What Does the Thyroid Do?

The thyroid regulates the metabolism through the body’s endocrine system. Cells throughout the body depend on the thyroid gland to break down nutrients in food for conversion to energy. Your metabolism determines the way your body utilizes energy.

If you feel sluggish or hyperactive, it could result from the way the thyroid manages your metabolism. Disorders of the thyroid occur when hormones aren’t released properly by the gland.

The thyroid gland receives messages from the brain to produce hormones when necessary. The hypothalamus in the brain releases stimulating hormones to alert the pituitary gland, located near the hypothalamus, to release more thyroid- stimulating hormones.

The thyroid, located at the front portion of the neck, then produces its hormones by extracting iodine from blood. The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and sits below the larynx or Adam’s apple. The gland has two lobes that are attached by a bridge-like tissue known as the isthmus.

Among the jobs of the thyroid is to regulate metabolism, heartbeat, and body temperature by releasing its hormones. The thyroid also plays a role in voice quality.

A thyroid can become overactive or underactive, which can cause a variety of disorders. Thyroid problems can be caused by genetics, stress, toxins, nutritional deficiencies, or pregnancy.

Hyperthyroidism results from excessive hormone release. It can cause a chemical imbalance in the body. The condition may last for a few weeks or longer and can usually be treated. In rare cases, it be the result of malfunctions of the pituitary gland or cancerous growths in the thyroid.

Hypothyroidism stems from a lack of thyroid hormone production. It can be dangerous for newborns and infants because the hormones are necessary for proper mental and physical development. In extreme cases, the disorder can cause mental retardation or stunted growth.
Infants usually have their thyroid checked for defects soon after birth. Treatment begins immediately when problems are discovered. Symptoms of hypothyroidism for adults include poor appetite and the frequent need to sleep. People who have had thyroid problems in the past are vulnerable to hypothyroidism. It can also result from excessive exposure to iodide in certain medicines or dyes given during X-rays.