Thyroid disease effects an estimated 20 million Americans, 60 percent of of these individuals are not even aware of it. Left untreated thyroid disease can lead to a variety of health conditions, including high cholesterol, heart disease, infertility, osteoporosis, and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, arthritis or anemia.

The Thyroid Gland is arguably one of the most important glands in your body. It plays a major role in all of your body’s processes and effects the functionality and health of your heart, liver, kidneys, brain and skin.

Did you know, healthy iodine levels will encourage healthy thyroid gland function? Iodine is an essential element found in dietary items such as table salt, seafood and some breads. Iodine promotes thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) production. T3 is specifically used in your brain, liver and kidneys. T4 and T3 work to together to regulate your body temperature, metabolic rate and heart function. Both T3 and T4 are stored and released from the thyroid gland into your bloodstream.

A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is released from the pituitary gland to the thyroid gland to regulate the amount of each hormone that is released into the bloodstream. Increased or decreased levels of TSH is released depending on how much thyroid hormone is produced against what your body needs. The pituitary gland will get the information it needs from the amount of T4 in the bloodstream at any given time as well as from the hypothalamus via the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). The relationship between the thyroid gland, pituitary gland and hypothalamus is referred to as the HPT axis. The HPT axis is known for its function to regulate metabolism and respond to stress.

If the thyroid is producing too much or not enough hormone it can ultimately result in thyroid disease. Commonly known thyroid diseases are hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease, goiter and thyroid nodules.

Hypothyroidism is a result of an underactive thyroid, not producing enough hormone. You may experience symptoms such as feeling cold, tired, depressed or even weight gain despite a healthy diet. It is also a sign that you may be iodine deficient. Hashimoto’s disease is a leading cause of hypothyroidism and is most prevalent in middle aged women. 

Hyperthyroidism is a result of an overactive thyroid, producing too much hormone. Hyperthyroidism symptoms may include increased pulse, irritability, overheating, trouble sleeping, unexplained weight loss, anxiety and nervousness. Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism and currently affects 1 in 200 people in America.

Iodine deficiency can also be related to goiter and thyroid nodules. Goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. It can be caused by hyperthyroidism.  Thyroid nodules are growths that are solid, or fluid filled on the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s disease can be a cause of thyroid nodules.

Neck Check – Do Your Own Thyroid Check

If you are concerned about the health of your thyroid you can do a quick at-home neck check to see if there are any abnormalities. If you have any concerns at all it is recommended to see your physician.

Step 1 – Stand in front of a mirror with a good visual on the lower front area of your neck

Step 2 – Tip your head back

Step 3 – Take a drink of water and swallow

Step 4 – Check for bulges or protrusions. Do not confuse the thyroid gland with your Adam’s Apple (the Adam’s Apple is above the thyroid gland)

Step 5 – If you notice any bulges or protrusions, consult your physician.

The more you know about your health the better your long term prognosis is to mitigate evolving health concerns associated with your thyroid function.

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