I was diagnosed with a hyperthyroid when I was in my mid-20s. It was never enough to be on medication but enough that I had to go to the endocrinologist every six months for blood work. Before that, I just thought I had a high metabolism. But then I started getting heart palpitations, I was always hungry, my sleep patterns were off… something just wasn’t right. I knew there was something wrong but I couldn’t put a finger on it. That’s why today’s post is about making sense of thyroid disease and understanding what it is.
First, let’s talk about the thyroid. It’s located in your throat and is part of the endocrine system. The thyroid produces T3 and T4 hormones that regulate your metabolic process (your metabolism).
Your thyroid is the largest gland in your endocrine system. What your endocrine group of glands does is regulate things like your physical growth, mental and physical development, reproductive process and metabolism. This includes your pancreas, pituitary, ovaries, testes and thyroid glands among others.
While your thyroid is the largest of all the endocrine glands, it is still relatively small. It is shaped like a butterfly and located in the middle of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. Have you ever had a doctor handle your throat and ask you to swallow? When he does that, he is checking your thyroid gland.
When healthy, your thyroid produces Thyroxine (T4), Triiodothyronine (T3) and Calcitonin hormones. Calcitonin focuses on regulating the amount of phosphate and calcium in your blood. As related to weight loss and metabolism, it has very little effect.
On the other hand, your T3 and T4 levels (commonly referred to as the thyroid hormones) are directly related to metabolism and weight gain or loss. When those hormones are created they are circulated throughout your body. Your pituitary gland makes TRH (thyroid releasing hormone) that tells your thyroid to go to work, and T4 and T3 are manufactured and distributed.
When those thyroid hormones are produced in a sufficient quantity and ratio, you enjoy a healthy metabolism. Your natural body weight is regulated automatically, and as long as you enjoy proper nutrition and health, you never gain or lose very much weight.
But, if your thyroid produces too much or too little T3 and T4 hormones, you can lose or gain weight.
This is because your metabolism is spiked (hyperthyroidism) or it plummets (hypothyroidism), due to the improper amount or ratio of those hormones. When you are healthy, your body produces approximately 4 times the level of T4 as T3.
What are the symptoms of thyroid disease?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism include:
Sleepiness or sleeplessness
Weariness, aches and pains
Weight gain and obesity
Mood swings and depression
Decreased sex drive
Rapid heartbeat and nervousness
Many of the problems associated with a thyroid disorder are common to both hypo- and hyperthyroidism. Any physical process attached to your metabolism and energy can be affected negatively if your thyroid is operating improperly.
When that occurs you are at a greater than average risk of contracting cancer, developing heart disease, having skin and hair problems, and suffering from distorted levels of energy as well as brittle bones.
If you suffer any of the above symptoms and think your thyroid maybe to blame, see your doctor immediately. This small gland plays a big role in proper health and longevity.
There are several chemical and medicinal treatment options for thyroid disease. Discuss these with your doctor. Your entire body benefits from proper nutrition, drinking lots of water, plenty of rest and moderate levels of physical activity. Your thyroid is no different, but chemical treatment may be needed to restore it to a healthy, natural state.
After finding out that it was my thyroid not producing enough T3, my doctor was able to advise me in a way that would help me maintain a healthy weight. I still see an endocrinologist every 6 months and I’m thankful that my thyroid is still under control without medication.