The thyroid is a fundamental gland for the body, responsible for the proper functioning and well-being of many organs: this is why it is important to know what the alarm bells are that could indicate a malfunction. Let’s see what are the symptoms of possible thyroid problems.
The thyroid is a gland (since it has secretory activity) endocrine (pours the hormones produced in the circulatory stream) that recalls, in shape, a butterfly, as it consists of two portions called lobes (right and left lobe) held together by a central part, the isthmus.
Located at the front of the neck, posterior to the esophagus and forward to the larynx and trachea, its activity is regulated by the hypothalamus-hypophysis axis. This means that:
- The hypothalamus, in response to various stimuli, releases the hormone TRH (hormone that releases thyrotropin) which has as its target the hypophysis;
- The TRH acts by regulating the secretion by the pituitary gland of the hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone);
- The TSH, in turn, operates on the thyroid, regulating the production of two hormones, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), for which iodine is essential. They are then released into the bloodstream, where they bind to specific proteins that allow blood transport, until they reach different target organs. The major or minor concentration of T3 and T4 in the blood is constantly monitored by the pituitary gland, which will thus secrete appropriate amounts of TSH, in order to maintain and maintain an equilibrium condition.
What is the thyroid used for?
Small in size and weight (20-30 g on average), but essential for the correct activity and functionality of the entire organism: the thyroid reveals its importance already from the intrauterine age, and therefore in the fetus, to then continue in entire post-natal period.
In fact, in the fetus, the thyroid hormones allow a normal bodily development but, above all, of the central nervous system, favoring the differentiation and the growth of all the nervous structures and, naturally, of the brain.
A deficiency of T3 and T4 in the fetal period and in childhood may be responsible for major and irreversible brain damage (“cretinism”), characterized by mental retardation which is accompanied by a nervous system that is not completely formed and matured. This is why, during pregnancy, it is essential that the fetus receives a quantity of thyroid hormones sufficient for its normal maturation.
In adulthood, the thyroid plays a key role in the management and regulation of the basal metabolic rate, a mechanism that reflects the minimum amount of energy necessary for the organism to perform, at rest, the basic functions such as breathing, brain activity and blood circulation: consequently, it stimulates numerous cellular activities.
It is involved in the metabolism of sugars and lipids. At normal concentrations, thyroid hormones enhance insulin action by lowering blood glucose levels; with regard to fats, instead, they stimulate the synthesis, the mobilization and the catabolism of cholesterol.
The thyroid also acts on the cardiovascular system: it increases the heart rate, promotes the contraction of the myocardium, dilates the peripheral arterioles, ensuring proper oxygenation of all the body districts because it overcomes the resistance of the vessels. The gland, thanks to its hormonal activity, also regulates intestinal peristalsis, a key mechanism to have a good and healthy digestive function.
Even the correct functionality of the reproductive system is influenced by thyroid hormones. In humans, for example, they ensure the development and maturation of the testes first and then the spermatogenesis, while in women it goes to regulate the menstrual cycle and supports the maintenance of pregnancy. A healthy thyroid, therefore, has a positive influence on the reproductive capacity. Now let’s see what are the main symptoms of thyroid problems.
10 signs that indicate possible thyroid problems
The symptoms related to thyroid problems are different and may have a greater or lesser relevance. The most common alterations are those ascribed to the amount of thyroid hormones produced, which may be higher or lower than the physiological hormone.
We will therefore talk about hyperthyroidism if the production of T3 and T4 is in excess, and hypothyroidism if, on the other hand, this value is lower than normal. Given the importance that holds the thyroid, we analyze 10 signals that could give us an indication of a possible alteration of its functionality.
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1) Changes in body weight
The thyroid hormones condition the basal metabolism and that of fats and carbohydrates, and the whole can turn into an unexpected and unmotivated variation of the body weight. Specifically, in the presence of hyperthyroidism there is a rapid weight loss due to an accelerated metabolism, while in cases of hypothyroidism the pounds accumulate (despite the correct diet) due to a reduction of metabolic activities and a strong water retention.
2) Intolerance to heat or cold
The thyroid helps the body regulate its body temperature by adapting to the external temperature (thermoregulation). Do you happen to feel (and to bear!) Very hot or very cold even when there is no real reason? It could be the sign of an alteration of the thyroid hormones: in hyperthyroidism, for example, there is a high sensitivity to heat; on the contrary, in hypothyroidism there is a strong sensation of cold.
3) Tiredness and asthenia
In spite of the nocturnal rest or the afternoon naps, can we not feel tired, apathetic, without energy and muscular strength? We may have a lack of thyroid hormones: almost all hypothyroid subjects, in fact, have these characteristics.
