Thyroid Awareness Month in January

What weighs about 25 grams or .88 ounces is about 4 inches long and an inch wide and can cause havoc with your whole body?  It is the thyroid or thyroid gland.  It looks like a butterfly found in the front of your neck, below the Adam’s apple.  The gland secretes three hormones: the two thyroid hormones- triiodothyronine and thyroxine, and a peptide hormone, calcitonin.  The thyroid hormones influence the metabolic rate and protein synthesis, body temperature and in children, growth and development.  It also controls heart rate, blood pressure, and weight.

Why is the thyroid so important?  The thyroid hormones effects three major areas of the body. These include metabolic, cardiovascular, and developmental.  Why are we bringing attention to it this month?  More than 12 % or 30 million of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid disease during their lifetime.  Up to 50% of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.

Metabolic. The thyroid hormones increase the basal metabolic rate and have effects on almost all body tissues.  Appetite, the absorption of substances, and gut motility are all influenced by thyroid hormones. They increase the absorption in the gut, generationuptake by cells, and breakdown of glucose.  They stimulate the breakdown of fats, and increase the number of free fatty acids. Despite increasing free fatty acids, thyroid hormones decrease cholesterol levels, perhaps by increasing the rate of secretion of cholesterol in bile.

Cardiovascular. The hormones increase the rate and strength of the heartbeat. They increase the rate of breathing, intake and consumption of oxygen, and increase the activity of mitochondria. Combined, these factors increase blood flow and the body’s temperature.

Developmental. Thyroid hormones are important for normal development.  They increase the growth rate of young people, and cells of the developing brain are a major target for the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Thyroid hormones play a particularly crucial role in brain maturation during fetal development and first few years of postnatal life.

The thyroid hormones also play a role in maintaining normal sexual function, sleep, and thought patterns. Increased levels are associated with increased speed of thought generation but decreased focus.  Sexual function, including libido and the maintenance of a normal menstrual cycle, are influenced by thyroid hormones.

See how to check your thyroid on The Doctors.






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