MEGA, The Easiest Way to Remember What Your Thyroid Does For You

APRIL 26, 2009 - Horse Racing : The Horse racing event at Tokyo race course on April 26, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tsutomu Takasu)

Image: Tsutumu Takasa

Ever wonder why you have more difficulty losing fat than most? One influencer of your metabolism can be your thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland sitting around the throat. In addition to metabolism, this gland impacts some of the most important systems in the body.

Furthermore, there are an estimated 20 million Americans experiencing a thyroid condition of some kind. Could you be at risk?

One way to assess your health is to examine 4 aspects commonly associated with thyroid function:

Metabolism & Mood
Energy and Heat
Growth
Appetite

In other words, the impact of the thyroid can be best remembered as M.E.G.A.

1. Metabolism and Mood

One of the thyroid gland’s primary functions is to release the hormones T3 (nickname for triiodothyronine, which contains 3 iodine atoms) and T4 (nickname for thyroxine, which contains 4 iodine atoms), the most bioactive and abundant thyroid hormones respectively. T3 directly interacts with cells throughout the body, affecting cell metabolism, while T4 serves as a “storage” hormone, although it can be mildly bioactive as well.

Therefore, abnormalities in thyroid function affect hormone levels, which lead to changes in metabolism.

Individuals with low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) exhibit lower cell metabolism, leading to symptoms like weight gain and decreased cognitive function, or “brain fog”.

Those with high thyroid function (hyperthyroidism) may experience signs of higher metabolism, such as heart palpitations, nervousness, and weight loss.

2. Energy and Heat

With changes in thyroid hormone levels come fluctuations in energy levels. This is because T3, the thyroid hormone, plays a role in mitochondria, the cell’s “power plant” and center for energy production and heat generation. With decreased T3, the body’s cells create less heat and energy.

Therefore, an underactive thyroid can cause decreased energy, and cold hands and feet. Low thyroid activity is associated with elevated homocysteine, an amino acid associated with poor blood circulation, and an increased risk of heart conditions.

Likewise, an overactive thyroid can cause decreased heat tolerance and increased energy, sometimes to the point of shakiness or tremors. Restless leg syndrome has been found to be associated with hyperthyroidism.

3. Growth

In addition to metabolism, mood, and energy, growth is affected by thyroid hormones.

Hypothyroidism leads to slowed growth of the nails, skin, and/or hair. This sometimes manifests as dry skin, thin and/or brittle nails and hair.

Conversely, hyperthyroid symptoms include flushing of the skin, overgrown nails, and thinning scalp hair.

4. Appetite

Because thyroid hormones affect metabolism and energy levels, appetite is also affected.

Hypothyroidism is typically associated with decreased appetite, while hyperthyroidism is associated with increased appetite.

The implications of changing appetites to weight loss and weight gain can be counterintuitive. Individuals with hypothyroidism may notice a decreased appetite, yet experience weight gain due to decreased metabolism. Meanwhile, those with hyperthyroidism may experience an increase in appetite while still losing weight due to increased metabolism.

How WellnessFX Can Help Your Thyroid

As thyroid influences all aspects of your health, it helps to track your thyroid function before any abnormalities surface as a problem. The primary biomarkers to test for assessing thyroid function include:

  • T3 (the active thyroid hormone that directly impacts cellular function)
  • T4 (the “storage” thyroid hormone that is converted to T3 in the body)
  • TSH (the hormone from the pituitary gland that signals the thyroid to produce T3 and T4)

Get to know how well your thyroid is functioning with the WellnessFX advanced thyroid panel:

Check out the Advanced Thyroid Panel

Alternatively, check out other packages, some of which do include biomarkers for thyroid health:

Browse All Test Packages

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.