You may have heard about the thyroid gland before, and you may have even heard that thyroid health is important to ensure that your body works correctly. But, many of us do not actually know much about the thyroid or what it does in the body. Today, we’ll dive into what the thyroid is, what it does, and the problems that can occur if it is not functioning properly.
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the throat, right below the Adam’s Apple (or just above the collar bone).
What Does the Thyroid Do?
The thyroid gland controls (or at least contributes to) some of our bodies’ most valuable functions — such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, menstrual cycles, muscle strength, nervous system function, and digestion. Like other glands in our bodies, the thyroid produces specific hormones that help regulate these functions. Put simply, these systems speed up when the thyroid produces more of these necessary hormones and slow down when the thyroid produces less of these hormones.
These problems occur when the thyroid gland produces too much or too little thyroid hormones. When the thyroid does not produce the right amount of hormones, your body develops a thyroid disease, which typically manifests in one of two forms. If your body produces too many thyroid hormones, you will develop hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, if your thyroid is not producing enough of these hormones, it will develop hypothyroidism.
As mentioned above, hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormones than your body needs. This thyroid disease is less common than hypothyroidism, but it is just as crucial to treat it actively.
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:
- heat intolerance
- loose stools
- trouble sleeping
- muscle weakness or tremors
- irritability or moodiness
- missed or light menstrual periods
- weight loss
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, is quite common. In fact, approximately 5% of Americans (aged 12 or older) have hypothyroidism. Many of these cases, however, are mild or do not display any obvious signs or symptoms.
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- feeling cold
- low mood
- brain fog
- dry hair
- trouble concentrating
- frequent, heavy periods
- weight gain
How Thyroid Problems Can Affect Your Daily Life
Problems with your thyroid can impact many different aspects of your daily life. For example, if you experience fatigue and brain fog from hypothyroidism, you may find it challenging to make it through school or work without incorporating naps into your schedule. In addition, since many people may have undiagnosed thyroid problems, you may be suffering from some of these symptoms without knowing they are coming from a thyroid issue.
How You Can Keep Your Thyroid Healthy
Some people get thyroid problems due to factors they cannot control — such as genetics, other medical, or age. But there are some things that you can do in your daily life to reduce the risk of developing a thyroid problem. These include:
- Eating a well-balanced diet low in overly-processed and sugary foods.
- Reducing your stress.
- Exercising regularly with activities that increase your muscle mass.
Whether you’ve always taken care to get your thyroid checked during annual check-ups, or if you are just learning about thyroid problems today, it is crucial to ensure that you are taking steps to keep your thyroid gland healthy. Maybe for you, this means getting tested for thyroid disease. Or perhaps it means taking a closer look at your diet and exercise routine to help your thyroid.For more tips on caring for your body and keeping yourself healthy, check out the Complete Care blog!