Like many of you, I got Thyroid Disease along with the diabetes (it was one of my free gifts). I got HYPO-thyroidism, in fact, the kind that makes your gland sluggish and supposedly makes you gain weight. My doctor gave me pills, which I take every morning a half-hour before breakfast. But since the diabetes is so much more intense, I doubt I’ve spent more than 45 seconds thinking about my thyroid since diagnosis. So today is the day! Hello There, Mr. Thyroid.
Why should it be a “he”? No idea, just is. Don’t start with me! What’s important is what this funky little gland does, and what it doesn’t do when it breaks down. Since learning that mine doesn’t work right, I’ve kind of pictured it as a little nuisance hanging there uselessly in my neck.
From About.com’s Thyroid Disease 101, I also learned the following:
Your thyroid is a small bowtie or butterfly-shaped gland, located in your neck, wrapped around the windpipe, behind and below the Adam’s Apple area. Hormones produced by the thyroid gland have an enormous impact on your health, affecting all aspects of your metabolism — from the rate at which your heart beats to how quickly you burn calories.
The thyroid produces several hormones, of which two are key: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones help oxygen get into cells, and make your thyroid the master gland of metabolism.
The thyroid has the only cells in the body capable of absorbing iodine. The thyroid takes in iodine, obtained through food, iodized salt, or supplements, and combines it with the amino acid tyrosine. The thyroid then converts the iodine/tyrosine into the hormones T3 and T4. The “3″ and the “4″ refer to the number of iodine molecules in each thyroid hormone molecule.
When it’s in good condition, of all the hormone produced by your thyroid, 80% will be T4 and 20% T3. These will both be released by the thyroid to travel through the bloodstream. The purpose is to help cells convert oxygen and calories into energy.
… When your thyroid starts producing too much thyroid hormone and the balancing system doesn’t function properly, then you can become hyperthyroid, and your body goes into overdrive, gets sped up, causing an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and burning more calories more quickly.
OK, so it’s like a little energy pack that can go into under- or overdrive, I get that. But it seems so easily treatable with pills that I’m surprised so many people have so much to say about it. (Note that almost one-third of people with Type 1 diabetes have thyroid disease, because — yes, we know, thanks — patients with one kind of autoimmune disease are at high risk of developing another).
To kick my thyroid into gear, they first had me on Synthroid, and later on Levoxyl, which splits in half nicely since I need just a very small dose. I always had the notion in the back of my mind that if I wanted to lose weight, I could maybe just cheat a little and take a higher dose of my hypothyroid medicine. Kick that puppy into high gear, and I’d be burnin’ calories like there’s no tomorrow, right?
But if it were that easy, why wasn’t everyone using the thyroid meds for weight loss? My endocrinologist buddy Dr. Bill Quick set me straight on this:
But the downside is you will have all the side effects of “overactivity of the thyroid gland”: restlessness, irritability insomnia, hyperglycemia, risk of cardiac issues, and a whole bunch more besides weight loss.
End result? People who have tried to use high-dose thyroid hormone to lose weight end up sick.
So I was right. The thyroid IS nothing but a little nuisance for many of us, hanging there uselessy in our necks — not even good for stimulating weight loss when we want it to. Maybe you know more about your thyroid. I’m just glad I didn’t spend more than a day on it.