Thyroid Exam

The Essential Guide to How Your Thyroid Works

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that controls many of your organs’ important functions. However, it rarely gets the attention it deserves, and many people don’t know what it does or how it works. This small gland affects many bodily processes, so it’s vital to know how it can affect your health.

What Does the Thyroid Do?

The thyroid is an essential part of the endocrine system that works to store, create, and send hormones into your bloodstream. The thyroid regulates the rate at which many processes in your body occur. For example, the hormones your thyroid releases can speed up or slow down the rate at which your food digests and your heart beats. An unhealthy thyroid can result in abnormal levels of these hormones, which can lead to symptoms such as weight gain, depression, anxiety, hot flashes, and trouble sleeping.

How Does the Thyroid Work?

To make this a little easier to understand, let’s build an analogy. Let’s say your body is a grocery store, your hypothalamus is a stocker at the store, your pituitary gland is a manager at the store, your thyroid is a farmer, and your hormones are different types of produce.

In your brain, your hypothalamus determines whether you have adequate levels of specific hormones in your system.

It’s closing time at the grocery store, and the stocker goes out to replenish the levels of produce. The stocker notes the store is running low on lettuce, and it seems there’s an overabundance of apples.
 

Your hypothalamus secretes a specific amount of a hormone called the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) that alerts your pituitary gland to release a specific amount of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), also known as thyrotropin.

The stocker goes to tell his manager the store has no lettuce and too many apples. When making the weekly order for produce, the manager orders fewer apples and more lettuce than before to better match the demand for each product.
 

Your thyroid begins to produce more or less of various hormones based on the level of TSH it receives. The thyroid creates these hormones from iodine and then releases them into your bloodstream for your body to use.

 

The farmer gets the order from the manager and uses it to supply the right amount of apples and lettuce, which he then sends to the store.
 

Maintaining a balanced diet with a healthy amount of iodine-rich food and little to no processed food can help keep your thyroid in great shape. However, if you notice any unusual symptoms, such as rapid weight loss or gain, feeling too hot or cold, or increased anxiety, speak with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. They can refer you to a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group endocrinologist who can help you find a treatment plan to keep your hormones in check.

 

Sources:
Everyday Health |  What Is the Thyroid Gland?
EndocrineWeb | How Your Thyroid Works
EndocrineWeb | Thyroid Gland Function
Health | 4 Steps You Can Take to Avoid Thyroid Problems
Encyclopaedia Britannica | Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone