyroid gland is not manifested through symptoms; it usually goes unnoticed.
The inflammation comes mainly from the body itself. As part of Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease, it no longer recognizes the gland tissue as its own and begins to produce antibodies, as is customary with a healthy foreign body immune system.
These antibodies are now directed against the endocrine gland tissue and cause chronic inflammation. After a few weeks, sometimes even years, this inflammation finally becomes an insufficient function.
An underactive thyroid is a chronic disease. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated by taking thyroid hormones. Available medications make all symptoms go away by supplying the body with hormones it cannot produce on its own.
No side effects are expected, as with many other hormonal medications, as long as a good fit is made.
Under-active thyroid during pregnancy
An underactive thyroid during pregnancy is particularly serious because the fetus depends on hormones for its proper development. Therefore, the expectant mother should have her endocrine gland checked regularly, to the extent that she knows about the diagnosis before pregnancy. In pregnancy, the dose of the hormonal preparation also increases.
Healthy thyroid glands also change in the months before birth. They often increase in size. A pathological change should always be endorsed by a doctor.
Healthy people can easily meet the increased demands of the endocrine gland during pregnancy. However, in the presence of thyroid disease, the body cannot cope with the challenge. That is why it is advisable to take a blood count when you experience symptoms that indicate over-function or failure.
Support gland function
The thyroid does valuable work and it shows when there is a disease with various symptoms. The good news is that you can do something. And as is often the case, the best way to do this is through nutrition. Because the gland can only function properly if it is adequately supplied with all the necessary nutrients.
The key to a healthy gland is iodine. Children should have approximately 100 to 140 micrograms of iodine daily. Adults need a dose of 180 to 200 micrograms. The widespread use of iodized table salt was recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization) in 1989.
Sufficient iodine intake is particularly important for pregnant women. It can even be as high as 230 to 260 micrograms for healthy thyroid function and associated good fetus development.
However, caution is required when taking iodine. The recommended dose can be easily taken. However, with excessive intake, the inflammatory activity of the gland increases.
Therefore, people with thyroid disease should be careful when taking supplements, otherwise they will quickly exceed the dose. Healthy people, on the other hand, benefit from a good supply of iodine through dietary supplements.