What does the thyroid do?

On this page you will find an explanation of what does the thyroid do, while describing "what is a thyroid" and "where is the thyroid" located.

You can also pop over to the Signs of thyroid problems where you will find my easy to understand lists of the symptoms of an over active and under active thyroid.

Although there are different opinions, it is estimated that around twelve million people in America are dealing with thyroid problems. The occurrence can be as high as two in every hundred people.

It is very unfortunate that many cases are never diagnosed or are diagnosed incorrectly since the symptoms of thyroid problems can easily be ascribed to other disorders or just explained away by general tiredness, being over-worked and the inability to lose that baby weight.

Let's take a closer look:

What is a thyroid and where is the thyroid located?

What does the thyroid do

The thyroid is a gland that lies in the neck.

You can see in the image on your left that it is divided into a right and left lobe and is resting on either side of the Adams's apple. The two lobes are connected by a band of tissue that is called the isthmus.

It is partly covered by a layer of strap-like sternomastoid muscles.

Since it is a (endocrine) gland, it produces secretions that travel in the bloodstream to the parts in your body where it is needed. These secretions are hormones and called thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3).

The raw materials needed to manufacture thyroid hormones are mainly iodine. The 100-200 micrograms of iodine needed every day are obtained from the food we eat. Every living animal and plant contains iodine but the highest incidence of it can be found from sea-products.

What does the thyroid do

The thyroid is like a factory, taking in iodine and other raw materials from the bloodstream and putting out T3 and T4. This process is controlled by the very powerful pituitary gland, that is about the size of a thumbnail and sits at the base of the skull.

(The image of the pituitary gland is curtesy of Anatomography maintained by Life Science Databases.)

The pituitary gland produces a hormone, thyrotrophin or TSH for short, that will let the thyroid know what amount of T3 and T4 to make and release into the bloodstream.

The T3 and T4 that are released into the bloodstream is stuck to carrier proteins that transport them around until they are needed. When they reach the destination where they are needed, they will separate from the carrier proteins and pass into the cells. While T3 are chemical active and can be used straightaway, T4 first has to be converted into T3 in the heart, liver, kidney and other tissues.

What does the thyroid do?

Your thyroid has it fingers in basically every pie - it influences all the mayor body systems. It is therefore essential to keep thyroid hormone levels normal to ensure normal body functioning.

The thyroid hormone have a powerful effect on the mitochondria of cells where many essential chemical processes takes place. They also effect the mechanisms by with fluids and other chemicals enter and leave the cells.

"What does the thyroid do?" can broadly be answered like this:

A healthy functioning thyroid is essential for:

  • Normal heart functioning,
  • Blood circulation,
  • Balancing the appetite, bowel functions and body weight,
  • Maintaining the fluid balance in the body,
  • Keeps the blood fat balance,
  • Ensures normal growth,
  • Maintains muscle strength,
  • Ensures your ability to fight infections,
  • Mental composure and alertness.

I hope that you now have a better understanding of what the thyroid functions are.

For more information about the thyroid, have a look at these pages:

Signs of thyroid problems
Over active thyroid symptoms
Under active thyroid symptoms
Thyroid disease treatment
Thyroid storm symptoms

Visit the How to be healthy page for more interesting health related information.

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What does the thyroid do?
Signs of thyroid problems
Under active thyroid symptoms
Over active thyroid symptoms
Thyroid disease treatment
Thyroid storm symptoms