It seems like just about everyone knows someone with a thyroid condition. Their symptoms can sometimes be wide ranging. Much like the IRS and their tax code, it can leave you a little confused about what exactly it does and why it can cause so many problems. In an effort to put this ignorance to bed, let’s take a little closer look at this inexplicable little endocrine gland.
The thyroid is the largest independent endocrine gland in the body. It’s butterfly shaped and wraps around the front part of your trachea (your wind-pipe) just below the Adam’s apple. (If you’re curious- see Why the Adam’s Apple is Called That) The thyroid secretes hormones that affect almost every cell in your body. In fact, only the adult brain, spleen, testes and uterus aren’t affected by it.
While not strictly necessary for life, thyroid hormones perform several functions, including controlling cellular metabolism and temperature, thereby controlling your body’s metabolic rate, and its production of heat. It has a major role in regulating blood pressure and heart rate by raising the number of adrenergic receptors (the ones that stimulate your fight or flight nervous system) in your blood vessels. It also plays an important role in the development of the skeletal, nervous, and reproductive systems, while also promoting tissue growth.