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What Is the Thyroid and What Does it Do?

January is Thyroid Awareness Month. Perhaps you or someone you know suffers from a thyroid condition, or maybe you’ve heard about it but you’re not quite sure of the thyroid’s function. Either way, keep reading to learn more.

Did you know that approximately 200 million people around the world are affected by thyroid disease? If left untreated, it can cause myriad conditions from depression, fatigue and tremors to muscle weakness.

But, before we cover the possible symptoms and conditions of a thyroid problem, let’s get back to basics and discuss the thyroid itself and its functions.

The thyroid gland is the small butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck. Its main function is to make thyroid hormones. These hormones help your body’s organs function properly and help control how your body uses food for energy. There are two sides, or lobes, of the thyroid that lie on either side of the windpipe.

The thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland – a pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland monitors the amount of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream, and it will signal if your body needs more or less hormone.

This connection means that the thyroid hormones are in direct correlation with your metabolism, meaning that it helps to regulate your body’s functions. Let’s take a look at some of the body functions that are controlled by the thyroid:

• Body temperature

• Body weight

• Breathing

• Central and peripheral nervous symptoms

• Cholesterol levels

• Energy levels

• Heart rate

• Muscle strength

Because the thyroid controls so many of our body’s important functions, it’s imperative to make sure that your thyroid is functioning properly. Scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician is the first step in monitoring the health of your thyroid gland.

Check back in the coming weeks when we discuss the differences between hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Sources:

http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/what-do-hormones-do/what-does-the-thyroid-gland-do

http://www.newswise.com/articles/january-is-thyroid-awareness-month

http://www.thyroidawareness.com/about-your-thyroid

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