The endocrine system can be thought of as a finely tuned orchestra: when hormones are functioning as they should, the body works in harmony. But when just one of the hundreds of the hormones in the body plays out of tune, it triggers a knock-on effect, impacting every other bodily system in its wake.
The thyroid gland — the conductor of the orchestra — is a small, butterfly-shaped organ found at the front base of the neck and is one of the largest hormone-producing glands in the body. It works by releasing hormones that control how the body uses energy and produces thyroid hormones which act as tiny messengers whizzing from blood vessel to organ, signalling for heart rate to increase or decrease, determining how fast intestines process food and speaking to the central and peripheral nervous systems.
Without thyroid hormones, the body would be starved of hormones responsible for controlling breathing, heart rate, metabolic rate, body temperature, kidney function and hair and nail growth — something I knew too well.
The thyroid gland works by receiving messages from the hypothalamus – the part of the brain linked to the nervous system and the endocrine system — via the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland produces thyroid-stimulating hormone, TSH, which is then sent to the thyroid gland where it is converted into T3 (tri-iodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). Together, these hormones whizz around the body to regulate temperature, metabolism, heart rate, digestion, libido and menstruation among myriad things essential to living a healthy life.