How Does the Thyroid Affect The Body?


Written by Elite HRT on February 24, 2022

Medically reviewed by

Camille Freking, Regulatory Affairs Specialist, MEDICAL ADVISOR

Your thyroid is responsible for creating a significant number of hormones that your body needs to function properly. This small organ is an absolute powerhouse that’s vital to your overall health and wellbeing. 

Conditions affecting the thyroid, like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, can have noticeable effects that will impact the way your body works and looks. Understanding your thyroid and helping your body to support its function is crucial for your sustained wellness.

It’s important to understand the thyroid and how it affects your body. Knowing what to expect can help you recognize early signs of thyroid issues and intervene before they have a significant impact on your health.

What Does the Thyroid Do?

Your thyroid is a part of the endocrine system, which produces the hormones your body needs to grow, heal, and sustain itself. The endocrine system controls human growth and development, as well as metabolism and reproductive health.

The thyroid produces many important hormones, but the majority of its effects come from hormones known as T-3 and T-4, two necessary hormones that your body has to produce on its own. These hormones work with both the body and the brain to create homeostasis.

The thyroid gland works with the pituitary gland to establish how much of each hormone the body needs to fulfill its functions and reach a state of homeostasis, and effective communication is imperative.

What Does the Thyroid Control in Your Body?

The thyroid works to regulate many processes by creating hormones that act as chemical messengers to the rest of your body. Your thyroid gland leads your metabolic processes, telling your body when and how to create energy from the food that you eat. It also sends signals to regulate the menstrual cycle and the cardiovascular system.

The thyroid is part of the system in your body that controls healthy cholesterol level maintenance and body temperature regulation. While eating a balanced diet and dressing appropriately for the weather are also important parts of these processes, your body would be unable to self regulate without the hormones your thyroid produces.

Where Is the Thyroid Located?

The thyroid is a very small gland shaped like a butterfly. It sits right at the front of your throat below your voice box, between your collar bone and adam’s apple. 

When your thyroid hormone production is functioning properly, the thyroid remains small and difficult to detect. Some thyroid problems can lead to visible swelling and inflammation of the thyroid, called a goiter. This usually leads to the thyroid nodules becoming visibly larger. It can sometimes affect the way your voice sounds or make it difficult to swallow.

What Are the Early Warning Signs of Thyroid Problems?

Because the thyroid gland is responsible for so much, many people are easily able to notice when their thyroid may not be functioning properly. Thyroid problems can often lead to a drastic change in the way you feel, including your energy levels.

Visible Swelling of the Thyroid Gland

Your thyroid should hardly be visible. It’s normal to be able to feel your thyroid when touching the area, but it isn’t normal for the thyroid to protrude. If you notice swelling around your larynx, you need to see a doctor immediately. 

Persistent Fatigue

There are a lot of lifestyle factors and several other ailments that can contribute to persistent fatigue. It’s difficult to attribute fatigue directly to the thyroid without the presence of other symptoms and proper thyroid function tests.

If you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep and your caffeine consumption, diet, and exercise habits haven’t changed, your thyroid might be playing a role in your symptoms. Since the thyroid is responsible for the metabolic processes your body uses to produce energy, insufficient thyroid hormones can contribute to a general lack of energy.

This fatigue can also extend to the mind. People with low thyroid hormones often report difficulties with mental focus, difficulty learning, or trouble recalling information.

Unexplained Weight Loss (Hyperthyroidism)

When your thyroid becomes overactive, it provides too much support to the body in its quest to convert food into energy. This leads to the body burning more calories than necessary. It can be difficult to maintain healthy body weight with an overactive thyroid. 

One of several symptoms of hyperthyroidism is feeling hungry all the time due to the body’s overenthusiastic conversion of food to energy. Some people with hyperthyroidism would describe their stomachs as feeling bottomless, getting intensely hungry again just an hour or two after finishing a meal.

Unexplained Weight Gain (Hypothyroidism)

Hypothyroidism, or a slow thyroid, won’t contribute to a significant amount of weight gain. Weight gain can only come from a surplus of calories in your diet. Hypothyroidism can hinder your body’s ability to sufficiently use the calories you’ve ingested by slowing your metabolism. 

People with underperforming thyroids might gain around five pounds a year, despite the fact that their eating and exercise habits are just the same as they always were. Small amounts of underutilized calories slowly accumulate to contribute to this modest weight gain over a prolonged period. 