4) Alteration of moods
The changes in mood can have many origins, including a thyroid disorder. Due to the general acceleration of metabolism, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, nervousness, hyperactivity, accentuated emotionality are recognized in hyperthyroidism; in the presence of hypothyroidism, however, the slowing of the metabolism and of the cellular activities in general cause drowsiness, memory disturbances, difficulty in concentration, decline in the ideation processes, depression.
5) Intestinal disorders
We have seen how the thyroid regulates intestinal peristalsis to stabilize the physiology of the digestive system. When the gland functions poorly, regularity also suffers. Hyperthyroidism presents frequent episodes of dysentery caused by increased stimulation of the gastrointestinal muscles, while the hormonal insufficiency typical of hypothyroidism causes constipation even stubborn.
6) Heart problems
Understood, of course, not as love complications, even changes in the normal heartbeat can indicate a thyroid disorder. If, in fact, hyperthyroidism shows tachycardia, palpitation and increased blood pressure, hypothyroidism is characterized by bradycardia, lower force of contraction of the myocardium, hypotension.
7) Eye to cholesterol!
A high blood cholesterol value that does not return to normal with a proper diet and the association of specific pharmaceuticals or supplements may be a sign of hypothyroidism, in which the metabolism slowdown also affects that of cholesterol.
8) Changes in skin, nails and hair
Hair, nails and skin are very much affected by the imbalances in thyroid hormones and react to their higher or lower concentration differently. In people with hyperthyroidism,the skin appears warmer, thinner and brittle, while the hair can go to a massive fall; in case of hypothyroidism, however, the epidermis is rough and dry, the nails are weakened, the hair dull, brittle, with a greater tendency to fall. Even the eyebrows can thin and thin out.
9) Irregular menstrual cycle and fertility problems
The reproductive organs are connected to the activity of the thyroid gland which, in physiological conditions, is said to have a “permissive” role towards the capacity of reproduction. For this reason, an excess or defect of thyroid hormones circulating in the blood is associated with a change in the menstrual cycle and reduced fertility. In the presence of hyperthyroidism, menstruation is short, scarce, sporadic and ovulation can be absent; in hypothyroidism, on the contrary, the flow is abundant, long, and the cycles are close to each other.
10) Pain and discomfort at the base of the neck
The thyroid is positioned at the base of the neck, below the Adam’s apple in men. If you notice a “lump in the throat” or a feeling of irritation during swallowing, if you notice a slight swelling and / or a lowering of the voice, you may have to deal with a thyroid problem. Talk to a doctor right away who can give you the right information.
How to prevent thyroid problems
The thyroid problems and pathologies are widespread and on the rise, accomplices different aspects that affect their lives, especially in the more industrialized: smog and pollution, incorrect nutrition and poor of real nutrients, frenetic and stressful pace countries. Given its enormous importance, how can you protect your thyroid? Here are some tips.
✓ The importance of prevention
Even for the thyroid it is essential to perform a simple self-examination. A glass of water and a mirror will suffice. Holding the latter facing towards your neck, tilt your head slightly backwards and sip a little water. If the neck remains “smooth” during swallowing, the thyroid is OK. If, on the other hand, there is a slight protuberance of small size, it could be ascribable to a thyroid nodule. Remember, however, to contact the doctor for any doubt and possibly to get advice on preventive analysis.
✓ Iodine, a friend of the thyroid
Iodine is a micronutrient essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid, being among the main constituents of the hormones produced therein. Its deficiency may cause the formation of the so-called goiter (due to the increased size of the gland), nodules and brain deficits, and greater attention should be given in particular periods of life (fetal age, neonatal, pregnancy and lactation). In the adult, a daily iodine intake of 150 μg is recommended, which increases to 250-290 μg / day in pregnant or lactating women.
The easiest way to ensure the right dose of iodine, as well as a varied and balanced diet, is to replace the common kitchen salt with iodized salt. The iodized salt, however, is consumed to “raw”, to season cold dishes and not to be added to the cooking water of the pasta (just to be clear), being iodine a very volatile substance. Other foods rich in iodine are sea fish, crustaceans, algae, and, in smaller quantities, cow’s milk, eggs, meat, vegetables, fruits and vegetables.
✓ Selenium, the allied trace element
Not only iodine, but also selenium contributes to the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. We find it, as well as in foods of animal origin, in Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, whole grains (rice, barley, kamut, wheat and corn), in bran, wheat germ and legumes.