We are sure at some point in your life you have heard about your thyroid. Although it’s commonly referred to, few people actually understand its job unless it isn’t working properly. This endocrine gland has an important job that can affect many other parts of your body, so it’s crucial to know more about it. Here are 4 things to know about the thyroid gland:
1. What Is the Thyroid?
Before we get into the specific functions of the thyroid, let’s learn a little more about its anatomy. The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland that is located at the front of your neck under the skin. For those who don’t know, this gland is a part of your endocrine system. The system is made up of several glands that create and secrete hormones. Furthermore, a gland is an organ that makes one or more substances, which can include hormones, sweat, tears, and more.
2. What Does the Thyroid Do?
Since it's called the thyroid gland, you know that it has to do something with hormones. Specifically, the main job of the thyroid is to control the speed of your metabolism, which is defined as the process of breaking down the food you eat into energy. Therefore, when your thyroid isn’t working properly, you will notice that it affects many other parts of your body because they aren’t getting the hormones it needs.
3. What Hormones Does the Thyroid Produce?
As an endocrine gland, your thyroid produces and releases many hormones, highlighted by thyroxine, triiodothyronine, reverse triiodothyronine, and calcitonin. The primary hormone produced by the thyroid, T4, doesn’t have much effect on metabolism. However, once released into the bloodstream, it is converted into T3 which is key in converting food into the energy that your body needs. The final hormone, calcitonin, helps regulate the amount of calcium in your blood. In order to make thyroid hormones, your thyroid needs iodine, which is an element that is found in the foods you eat.
4. What Disorders Affect Your Thyroid?
There are several different types of thyroid disease. In fact, it is very common, with about 20 million estimated cases each year in the United States. Thyroid disease is split into two categories, primary and secondary. A primary thyroid disease originates in the thyroid gland while a secondary disease originates in the pituitary gland. Two of the most common types of thyroid disease are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. On the contrary, hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid produces and releases more thyroid hormones than your body needs, which can speed up metabolism.
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