What is the thyroid gland?
What Is The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid a small gland with a butterfly shape that is located in the neck area directly in front of the trachea, or windpipe, and right underneath the larynx. The thyroid plays a key role in many essential body processes. It works with hormones that ensure that these metabolic processes occur without issue.
It produces two primary hormones and one of its biggest jobs is regulating your metabolism. When this gland is not working, as it should, it can result in metabolic problems that can disrupt a person’s health and cause problems like weight gain or loss and a substantial lack of energy.
According to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, at least 30 million Americans have some type of thyroid disorder and half of them are undiagnosed. Women are 10 times more likely as men to have a thyroid problem, and women over the age of 35 have a 30% higher chance of having a thyroid disorder.
The word “thyroid” translates to “shield” in Greek. It consists of two lobes, or halves. The isthmus, a type of tissue band, works to connect both of the lobes. This small gland typically weighs under one ounce.
In utero, the thyroid gland is initially behind the tongue, however, before a person is born it moves into a permanent location in the neck. There are cases where either it does not properly move or it moves too much or too little.
The main role of the thyroid gland is metabolism regulation. This means that it helps your body to break down the food that you eat and turn that food into energy. However, everyone’s body burns this fuel at different rates. This is why it is often said that people have either a slow metabolism or a fast metabolism.
The thyroid gland needs iodine in order to produce the hormones that regulate metabolism and it gets it from the food you eat. Thyroid cells have the ability to efficiently absorb iodine from food and then use it, while the rest of the cells in the body rely on this gland to manage individual cell metabolism.
The thyroid gland does not work alone and it relies on the hypothalamus in the brain and the pituitary gland to work properly. When the levels of thyroid hormone start to drop, the hypothalamus puts out a hormone referred to as TSH releasing hormone. This then signals the pituitary gland to start making a thyroid stimulating hormone known as TRH. The thyroid gland then receives this hormone and is signaled to produce more thyroid hormones, namely T3 and T4.
The T3 hormone plays the biggest role in the body and metabolism while the body takes T4 and turns it into more T3 to ensure that the body has enough.
The hormones make their way to the bloodstream where they go to work to control the body’s metabolism.
While regulating metabolism is its biggest function, this gland does have other roles. These roles are associated with the hormones it produces and their effects on the cells in the body.
Many vital body processes are helped by this gland and the hormones it produces, including:
- Peripheral nervous system
- Central nervous system
- Muscle strength
- Body temperature
- Heart rate
- Women’s menstrual cycles
- Cholesterol levels
The thyroid is one of the most important components of your metabolic system. Without this gland and the hormones that work with it, many metabolic functions will not work correctly.
If your thyroid gland is unable to do its job, your doctor can help with various treatments directed at the problem. Since thyroid disorders are relatively common, many people have their thyroid hormone levels assessed at their annual physical so that any issues can be caught early.