Everything you wanted to know, but didn’t know how to ask
By Sonia Panesar, Contributor
Everyone has a thyroid, but do you know where it is and what it does? According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, thyroid disease affects an approximate 200 million people worldwide. While it’s not a good idea to be a hypochondriac about everything that could go wrong with your body, it is a good idea to educate yourself on how the thyroid works, and what you can do to promote good thyroid health.
This thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits on the front of your neck, below your Adam’s apple. It secretes numerous hormones called thyroid hormones. The main hormone secreted by the thyroid gland is called thyroxin, which is also known as T4. The main job of the hormones secreted by the thyroid gland is to control metabolism, help with growth and development, and body temperature. Whilst growing up, the thyroid gland has a major role in brain development.
The disorders caused by the malfunctioning of the thyroid gland are: hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer. Hyperthyroidism is a condition which is also known as overactive thyroid; it is caused by high levels of thyroid hormone in the blood stream. This is because the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of the hormone. Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism include: hyperactivity, muscle weakness, a rapid heartbeat, sudden weight loss or weight gain, increased sensitivity to heat, and an increased appetite. This condition is more common in women than in men, and has a higher rate amongst smokers. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease. This is where our immune systems start attacking our own body systems, and one of the targets is the thyroid gland. Grave’s disease has no exact explanation, however it is said to be a genetic condition. Someone who has hyperthyroidism tends to experience double vision as the eyes are affected, and will commonly have bulging eyes.
Hypothyroidism is the opposite of hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland produces a lower level of the thyroid hormone. It does not keep the metabolism rates as required, and therefore the body tends not to receive the required amount of essential hormones. Hypothyroidism tends to affect adults, and in some cases it can affect children. The form of hypothyroidism that affects adults is most commonly known as myxedema, whereas congenital hypothyroidism affects children. Myxedema is caused by an autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid gland, and radiation or surgery. These are the most common culprits of hypothyroidism. Some symptoms include weight gain, bloated face, a hoarse voice; you tend to be extra sensitive to the cold, and experience constipation, muscle aches, and dry skin. These are the most common symptoms. In order for one to maintain a healthy thyroid gland one should eat foods that are rich in calcium, vitamins E, B6, and C, beta-carotene, iodine, tyrosine, and niacin. Since it is hard to attain all this supplements in one day, it is recommended that you should take a multivitamin to make sure you obtain all these essential nutrients.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it might be worth it to ask your family doctor to test you for thyroid—with proper medication, hypo or hyperthyroidism can be treated, improving your quality of life dramatically.