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Trouble with Your Mighty Thyroid?

We have a small-butterfly shaped gland at our neck just below the Adam’s apple. This tiny gland exerts a powerful influence over our bodily functions. We may not even realise it is there. But, if something goes wrong, it can wreak havoc to our health.

The thyroid is responsible for producing and releasing hormones that affect metabolism, an activity that controls how fast and efficiently cells convert nutrients from the food we eat into energy. By regulating metabolism, the thyroid indirectly affects every cell, tissue, and organ in our body — from muscles, bones and skin to the digestive tract, heart, and brain. This is what the thyroid does in our body:

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When something goes wrong with our thyroid, it is unable to produce the right quantity of thyroid hormones to keep our body functioning well. This can either lead to hyperthyroidism (the over-production of hormones) or hypothyroidism (the under-production of hormones).

Hyperthyroidism increases our metabolism and often leads to weight loss, rapid heartbeat, irritability and heat intolerance among others. People who develop hypothyroidism experience a slowing down of their metabolic functions. This may cause sudden weight gain, chronic fatigue, depression, constipation and constantly feeling cold among others. This is because many of our organs and internal systems slow down.

Hypothyroidism may be caused by a variety of factors, such as the presence of certain antibodies that cause the immune system to attack the thyroid gland, thyroid surgery, radiation treatment, lack of iodine in the diet and also certain medications.

We should be mindful of our thyroid. It can change our life in surprising ways if anything should go wrong. If you haven’t been feeling very well lately, the 12 signs your body may be slowing down may help you identify if you potentially have hypothyroidism. If you do suffer from it, don’t worry. It is easy to break free from hypothyroidism.

Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM. William’s Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. USA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011.