Get To Know Your Thyroid: The Multitasking Gland

January is Thyroid Awareness Month. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck. This gland plays an essential role in the proper functioning of many organs of the human body. It secretes hormones that travel through the bloodstream and governs many functions such as:

  • Brain development and function
  • Eye function
  • Weight/ Metabolism (how fast you burn calories)
  • Heart functions (how fast your heart beats)
  • Bowel movements

Women are way more likely than men to develop thyroid problems, and the months after birth are an especially high risk time for thyroid problems to surface. Thyroid disorders occur when too much (overactive) or too little (underactive) thyroid hormone is produced. These disorders are often hereditary and run in families.

Hyperthyroidism is an overactive gland resulting in:

  • Increased bowel movements
  • Increased sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Vision problems
  • Irregular menstruation (light)
  • Anxiety and nervousness

Hypothyroidism is an underactive gland resulting in:

  • Constipation
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Weight gain
  • High cholesterol due to slower metabolism
  • Dry skin, dry hair
  • Irregular menstruation (heavy)
  • Fatigue
  • Fertility problems
  • Increased miscarriage risk

In case of thyroid disorders, patients should:

  • Take prescribed medication as directed
  • Be aware of drug interactions
  • Have healthcare provider check for nodules (lump or swell in thyroid gland)
  • Eat a balanced diet which provides you with iodine (e.g. potatoes, cranberries and strawberries), selenium (e.g. tuna, oysters) and zinc (Beef, spinach)
  • Get enough sleep and exercise