Updated: Nov 29, 2020
Over the next few months we will be covering "All Things Thyroid"
It's function along with its diseases or conditions
Hyperthyroidism & Hypothyroidism vs Hashimoto's & Graves Disease
Typical signs & symptoms
Traditional treatments vs alternative treatments
Foods, dieting, & supplements
BONUS touching on MTHRF (which will follow in another blog post)
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What is the Thyroid?
It is an endocrine gland shaped like a little butterfly that consists of 2 lobes, located in the front of the trachea just below the Adam's apple. If you place your thumb and forefinger on either side of your throat and swallow. You will feel this harder structure move up and down. That is the cartilage and the thyroid sits on both sides of it.
What Hormones Does It Make?
These are collectively known as Thyroid Hormone (TH). T3 is the more active of the two and therefore T4 must be converted into T3 to be able to influence the activity of all the cells and tissues of your body. In fact, every cell in the body has receptors for thyroid hormone (TH). These hormones are responsible for the most basic aspects of body function, impacting all major systems of the body. TH directly acts on the brain, the G.I. tract, the cardiovascular system, bone metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, gallbladder and liver function, steroid hormone production, glucose metabolism, lipid and cholesterol metabolism, protein metabolism and body temperature regulation.
How are Thyroid Hormones Made?
Iodine, ingested in food and water as iodide, is actively concentrated by the thyroid and converted to organic iodine by Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) in follicular cells. These cells surround a space filled with colloid, which consists of thyroglobulin, a glycoprotein containing tyrosine within its matrix. Tyrosine in contact with the membrane of the follicular cells is iodinated and coupled to produce TH. The thyroid produces T4 in significantly greater quantities than T3, but T3 is biologically more active than T4, which is why T4 is converted into the more active T3 in multiple tissues and organs, but especially in the liver, gut, skeletal muscle, brain and the thyroid gland itself. Additionally, selenium is also essential for the conversion of T4 to T3, as deiodinase enzymes (those enzymes that remove iodine atoms from T4 during conversion) are selenium-dependent.
What Do Thyroid Hormones Do?
The T3 derived from T4, and the T3 secreted directly by the thyroid gland are bound to one of the three major transport proteins; thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG), transthyretin and human serum albumin. These proteins are responsible for binding to and transporting TH to the necessary tissues where they are cleaved from their protein-carriers to become free T4 and free T3 and bind to thyroid hormone receptors (THRs) and exert their metabolic effect.
If too much thyroid hormone is secreted, the body's cells work faster than normal, causing the body's organs to also work faster. This can possibly cause a quickening of your heart rate or increased activity of your intestine so that you have frequent bowel movements or even diarrhea. This is referred to as HYPERTHYROIDISM. Grave’s disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States
If too little thyroid hormone is secreted, the cells and organs of your body slow down. This can possibly cause your heart rate to be slower than normal or sluggish intestine activity leading to constipation. This is referred to as HYPOTHYROIDISM. Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.
Hyperthyroidism ≠ Grave’s
Hypothyroidism ≠ Hashimoto’s.
These are very different diseases and how they should be treated is also very different. However, in traditional Western Medicine they are treated as the same thing. Often Grave’s & Hashimoto’s are missed due to the lack of complete Thyroid Panel Testing. It is only after these two autoimmune diseases have damage the Thyroid that now hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism exists along with a slew of other issues. At this moment it is important to know that they are not the same thing. This will be addressed in a later post.
How Is The Thyroid Regulated?
The thyroid gland is regulated by the endocrine system, and the endocrine system is a system of organs called glands. These glands secrete hormones into the bloodstream to communicate with different areas of the body. Certain organs are really defined by this method and they are called endocrine glands, at which there are 9 major endocrine glands. One of the major endocrine glands is the hypothalamus. This gland is unique in that it plays a dual role in the nervous system and endocrine system, which often lands it the name the “Control Center.” As an endocrine gland, it makes ADH & Oxytocin which gets stored in the posterior pituitary gland. It then uses the nervous systems to communicate with the pituitary which is called the “Master Gland” because it takes that stimulation from the hypothalamus and directs it to nearly all the other endocrine glands. So much so that their function is ultimately dependent on the function of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is then made up of 2 parts the anterior pituitary and posterior pituitary. As mentioned the posterior pituitary stores ADH & Oxytocin made by the hypothalamus. The anterior pituitary makes and stores its own hormones that then act on the other endocrine glands.
Most endocrine glands are regulated by a Negative Feedback Loop, which is a self-regulating system that plays an important role in how many of the systems of the human body stay in control, including hormones. In a negative feedback loop, the system controls how much end product is being made by shutting down manufacturing when levels get too high. Think about it in terms of your furnace. The person who sets the temperature is the hypothalamus, the thermostat is the pituitary, and the heat is the thyroid hormone. When it falls below a certain temperature, the thermostat sends a signal to the furnace to start putting out heat, and as soon as the room reaches the normal temperature, the thermostat signals the furnace to shut off. So in terms of things that could go wrong along the way, think:
The glands the thyroid hormone (TH) works on
Next post will dive into the diseases of the Thyroid.