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What Does the Thyroid Do?

what is the thyroid

The endocrine system is composed of various glands, one of which is the thyroid. Shaped similar to a butterfly, the thyroid gland consists of two separate lobes that are connected by a piece of tissue on either side of the windpipe. It is located in the neck around the trachea.

What Hormone Does the Thyroid Gland Produce?

The main function of the thyroid gland is to convert iodine, which is found in many foods, to two hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The thyroid is responsible for all metabolic activity in the body including:

  • Regulating a person’s metabolism
  • Regulating heart rate
  • Maintaining the gastrointestinal tract
  • Stimulating mitochondria, which are the energy production centers of cells
  • Regulating a person’s appetite

How is the Thyroid Gland Regulated?

Because the thyroid is responsible for maintaining so many functions in the body, it needs to be regulated. The thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is a peanut-sized gland in the base of the brain. When the level of T3 and T4 drop, the pituitary gland produces a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which stimulates the thyroid to produce enough hormones.

What Happens if the Thyroid isn’t Regulated?

The two most common problems that affect the thyroid are:

  • Hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism causes your thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone, which may result in weight loss, rapid heart rate and mood swings. If hyperthyroidism is detected by a physician after a thyroid hormone test, you will begin antithyroid medicines.
  • Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is caused by too little thyroid hormone being secreted by the thyroid. It may cause people to feel sluggish and can cause a decrease in metabolism. The most common way to treat hypothyroidism is with the synthetic thyroid hormone T4.