The Role of the Thyroid


What is the Thyroid it and where is it?

It is a gland which is shaped like a butterfly and located at the base of the neck just below where the Adam’s Apple is. You will see from the picture that each wing lies either side of the windpipe.

What does the Thyroid do?

The purpose of your thyroid gland is to make, store, and release thyroid hormones into your blood. These hormones, which are also referred to as T3 (liothyronine) and T4 (levothyroxine), affect almost every cell in your body, and help control your body’s functions.

If you have too little thyroid hormone in your blood, your body slows down. This condition is called hypothyroidism. If you have too much thyroid hormone in your blood, your body speeds up. This condition is called hyperthyroidism.

The hormones that the thyroid gland produces regulate the body’s metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance. Its correct functioning depends on having a good supply of nutrients from the diet.

What controls the amount of thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland works in tandem with another gland which is sound in the brain. So sounding a little like the song.... the thyroid is controlled by the pituitary which is controlled by the hypothalamus. So in a nutshell the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus all work together to control the amount of thyroid hormone in your body; with the pituitary controlling most of the action.

These organs work similarly to the way a thermostat controls temperature in a room. For example, just as the thermometer in a thermostat senses the temperature of a room, your pituitary gland constantly senses the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. If there is not enough thyroid hormone, your pituitary senses the need to “turn on the heat”. It does this by releasing more thyroid-stimulating hormone (or TSH), which signals your thyroid to make more thyroid hormone. Your thyroid gland then makes and releases the hormone directly into your bloodstream.

Your pituitary gland then senses that there is just the right amount of thyroid hormone in your body. With your thyroid hormone levels now restored to a normal level, your pituitary slows its production of TSH back down to normal.

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