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What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck and has two lobes located on either side of the trachea. A normal thyroid gland cannot be felt or seen from outside. The thyroid gland secretes some important hormones into the bloodstream which are required for normal development as well as regulating the metabolism of your body. 

Diagram of the thyroid gland

How does the thyroid gland work?

The thyroid gland is a part of the endocrine system of our body. The endocrine system secretes different hormones, with the primary function of the thyroid gland being to produce hormones. The thyroid gland takes iodine, found in many foods, and converts it into thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland secretes two active hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). 

T4 and T3 are both heavily involved in developmental regulation, energy expenditure, and metabolism. T4 is found more abundantly in the bloodstream compared to T3, but T3 is five times more potent than T4. They both circulate throughout the body bound to thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG). When they are bound to TBG they are not active within the body. Only a small amount of each hormone is free meaning it has activity in the body.

Factors That Alter Binding of Thyroid Hormones to TBG
Increase Binding to TBG (decrease free T) Decrease Binding to TBG (increases free T)
  • Estrogen
  • Liver Disease
  • HIV infection
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Anti-seizure medications

 

The thyroid gland also produces calcitonin. Calcitonin plays a role in regulating the calcium level of the body. 

The thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland and the pituitary gland is regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain. When the T3 and T4 levels drop in the blood, the pituitary gland releases Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Sensing the presence of TSH hormone in the blood, the thyroid gland produces T3 and T4 hormones. 

Types of thyroid hormones

What do thyroid hormones do?

Thyroid hormones are involved in many bodily functions. Some of these vital functions are:

  1. Breathing
  2. Body temperature
  3. Heart rate
  4. Nervous system
  5. Bodyweight
  6. Menstrual cycles
  7. Cholesterol level 
  8. Muscle strength

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is the term used for when there are too many thyroid hormones in the blood. Causes of hyperthyroidism may include: Graves Disease, Toxic Multinodular Goiter, or a viral infection causing inflammation of the thyroid itself. Hyperthyroidism may cause weight loss, irregular periods, feeling too hot, nervousness, feeling on edge, and a rapid heart rate. (1) (2)

Hyperthyroidism symptoms

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a term used for low thyroid hormone levels in the blood. It may be the result of poor iodine intake or autoimmune diseases. Hypothyroidism during developmental years may cause learning difficulties and poor physical growth. In adults, hypothyroidism may cause a decrease in metabolic rate. Hypothyroidism may cause an irregular heartbeat, fatigue, depression, infertility, feeling cold, and stiffness of muscles. 

Hypothyroidism symptoms

Approaches for Managing Thyroid Disorders
  1. Lifestyle changes
  2. Medications 
  3. Alternative therapies

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can be determined with blood tests. Ask your doctor about getting tested or call to speak with a pharmacist at Coast to Coast Compounding about how to use our at home testing kits.

Lifestyle Changes

For some people, lifestyle changes can be beneficial for improving their thyroid function. 

Key Lifestyle Habits
  1. Decrease or avoid caffeine consumption
  2. Improve your gut health
  3. Consume healthy fats
  4. Decrease your stress level
  5. Stay on a sleep schedule

Stress can have a negative effect on the immune system which can then have a negative effect on the thyroid. Yoga, meditation, therapy, and regular exercise are all ways to help relax and destress. Caffeine consumption is another factor that can cause the body to think it is in a stressful state and compromise the immune system. Taking a break from caffeine can give the body and thyroid time to heal. 

Woman meditating

Gut health is also important in regards to the immune system. Cutting back on sugar and improving gut health with foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut can help regulate the gut to improve thyroid health. Along with improving gut health, ingestion of healthy fats from foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and eggs could aid in producing more thyroid hormones. 

Foods that aid in producing more thyroid hormones

Getting on a sleep schedule and promoting healthy sleeping habits can help to destress the body and promote a healthy thyroid. Some tips for healthy sleeping include: aiming for at least 8 hours of sleep per night, keeping your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet, and avoiding computer or phone screens at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. 

A happy woman waking up

Medications

Hypothyroidism is treated with synthetic hormone drugs like levothyroxine or triiodothyronine. These drugs replace the missing thyroid hormones in the body. 

Hyperthyroidism is more difficult to treat because it involves normalization of an overactive thyroid gland. Treatment might involve drug therapy or radioactive iodine treatment to disable the thyroid. Radioactive iodine treatment can result in hypothyroidism for which levothyroxine is used to normalize the hormone level.

Hormone Testing Available

At Coast to Coast Compounding we can provide you with an at-home testing kit which can allow you to test your own hormone levels. Speak with one of our knowledgeable pharmacists or your healthcare provider for more information on using one of these testing kits. Click here for more information on how to get your hormones tested.

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