The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, the chemical messenger system made up of glands that produce and distribute hormones. But it does not work alone. It is also part of a very important trio called the Hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, or HPT axis. The functionality of this axis revolves around the thyroid because it produces hormones T3, T4, and Calcitonin. T3 and T4 are responsible for increasing metabolic function, pushing the cells in the body to work harder to increase body temp, heartbeat, use up food and produce energy, and improve concentration and reflexes. In children, it also supports growth and brain development. Calcitonin is specifically involved in calcium metabolism and bone health. In order for these thyroid hormones to be regulated properly, the entire axis must be involved. The hypothalamus detects low levels of thyroid hormones and produces a hormone of its own called TRH that is sent to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland communicates to the thyroid whether the body needs more or less T3 or T4, then sends TSH to the thyroid and tells it to produce more thyroid hormones.
Maintaining overall health and wellness through exercise and a nutritious, anti-inflammatory diet, especially as we age, will help to keep the thyroid healthy. Additionally, iodine is one of the main building blocks for T3 and T4 and is essential for a happy thyroid.