January is Thyroid awareness month and it’s a great way to inform others about thyroid health, not just the general public but also those that suffer from some type of thyroid-related disease. We’ll point out 9 things you should know about your thyroid and why is it important to keep in good health.
The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of your neck and it looks very much like a butterfly. Even though this is one of the smaller glands on your body, it’s a role in regulating your overall metabolism and health is HUGE! For example, thyroid utilizes the iodine from your food (you know, salt contains iodine) in order to make some of the most essential hormones that regulate the function of your liver, kidneys, and brain.
Furthermore, your thyroid gland also teams up with the pituitary gland (located in your brain) in order to ensure the proper balance of hormones in your body
How does my thyroid work?
Your thyroid produces and releases hormones commonly known as T3 and T4. The proper balance of these hormones (along with the other hormones in your body) has a beneficial effect on various organs. For example:
- Heart – The heart rate and blood flow are greatly influenced by your thyroid. It can increase or decrees your heart rate and regulate blood flow by contracting and relaxing the walls of your blood vessels.
- Fertility – Thyroid hormones also play a huge part in the regularity of your menstrual cycles. When they are out of balance, you might have irregular ovulation or periods.
- Skeleton – We all know that as we age, our bones are getting more fragile and can break easily. This is sometimes called osteoporosis. However, the speed on how fast our bones break down is regulated by our thyroid gland. A good balance of thyroid hormones ensures that your bones don’t lose too much calcium and Vitamin D too fast and they won’t become so brittle.
- Bodyweight – You probably heard that someone has issues maintaining their weight and that the main cause by being their thyroid gland. That can be true. Our thyroid regulates our metabolism, so basically how fast we burn calories. If your thyroid jumps to ‘hyper-speed’ you suffer from hyperthyroidism which causes rapid weight loss (you basically burn too many calories too fast). And if your thyroid ‘works’ too slow, then you suffer from hyperthyroidism and you gain weight (you intake more calories than you burn).
- Mental health – Our thyroid glands also play an important role in how our brain works. Low thyroid levels can cause forgetfulness, depression and you might even have problems to concentrate.
- Skin health – When our thyroid is not active enough, our skin doesn’t shed as fast as it’s supposed to. Which leads to cell build-up and dry skin.
Who is more susceptible to thyroid issues?
Recent research suggests that women are much more likely to experience problems with their thyroid. However, for a long period of time, there was no clue why was that. Well finally, some scientists have found that our thyroid gland is very sensitive to estrogen (which is another hormone) and it is well known that females have many large quantities of estrogen. Further research suggests that women are more prone to autoimmune diseases which can cause hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
What are the symptoms of thyroid issues?
Symptoms of hyper- or hypothyroidism are very hard to distinguish from some other symptoms of common ailments. However, if you notice two (or more) of these symptoms you should consult your primary physician to have your thyroid hormone levels tested.
- The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are forgetfulness, muscle cramps, sudden weight gain, higher than normal sensitivity to cold, etc.
- As for hyperthyroidism, the most common symptoms are irritability, increased heartbeat, sudden weight loss, shaky hands, higher than normal perspiration, etc.
According to some UK studies, about 30% of people that experience some symptoms of hyper- or hypothyroidism and take medication for it, may not even need to. So instead of jumping to conclusions, it’s best to consult a doctor and conduct extensive testing.
The importance of Thyroid Awareness Month
January as a Thyroid Awareness month is key in helping people recognize the symptoms of possible thyroid-related diseases, get tested on time and start treatment if necessary. The aim of a Thyroid Awareness Month is to inform everyone on symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of thyroid-related issues.