How your brain controls your thyroid8 years ago | Thyroid Health
By pH health care professionals
There are a lot of articles that say “Is your thyroid slow?” or “Is your thyroid working too fast?”
To understand thyroid disease, you have to understand that the thyroid gland, located in the neck, isn’t just an automatic, independent machine. It’s regulated by the brain.
The pituitary gland, a part of the brain, makes an array of hormones, including the thyroid-stimulating hormone, TSH. That’s what the TSH is on your lab report. It’s not even a thyroid hormone; it’s a brain hormone.
How the brain affects an underactive thyroid
If the thyroid becomes compromised in any way, such as by inflammation, some of the gland may not work. The brain senses this and TSH production increases. That’s why a high TSH is a sign of a poorly functioning thyroid gland. In order for the TSH to rise, it needs the help of TRH, another brain hormone, in the hypothalamus.
The extra stimulation can work to a degree, but eventually, slow thyroid symptoms like dry skin, tingling and fatigue can set in, and direct measurements of the thyroid gland function, like T4 hormone levels, show a drop.
So, you can become hypothyroid (slow thyroid) not only from inflammation, but from problems in the brain. Without that TSH, the thyroid isn’t going to make the hormone. Bleeding and brain tumors can affect the performance of the thyroid.
As you can guess, TRH, TSH and T4 (thyroid hormone) engage in a complicated balancing act every day. For example, TRH increases due to cold and exercise, and decreases due to fasting, inflammation and chronic stress. Scientists have demonstrated that steroids (like prednisone or an inhaler like Advair) can disrupt TRH.
The upshot is that all thyroid disorders are not created alike. The classic “sluggish thyroid” stems from inflammatory Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, but that doesn’t account for everyone with low thyroid problems.
How the brain affects an overactive thyroid
Conversely, when the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone, you can tell because the TSH level drops. High thyroid levels can cause diarrhea, lack of sleep, and a racing heart.
On top of all this, dietary factors like consuming too much or not enough iodine can affect how much thyroid hormone is helping you metabolize your food, stay awake, and complete your morning run.
If you have thyroid disease or suspect you may have it, be aware of the many factors affecting the thyroid, and make sure your doctor can tell you exactly WHY you have to take medication for it.
Click here to learn more about thyroid testing.
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