Thyroid Gland -Our Body’s Thermostat

Hello friends,
We at Ayushman are all geared up to keep our promise of continuing to keep you healthy with Ayush Patrika. In this issue we are going to tell you about our body’s thermostat — the Thyroid gland.


THYROID GLAND — our body’s thermostat

Thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland in the neck, just below the Adam’s apple, which plays an important role in regulating metabolism (i.e. energy production and consumption) in our bodies, by secreting two hormones called T-3 and T-4.


When the levels of these hormones increase in blood, there is hyperactivity of all our body functions (and we become like hares), and conversely if the secretions decrease, there is hypo-activity leading to reduced energy levels and a general slowing down of all our systems (and we behave like tortoises)

Thyroid gland is in turn controlled by the pituitary gland (in the brain), which like the conductor of an orchestra, controls all glandular secretions in the body. It stimulates the thyroid gland by means of a hormone called TSH.

If T-3 and T-4 levels (secreted by Thyroid gland) become too high in the blood, they inhibit TSH secretion from the pituitary, thereby preventing a further rise in hormonal levels. Thyroid gland is thus the thermostat of our body, which sets the pace for all our activities, slowing down and speeding us up, as required. This thermostat mechanism is controlled by thyroid –pituitary-axis, and if there is a problem at either end, we can have either hypo or hyper function of thyroid.

Enlargement of thyroid gland

Thyroid enlargement can be with or without change in its functions. It may increase in size due to;

Goiter (caused by iodine deficiency) Infections or reaction to infections Nodules or lumps which may or may not be cancerous

If you have a swelling in the neck, which moves with the act of swallowing, it is a thyroid swelling, and should be brought to the notice of your doctor.

  • Hyper function of Thyroid

When there is unbridled rise in TSH (from pituitary) or T-3 and T-4 (from thyroid), which cannot be checked by the thermostat mechanism, hyperthyroidism results.

Complaints- these will be due to increased metabolic activity for e.g.,

1. Diarrhoea and hyper acidity

2. Hair fall

3. Tremors or trembling of fingers and tongue

4. Increased sweating

5. Nervousness and irritability

6. Palpitations (rapid heartbeat)

7. Heat intolerance

8. Lack of sleep.

Treatment – can be with medicines (which inhibit thyroid secretions,) surgery, or radioactive iodine therapy
(which causes permanent suppression of thyroid secretions, with need for lifelong hormone replacement).

Caution – Avoid iodized salt, and other iodine containing drugs and chemicals (like food preservatives,
multivitamin pills, cough syrups, certain tonics, some dyes which are used to study kidney and gall bladder, and drugs like amiodarone, used for certain heart problems and lithium which is used for schizophrenia)

Now let us understand what
happens if thyroid secretions reduce –

  • Hypo function of thyroid

This is extremely common especially in women. It may be due to

1. Goiter

2. Following thyroid surgery

3. Following radioactive iodine treatment for hyper function of thyroid

4. Hereditary

5. Over-intake of iodine from various sources (already discussed) or

6. After radiation to neck, for other cancers

Complaints – will be due to slowing down of all functions like;

a. Obesity

b. Puffy eyes

c. Forgetfulness

d. Neck swelling

e. Slow thinking

f. Dry throat

g. Moodiness

h. Hoarse voice

i. Mental depression

j. Difficulty in swallowing

k. Thinning hair on scalp

l. Slow heartbeat

m. Loss of body hair

n. Irregular menses

o. Dry skin

p. Infertility

q. Raised cholesterol

r. Constipation

s. Intolerance to cold

t. Leg cramps

Treatment – is by replacement of thyroid hormone.

Iodised salt, and diet in thyroid problems
Ref: Vegan society

Iodine requirement is 100-300 micrograms a day, and if the soil in which food is grown is deficient in iodine, we can get thyroid goiter, mental retardation and even myxoedema (hypo-function of thyroid) Iodisation of salt has done away with this problem to a large extent, but consuming large amounts of iodised salt or sea –food can lead to both hypo and hyperthyroidism especially in the elderly, in whom it can sometimes even cause nodular enlargement.

Intake of cabbage, turnip, broccoli, cauliflower, Soya, maize, tapioca and sweet potatoes increase the body’s requirement of iodine and these vegetables should be avoided by those patients suffering from low secretions of thyroid gland.





Hope you found this issue useful and interesting. Before signing off, we at Ayushman wish you a healthy month—Ayushman bhava!


Dr. Geeta Sundar MD

Chief Health Counsel, IndiaOnlineHealth

5-6/A, Ramyanagari, Bibwewadi, Pune – 411037|