What you should know about the thyroid
Written by Justyna Wiraszka
Reading Time: 3 Minutes
In this article we want to tell you more about your thyroid – how it works, which disorders you might expect, and how they affect women more often than men.
First things first – what is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is placed at the base of your neck. It releases the thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which affect your metabolism and a variety of body functions, such as weight gain or loss. The release of those hormones is regulated by TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), a hormone released by the pituitary gland. TSH regulates T3 and T4. This in turn controls how your body uses and stores energy. Finally, the hypothalamus, a portion of your brain, releases Thyroid Releasing Hormones (TRH), which stimulate the pituitary gland.
Once released, T3 and T4 lower the levels of TSH and TRH which, in turn, lowers the release of T3 and T4. This creates a feedback loop which makes sure that the right amount of thyroid hormones are produced that your body needs.
What causes thyroid disorders?
The most common thyroid disorder causes a disruption in the feedback loop. In case of hypothyroidism, the thyroid is underactive and produces too few hormones. As a result, TSH levels increase to stimulate the thyroid to produce more.
In hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, the thyroid is overactive and produces too many hormones. This causes TSH levels to decrease to stop the thyroid from producing more.
Given that TSH secretion is very sensitive to even small changes in thyroid hormone levels, testing the TSH levels in your blood is a very easy way to learn more about the status of the thyroid.
Hypothyroidism can be hard to diagnose due to their generic symptoms. Symptoms like constipation, dry skin, headaches, weight gain or problems losing weight can indicate hypothyroidism but are also linked to many other disorders.
The American Thyroid Association recommends adults to get regularly screened for thyroid dysfunction beginning at age 35 years and every 5 years after.
How do you know if you have hypothyroidism?
Because the symptoms are so unspecific, hypothyroidism can be easily confused with other conditions. The best way to confirm whether you actually have hypothyroidism is to do a blood test for TSH since it can assess your thyroid function.
Importantly, normal TSH levels can only exclude primary but not secondary or tertiary hypothyroidism. While secondary hypothyroidism originates in the pituitary gland, tertiary hypothyroidism is caused by a malfunction of the hypothalamus. To diagnose either of them, both TSH and free T4 need to be tested.
Why are women more likely than men to have thyroid issues?
There is no single correct explanation for why women suffer from thyroid issues more often than men, though some experts believe that there is a connection between thyroid hormones and female sex hormones.
Thyroid problems can affect women of any age but are particularly common in menopausal women as their hormones fluctuate. This can become an issue when women confuse symptoms of menopause with symptoms of thyroid disorders and delay a correct diagnosis and treatment, and suffer from the symptoms for longer.
How does the thyroid affect your metabolism?
Your metabolism is determined by measuring the amount of oxygen your body uses over a certain amount of time. If that measurement is made at rest, it is referred to as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). Studies have shown that your BMR goes up and down with your thyroid hormone level.
Thyroid hormones have various effects on your body and metabolism, including your weight. For example, weight gain can be one of the many symptoms of hypothyroidism – which is not to say that everyone who gains weight suffers from thyroid issues.
However, it is important to remember that the relationship between your thyroid status, metabolism, and weight is far more complex than that. Many other hormones, proteins and chemicals have an effect on your energy, metabolism and weight.
In conclusion, hypothyroidism should be diagnosed and treated if detected, but treatment should not be thought of as an easy weight loss strategy.
Bloom Thyroid Test
Are you interested in checking your thyroid status? With the Bloom Thyroid Test you can check your TSH levels within a few minutes. For more information about the Thyroid Test check out our Test website.
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