Lets Talk A Little Bit About Your Thyroid, And How It Can Affect You.
The thyroid gland is one of my favorite glands to talk about. Its hormone for, some patients, can be the difference between living life to the fullest, or not. When I talk about hormones, there are three organ systems that I am also referring to; the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA), the adrenals, and the thyroid. In other blogs I have talked more in depth about the other organs systems, but I have not spent much time on the thyroid until now that is.
The thyroid is situated in the center of the neck, and below the larynx. There are two lobes, left and right, that are connected via the thyroid isthmus. The parathyroid gland is situated behind the lobes of the thyroid, two on each side. The parathyroid gland is responsible for the regulation of the amount of calcium in the blood, and within the bones. The thyroid is responsible for the production, and storage, of hormones that help to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and metabolism. Recently, while working with a patient, I was reminded that thyroid hormones are essential for the function of a happy and healthy body.
There are two main ways the thyroid can go: hypothyroid, or hyperthyroid. Hypothyroid is more often what I see in practice as our thyroids do not function as well as they should. Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include: fatigue, cold extremities, low libido, dry skin, depression, scalp hair loss, brittle nails, low pulse rate/blood pressure, heart palpitations, constipation, low body temperature, headaches, weight gain, anxiety, poor concentration, and intolerance to cold to name a few. These signs and symptoms are, and can be, associated with other things in the body as well. Hyperthyroidism signs and symptoms include, for example: tremors, weight loss with increased appetite, frequent bowel movements, heat intolerance, increased heart rate and palpitation, nervousness, bone loss and irritability.
I test the thyroid through a simple blood test that looks at thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH), free T4, and free T3. However, sometimes I need to take a bigger picture of the thyroid, and will look at thyroid antibodies as well as reverse T3. Often I look at the antibodies if the patient has a history of going back and forth between hyper and hypothyroid conditions. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain where it then tells the thyroid to pump out T4 (thyroxine). The T4 in the body will be converted to T3 (triiodothyronine) which is the active form of thyroid in the body. It is the combination of these two hormones, when normal or elevated, that will then send signals back to the brain to change the amount of TSH produced. If the T3 and T4 levels are low there will be no feedback to the brain and the TSH level will continue to increase.
Hyperthyroid will be seen typically on labs with high levels of T3 and T4 along with low levels of TSH. While hypothyroid will be seen as low levels of T3 and T4 and high levels of TSH. Throughout different stages in our lives our thyroid levels can change. It is common to see a change in thyroid levels after a pregnancy, or as a women is going through menopause. I recommend that my patients get their thyroid checked at least yearly if there are no issues. This testing is more than just the TSH because, as I stated before, we’ll be looking at the entire picture. Once a patient is on thyroid medication it is important to test the thyroid more frequently to make sure the thyroid and hormones are being used by the body.
So that is a little primer on the subject. Stay tuned for treatments of the thyroid in the coming weeks. If you have a concern about your thyroid then please email me your inquiry, or call me at (415) 912-9934. This way we can schedule a free 15 minute consult for over the phone. Have a great 4th of July weekend!