Reducing caloric intake within safe and appropriate parameters and slightly increasing exercise may be enough to stave off most of the effects of hypothyroidism, but the thyroid still needs to be properly treated to help maintain results from better weight management strategies.

Changes in Resting Heart Rate

Your metabolism creates energy for your body, and your heart works through your body’s energy. If you aren’t creating an adequate amount of energy, your resting heart rate might be slightly lower than expected. 

Throughout the day, your heart rate might feel a lot like it feels when you first wake up and you haven’t started expending energy. If you’re creating too much energy, you might feel slightly excited all the time. Your resting heart may function more like it should after a brief period of mild to moderate exercise.

Sensitivity to Hot or Cold Temperatures

Your body behaves and responds differently in different temperatures. Your thyroid creates a hormone called thyroxine (T-4) to help regulate your temperature. You might notice that when you’ve been exercising and tapping into your energy reserves that your body naturally feels warm. When you wake up in the morning, you might feel a little chilly.

When your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, it doesn’t produce appropriate amounts of thyroxine. This can lead to feeling too hot or too cold, even when everyone else around you reports feeling comfortable at the current temperature. 

People with slower thyroids tend to have cold hands and feet. The body expels most of its heat energy through the hands and feet when it’s trying to cool off, and low levels of thyroxine inspire the body to cool itself. People with faster thyroids may feel flushed or sweat with very little exertion as their body’s temperature is very slightly higher at rest.

Thinning Hair

Hypothyroidism can cause thinning hair in some people. Issues with the production of hormones can lead to thinning hair in both men and women. Although most people associate hair loss with testosterone, issues with the balance of other hormones can also play a role.

While the thyroid doesn’t produce estrogen or testosterone, it does produce hormones that help your body to metabolize the energy and nutrients in your food. If it struggles too hard for too long, you may experience some side effects associated with malnutrition. 

Thinning hair and brittle nails are common in people with thyroid deficiencies that have persisted untreated for a lengthy period. 

The Symptoms of Thyroid Problems in Females

Although a healthy, functioning thyroid is essential for every human being, women may experience unique symptoms or complications as a result of a malfunctioning thyroid. 

Thyroid function plays a significant role in hormone production, and female hormones fluctuate around menstrual periods. During this time, the effects of low thyroid hormones often become more pronounced.

In some cases, thyroid dysfunction can be significant enough to mimic the effects of early menopause. If you’re a female with symptoms that may indicate early menopause or a malfunctioning thyroid, see your doctor immediately.

Menstrual Irregularity or Fertility Changes

Thyroid disorders can delay or prevent ovulation, which can disrupt the regulation of the menstrual cycle or cause temporary infertility until the issue is resolved. Women with hypothyroidism may be more likely to develop ovarian cysts as a result of the disruption to the ovulation process.

During pregnancy, thyroid disorders can cause a significant risk to the developing fetus. Severe thyroid issues can even cause miscarriage. It’s important to address any thyroid conditions before attempting to become pregnant. 

Changes in Mood

Thyroid disorders can disturb the natural hormonal balance of the body. This can lead to mood changes, anxiety, depression, and irritability. Many women associate these mood swings with the onset of menopause, but thyroid conditions can often mimic the effects of menopause. It’s best not to assume that menopause is the cause until you’ve spoken to your doctor.

What Causes Thyroid Disease?

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are the most common forms of thyroid disease. These can occur independently as a result of the thyroid gland failing to work as expected, or they can occur in conjunction with another underlying condition that affects the thyroid.

In addition to hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, there are other conditions that directly impact the thyroid or consistently cause the thyroid to work ineffectively.


General thyroiditis is the swelling of the thyroid gland, which can inhibit its ability to produce sufficient amounts of necessary hormones. 

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition that periodically causes the body to mistakenly attack the thyroid, leading to periods of low hormone production. Postpartum thyroiditis is a temporary hindrance of the thyroid after giving birth. It usually resolves on its own.

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is a condition where the thyroid becomes hyperactive and remains in a constant state of overproducing thyroid hormones. People with Graves’ disease often experience a very high resting heart rate and can sometimes have trouble maintaining normal muscular health.

Iodine Deficiency

The thyroid significantly depends on iodine to grow, develop, and maintain its health. Iodine deficiency, particularly in childhood, can lead to irreversible damage to the body. Children with iodine deficiency often fail to reach their full growth potential and live with intellectual disabilities. Iodine deficiency is exceedingly rare in adults that live in developed countries as it’s now commonly added to table salt.

