What is thyroid?
It is a two lobed gland sitting in front of your windpipe in the center of your neck, just below the Adam's apple. The two lobes are joined by a narrow portion which gives the gland the shape of a butterfly. Though small, it has a major role in the regulation of the metabolism of each cell in the body. It is therefore, often called the master gland of metabolism.
How does it regulate the metabolism of the body?
This it does by producing the two hormones thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine.
Thyroxine or T4 contains four iodine atoms, and triiodothyronine, or T3, contains three iodine atoms. Thyroid takes up iodine found in foods that we eat. Using this iodine along with tyrosine it produces the hormones: T4 and T3.
These hormones are then secreted into the blood stream. They are carried along the blood to all parts of the body. So it easily slip into the cells in need, where they control the metabolism.
What does thyroid do?
The two hormones basically regulate the speed with which the metabolism in the cells happens. The hormones affect the rate at which heart beats or how fast intestines process food. If the hormone levels are low, heart rate may be slow, indicating constipation. If the levels are high, you may have a rapid heart rate and diarrhea. A slower overall metabolism will result in weight gain and vice versa.
It ends up regulating all vital bodily functions. Such as breathing, heart rate, body weight, muscle strength, nervous system, menstrual cycle, cholesterol levels, etc.
How well the gland is doing its job is thus totally connected with every system in the body. If it does not function well this will affect each and every cell in the body.
The thyroid gland is itself under the control of the pituitary gland. The gland produces the thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH. This stimulates the thyroid to produce T3and T4. This works on a feedback mechanism. When the level of thyroid hormones drop too low, the pituitary gland releases TSH which stimulates it to produce more hormones.
Pituitary gland controlled by Hypothalamus:
Pituitary gland is regulated by another gland called hypothalamus. Hypothalamus produces a hormone to stimulate the production of TSH. This hormone is called the TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH). Hypothalamus thus, keeps the pituitary gland informed as to at what level the thyroid should be set.
When is it affected?
Hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid nexus normally works very efficiently. Normally, thyroid releases just the right amount of hormone to keep the body running optimally.
However, diseases, damage to the thyroid or certain medicines can break down the balanced inter-communication of the 3 glands. This results in either an under active thyroid leading to hypothyroidism or less common- an over active thyroid. Thyroid disease is a result of this dis-balance.
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