The thyroid is a strange organ in almost every sense of the word: it is butterfly-shaped and situated in the neck – wrapped around your throat, just below the band of cartilage that would form an ‘Adam’s apple’ were it to be prominent. It is small, but a powerhouse for the whole body, managing the metabolism, digestion (and all its ‘knock-on’ features) and even controlling the body’s temperature, amongst other things.
How Does the Thyroid Work?
The thyroid works – in conjunction with the pituitary gland – by releasing measured amounts of precisely calibrated and highly powerful thyroid hormone. The hormone is released in two variants: T3, which is the active component, ready to be used wherever in the body it is needed, while T4 is the inactive variant. A useful way to think of it is to see T4 as being a ‘fine-tuner’ for the T3 part. While T3 floods the body, T4 is used in much smaller doses, being as little as one-quarter the strength of the T3 variant, bringing about a perfect balance through some fairly mysterious alchemy that is known but not yet completely understood.
How Do Thyroid Treatments Work?
Thyroid issues present in one of two ways: through hyperthyroidism, which is when there is an excess of thyroid hormone in the body, or through hypothyroidism, when there is an insufficiency of thyroid hormone. There is no realistic treatment for hyperthyroidism, no way of encouraging the body to expel excess thyroid hormone, so the current treatment is to reduce thyroid function drastically. Once the hyperthyroidism has been effectively reversed, often (nearly always) the patient will then present with hypothyroidism – for which there is an effective treatment.
Hypothyroidism is treated with the administration of a carefully balance dose of artificial T3 hormone, liothyronine. Liothyronine T3 is a replica of the natural T3 hormone and the body is able to use it in exactly the same way as it uses naturally produced T3 hormone, which is called L-triiodothyronine, sending it to where it is needed in the body, where it gets to work maintaining body temperature, aiding digestion and the distribution of nutrients around the body.
A Case for Trial and Error
Because T3 is so powerful, it is hard to get the dosage exactly right the first time or two, so thyroid patients must be patient and may have to tolerate a period of being most unsettled as the dose of T3 is adjusted: increased when fatigue and feelings of coldness, poor appetite and so on persist, and decreased should the body temperature shoot up, along with feelings of paranoia or anxiety, weight loss and irritability or nervousness along with an excess of energy and increased appetite (the latter often despite weight loss occurring alongside it).
Thyroid issues are now largely manageable and taking your T3 medication regularly as advised can see you lead a full and happy life with few, if any, restrictions.