Can I Check My Thyroid at Home?

You can check your thyroid for bumps or swelling at home, and they’re usually easy to detect through self-examination. Many people discover that their thyroid isn’t functioning properly based on visible changes.

Many people with thyroid health issues won’t have any visible changes to their thyroid. While these changes are a great indicator, they’re far from the only indicator. 

There is no at-home test that can reliably assess thyroid health or thyroid hormone levels. The only way to know for sure is to visit a doctor for proper testing. You’ll be able to begin treatment upon diagnosis of a thyroid-related health concern.

How Are Thyroid Problems Diagnosed?

Almost all diagnostic processes begin with a physical exam. Since some other conditions can present symptoms similar to thyroid conditions, your doctor will want a full and accurate picture of your health before ordering specific tests. After your examination, your doctor will have a better idea of the tests necessary to give you a proper diagnosis. 

Your doctor needs to thoroughly examine your thyroid from multiple perspectives. In some cases, imaging tests are used to confirm swelling or nodules on the thyroid. Imaging tests are conducted with an ultrasound, just like obstetricians use to observe growing babies. These tests are absolutely painless and only take a few minutes. 

In most cases, doctors will run blood tests to determine thyroid hormone levels. Multiple rounds of blood tests may be necessary if the suspected culprit is an autoimmune disorder that causes thyroid dysfunction, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. 

Certain markers will only be present in the bloodstream during flare-ups, and if your test isn’t scheduled within the immediate vicinity of the flare-up, blood tests may not give an accurate picture of the situation.

How Are Thyroid Problems Treated?

Thyroid health issues are treated differently, depending on the behavior of the thyroid. Treatment for a thyroid that overproduces hormones will be different from treatment for a thyroid that underproduces hormones. In both cases, treatment should be performed under close medical supervision.

Lifestyle Changes

No matter what issue is impacting your thyroid health, it’s important to eat a balanced diet, get adequate gentle exercise, and get a sufficient amount of sleep every night. These basic things provide your body with the support it needs to heal and keep itself healthy. 

Living a healthier lifestyle is unlikely to reverse the effects of your thyroid condition, but it is likely to reduce the severity of your symptoms when used in conjunction with a proper treatment plan.

Thyroid Hormone Replacement

If your thyroid isn’t producing sufficient amounts of the hormones it needs to help power your body, your doctor may prescribe some form of thyroid hormone replacement therapy. These hormones will compensate for your thyroid’s shortcomings. Your doctor will know the appropriate amounts of each hormone to prescribe after evaluating your hormone level tests.

Controlled Damage to the Thyroid

Hyperactive thyroids can be slowed by deliberately damaging the thyroid gland. Doctors sometimes use very small amounts of radioactive iodine to throttle the thyroid’s inclination to overproduce hormones.

Thyroid Removal

Thyroid removal is typically used as a solution only when other less invasive solutions aren’t working or cannot work. The thyroid can be completely removed from the body, and its functions will be replaced by supplemental hormones. When you have thyroid surgery for removal, you’ll need to take supplemental hormones for the rest of your life since you will have zero natural production of thyroid hormones.

How To Begin Thyroid Treatment 

The first step of beginning thyroid treatment is to receive a diagnosis from your doctor. Upon reviewing your test results, your doctor will be able to create a plan designed specifically for your unique needs. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.

If you’re looking to raise your energy levels, shed some unwanted weight, and restore mental clarity while you’re treating an underactive thyroid, Elite HRT can help. 

Nutraceutical therapy isn’t a replacement for proper thyroid care, but it can be used in conjunction with a doctor-prescribed thyroid care regimen to help you look and feel your best.

Our team of doctors makes it easy to begin hormone therapy or nutraceutical therapy from the comfort of your own home. We’ll review your medical history, schedule the necessary tests, and work with you to create a customized solution to support your body. 

Contact us today to get started. It’s easier than you think.


Frontiers | Thyroid Hormones, T3 and T4, in the Brain | Endocrinology

Hypothyroidism and infertility: Any connection? | Mayo Clinic

Menopause or a Thyroid Problem? | North American Menopause Society

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Postpartum Thyroiditis; Causes, Symptoms & Treatments | Cleveland Clinic

Graves Disease | The American Thyroid Association

Nutrition: Effects of iodine deficiency | World Health Organization