What You Need to Know About Your Thyroid Health from Mercola
Your thyroid, one of your most important endocrine glands, greatly influences almost every cell in your body. Aside from regulating your metabolism by releasing the necessary hormones, the thyroid is also important for the growth and development in children, as well as nearly every physiological process in your body.1
When your thyroid levels are out of balance, so are you. Too much (hyperthyroidism2) or too little (hypothyroidism3) hormone secretion can spell trouble for your overall health.
A 2018 study noted that 0.3% to 3.7% of the general U.S. population suffer from hypothyroidism, although it could be as high as 15% if you count a type of “subclinical” hypothyroidism. On the flip side, 0.5% of the population have hyperthyroidism.4
Poor thyroid function has been linked to health conditions such as fibromyalgia,5 irritable bowel disease,6 vitiligo,7 gum disease,8 infertility in women9 and autoimmune diseases,10 which is why it’s imperative to learn how your thyroid works and what can cause it to go off-kilter.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland found inside your neck, right under your larynx or voice box. It has two lobes on each side of the windpipe that are connected by a tissue called the isthmus.11 A normal thyroid gland weighs somewhere between 20 and 60 grams (0.7 to 2.1 ounces).12
Your thyroid is responsible for producing the master metabolism hormones that control every function in your body. It produces two hormones:13
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
Hormones secreted by your thyroid interact with your mitochondria, causing “an increase in nutrient breakdown and production of ATP.”14 The fact that these hormones play important roles throughout your body explains why a less-than-optimal thyroid status is associated with many widespread symptoms and diseases.
Almost 90% of the hormone produced by your thyroid is in the form of T4, the inactive form.15 Your liver then converts the T4 into T3, the active form, through deiodination.16
If everything is working properly, you will make what you need and have the correct amounts of thyroid hormones, which control the metabolism of every cell in your body.17 If your T3 is inadequate, either by scarce production or by not converting properly from T4, your whole system suffers. T3 is critically important because it plays a role in burning fat in your body. In one study, researchers noted that when they increased T3 levels in participants, weight loss occurred.18
Your thyroid hormone levels can be disrupted by various risk factors. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases outlines the following possible factors for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism:19,20