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Basic Thyroid Information

Return to thyroid articles

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, subclinical hypothyroidism is prevalent in up to 5% of women and 3% of men.

Though the thyroid gland takes up just a tiny part of the body, it’s one of the largest endocrine glands and it plays a very important role in keeping you healthy. Problems with the thyroid, located on the front part of the larynx, are common but may be left undiscovered without the proper screening.

When in the womb, the thyroid is actually located in the back of the tongue but usually moves to its rightful place in the front of the neck before birth.

Function
The thyroid controls how quickly the body burns through energy, hormone sensitivity, how much protein is made and body temperature regulation, but its main function is to aid in the absorption of food and digestion. The gland is full of blood vessels and is also responsible for controlling the quality of voice.

The thyroid gland converts iodine, with the help of amino acid, to form hormones, the most prevalent are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).The thyroid is the only part of the body that can absorb iodine and while it is necessary for healthy hormone production, the body does not produce its own iodine. This is why overall diet can have a huge impact on thyroid performance. In fact, the body needs a minimum of 60 micrograms of iodine a day to produce it’s hormones. The recommended level for healthy adults a day is closer to 150 micrograms and in pregnant women this is increased to 200 micrograms.

These thyroid hormones impact metabolism, growth, body temperature, weight and even emotional well-being. In children, thyroid hormones are essential in brain development. The recommended daily intake for children is around 90-120 micrograms.

Thyroid level testing should begin at the age of 30 and should be continued at least once every 5 years, unless you are at high risk for developing thyroid problems, in which case it may need to be checked at more frequent intervals.

A healthy thyroid gland produces 80% T4 and 20% T3. Even though the percentage of T3 is lower, it is more powerful than T4. Normal test results should be near 4.5 to 11.2 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) for T4 and T3 should be around 24-37%.