A practice of maintaining normal thyroid levels is important. The thyroid function, after all, covers different essential processes. These include regulation of body temperature, metabolism, and even moods and emotions. What is the normal range, though, and how do you know it’s time to take the thyroid function tests?
Normal Thyroid Levels | Why They Matter to Health
In This Article:
- What Does the Thyroid Glands Do?
- How Is the Thyroid Related to the Pituitary Gland?
- What Causes Normal Thyroid Levels to Change?
- Which Signs and Symptoms Should You Watch For?
- How Can You Address Problems?
What Does the Thyroid Glands Do?
To understand the importance of maintaining the normal thyroid levels, let’s begin by talking about the role of the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is the butterfly-shaped organ within the neck region. It’s small, but it plays a significant role in human survival.
The thyroid is responsible for making the hormones T3 and T4. These are more properly called Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine. Together, they affect how cells metabolize energy. Energy comes from food, but it doesn’t enter the body in a usable form. Cells have to transform food calories and oxygen into energy. Without Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine, they can’t.
When there are no thyroid problems, the body functions efficiently. Children grow and their brains mature. Adults have quicker reflexes and neural responses. The heartbeat is stronger. Metabolism is more efficient. Body temperature is higher and more stable.
When you don’t meet the ideal thyroid hormone levels, something in your thyroid is not functioning correctly. Depending on the thyroid disease, you can develop mood swings or depressive symptoms, as well as experience an abnormal metabolism. Studies have shown how issues with the thyroid can lead to serious complications. These include heart disease, high cholesterol, and nerve damage.
How Is the Thyroid Related to the Pituitary Gland?
The thyroid gland may be producing the hormones, but it’s not the one responsible for regulating their manufacture. As Endocrineweb explains, that falls to the pituitary gland. It sits at the bottom of the brain. From there, it controls the thyroid by releasing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
In the presence of TSH, the thyroid knows to produce more T3 and T4. Once the levels in the blood are high enough, the pituitary gland senses them and stops producing TSH. When levels of T3 and T4 drop too low, the pituitary releases TSH once more. It’s a cycle that continues ceaselessly, keeping your body in balance.
What Causes Normal Thyroid Levels to Change?
Normal thyroid levels can change for a variety of reasons. These changes may be short or long-term.
One of the causes of an imbalance in thyroid hormones is Hashimoto’s disease (also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). It’s the most common type of thyroiditis in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s an autoimmune condition, which means the immune system attacks the gland. As it happens, the system destroys the thyroid, making it less effective in producing the necessary hormones that keep your metabolism running.
Another type of autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid is Graves’ disease, which has a different effect from Hashimoto’s. If the latter slows down the metabolism, this one makes it hyperactive.
The normal thyroid levels may also change when there’s a tumor growing in the organ or in the pituitary gland.
Goitrogenic foods can also disrupt the thyroid. They can result in the enlargement of the gland known as goiter. A person can also have a multinodular goiter, which influences the gland’s ability to produce hormones properly.
Some of the common foods to watch out for include brassicas (kale, broccoli, cabbage, radish), as well as millet, soy, and cassava. Note, though, studies tend to have varying opinions about the leafy greens. When in doubt, talk to your endocrinologist who can help you create a food plan.
Normal thyroid levels may fall if the body is deficient in iodine, a mineral commonly found in your diet. It’s essential for hormone production.
Which Signs and Symptoms Should You Watch For?
Thyroid problems often affect women’s health, but they can also occur among men. The signs and symptoms, on the other hand, can be very similar for both men and women:
- Constant fatigue
- Weight gain
- Slow pulse
- Thickening or waxiness of skin
- Dry skin
- Hoarse voice
- Brittle hair
- Loss of libido
- Difficulty concentrating
- Performance problems
- Mental sluggishness
- Abnormal sensitivity to cold
These are only general signs and symptoms. Having them doesn’t necessarily mean you have a thyroid problem. It’s possible you have another condition. The only way to know is to undergo blood tests such as a thyroid test or TSH test. These measure the number of thyroid hormones or TSH levels in the body.
How Can You Address Problems?
Solutions can vary from one person to another. Either way, the goal is universal: reach normal thyroid levels again. If you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, you may need to increase the production of your hormones. If you have high TSH levels, it may be necessary to control them.
Usually, the doctor will prescribe a thyroid medication to correct the problem. It may not work all the time, though, and it’s not the only treatment available.
For one thing, it’s possible you have a non-thyroidal illness, which means there’s an underlying condition damaging your thyroid or the production of the hormones. You could also be exposed to outside stressors. These can include lack of sleep, stress, poor diet, and obesity. At this point, the first step is to deal with the root cause.
You may also bring back normal thyroid levels by making the dietary changes or supplementing the diet with iodine.
The doctor may recommend a blood test after a thyroid exam. Watch this video from Geeky Medics to find out how it works:
Obtaining normal thyroid levels may be challenging for some people, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Work with your physician closely and enrich yourself with knowledge. This way, you can both create a personalized treatment plan that can be effective.
Do you currently have a thyroid problem? What are you doing to reach normal thyroid levels? Share your tips in the comments below.