Understanding Drug Dependence



The Thyroid, Part One

03/30/2009

Many of you have made suggestions for future newsletters and one of these suggestions was to discuss the one of the most important glands in the body—the thyroid.

WHAT IS THE THYROID?

Thyroid Glad

At the picture illustrates, the thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland that lies along the trachea (the windpipe) in the front of the neck. It is made up of two halves, called lobes, connected by the “isthmus”, a narrow band of tissue. In most people the thyroid is located below the larynx (voice box), but this is not always the case. A normal thyroid gland is very small for a gland that is so important for our health and the way that we feel. The thyroid gland weighs only 20 grams--less than an ounce.

ENDROCRINE SYSTEM

The thyroid gland is a part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is composed of glands throughout the body. These glands release hormones (chemical messengers) into the bloodstream or the fluid surrounding cells. These hormones interact with receptors in our cells in various ways. They activate these receptors and either alter the cell's existing proteins or instruct the cell in the building of new proteins. Both of these actions create reactions throughout the body.

The endocrine system regulates all biological processes in the body from conception through adulthood and into old age, including the development of the brain and nervous system, the growth and function of the reproductive system, as well as the metabolism and blood sugar levels. The female ovaries, male testes, and pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands are major constituents of the endocrine system.

The activities of the thyroid include producing hormones that:

  • Regulate the body's metabolism (conversion of oxygen and calories to energy)

  • Affect brain development

  • Affect breathing

  • Affect heart and nervous system functions

  • Affect blood cell formation

  • Affect body temperature

  • Affect muscle strength

  • Affect bone health

  • Affect skin dryness

  • Affect menstrual cycles

  • Affect body weight

  • Affect cholesterol levels

HOW DOES THE THYROID WORK?

Iodine is necessary to the proper functioning of the body. The thyroid is the only gland in the body that can absorb iodine. The thyroid combines the iodine it absorbs with tyrosine, an amino acid, to produce triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormones. (T3 has three iodine molecules and T4 has four iodine molecules.) If your thyroid is working properly, it will produce about four T4 hormones for each T3 hormone, but each T3 hormone is about four times as strong as each T4 hormone. It is the action of T4 and T3 that causes the regulation of the various activities of the body set forth above.

One interesting point, that we will discuss in more detail next week when we look at some of the treatment options for thyroid problems, is that the T3 created in the thyroid is almost always not the T3 found in our cells. The cells absorb T4 from the bloodstream and convert it into T3 by removing one iodine molecule.

PITUITARY GLAND AND HYPOTHALAMUS GLAND

When discussing the endocrine system, many scientists refer to the pituitary gland as the master gland because it is responsible for controlling many other endocrine glands. It is a tiny gland, about the size of a pea, which is at the base of the brain. (See the above picture.) The pituitary gland is attached to the hypothalamus gland, a gland about the size of a sugar cube. The hypothalamus gland controls the activities of many other glands, including the pituitary gland.

This is the way that these important glands are supposed to work. The hypothalamus is continuously monitoring the levels of T3 and T4 in the bloodstream. When it detects that these levels are low, the hypothalamus releases TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH). TRH instructs the pituitary gland to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).

When the TSH reaches the thyroid, it produces and releases more T3 and T4 into the bloodstream.

HOW MANY HAVE THYROID PROBLEMS?

What we have described above is the way that our endocrine system and our thyroid gland are supposed to work. However, in a growing number of Americans, the thyroid is not working properly. Sometimes the problem is with the thyroid, but other times it is coming from the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists states the following:

  • 27 million Americans have overactive or underactive thyroid glands but more than half remain undiagnosed.

  • More than eight out of 10 patients with thyroid disease are women.

  • Women are five to eight times more likely than men to suffer from hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

  • Fifteen to 20 percent of people with diabetes and their siblings or parents are likely to develop thyroid disease (compared to 4.5 percent of the general population).

  • Incidence of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) increases with age.

  • By age 60, as many as 17 percent of women and 9 percent of men have an underactive thyroid.

SYMPTOMS OF THYROID PROBLEMS

It is interesting to look at the list of symptoms published by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The three primary conditions associated with the operation of the thyroid gland are Hyperthyroid (overactive thyroid), a Hypothyroid (underactive thyroid) or Euthyroid (the thyroid activity is considered normal). Here is a list of some of the symptoms of Hyperthyroid and Hypothyroid:

  • Heat intolerance

  • Sweating

  • Weight loss

  • Weight gain

  • Forgetfulness

  • Depression

  • Mental disturbances

  • Mood swings

  • Frequent bowel movements

  • Constipation

  • Changes in vision

  • Fatigue and muscle weakness

  • Menstrual disturbance

  • Impaired fertility

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Tremors

  • Dry, coarse hair

  • Hoarse voice

CONCLUSION

In Part Two we will discuss the primary types of thyroid disease, the tests to determine if someone has a thyroid problem and the recommended treatments for thyroid problems.

At Novus Medical Detox Center, we regularly see patients who were prescribed dangerous drugs to treat symptoms that, when the proper tests were conducted, were caused by thyroid problems. They were given dangerous psychoactive drugs that did nothing to correct the problem but instead created many harmful side effects and allowed the thyroid problems to worsen.

Since diagnosis of the actual cause of a problem seems to no longer be a standard medical practice, it is up to each of us to understand that most of the problems that we experience from time to time can be diagnosed and actually cured. In few other areas is it as vital that “Knowledge is Power.”

At Novus Medical Detox Center, we regularly help people escape from the traps created by these dangerous drugs. People come to us to medically detox from OxyContin addiction, methadone addiction, Vicodin addiction, heroin addiction and from psychoactive drugs.

Please give us a call if we can help anyone you know that we can help.

NOTE: This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine, health care diagnosis or treatment, or (iii) the creation of a physician patient or clinical relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or that this information may be useful to you or others, please consult with your health care provider before applying any information from our articles to your personal situation or to the personal situation of others.

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