Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) regulates the production of hormones of the thyroid gland, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). TSH is made in the pituitary gland which is found just below the brain. The hormone makes up a part of a feedback system which helps to keep the thyroid hormone levels stable in the blood.
Thyroid stimulating hormone has a major role in regulating the production of hormones in the thyroid gland, namely thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
Thyroid hormones control the rate at which the body uses energy. If the concentration of these are low in the blood, the hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) which stimulates TSH release to stimulate the release of T4 and T3.
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck. It is responsible for the production of T3 and T4 which are required to influence the metabolism of the cells in the body. If too much of these hormones are released into the blood, then the body’s cells work faster than normal causing hyperthyroidism. If there is too little of these hormones secreted into the blood, the body’s cells work slower than they are expected, causing hypothyroidism.
If too much of the thyroid hormones are released into the blood this can indicate hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is can be characterised by low TSH levels. Some of the symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:
An overactive thyroid is much more common in women than it is in men and usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40.
An underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough T3 and T4. Hypothyroidism causes high levels of TSH in the blood. Underactive thyroid symptoms can include:
When the thyroid becomes underactive, it doesn’t produce enough hormones which are responsible for maintaining the cell's metabolism. As a result, many of the body’s functions will slow down.
Thyroid function can be a result of a deficiency or an autoimmune disorder – where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. Although, it may require medical intervention to restore its function, changes to diet and lifestyle can be beneficial in helping to cope with the condition.
Normal thyroid function can be helped by eating a varied and healthy diet. It is important to include calcium-rich foods and keep your vitamin D at optimum levels. If this can’t be achieved through diet alone, it may be necessary to consider supplementation.
Iodine is important for thyroid function but too much or too little can have adverse effects. Adults require 150 micrograms per day, with most of this being obtained through the diet. However, if you are taking medication such as levothyroxine for an underactive thyroid there is no need to supplement with iodine.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevalent in thyroid patients, particularly those with hypothyroidism. One possible cause may be the nutritional status of these individuals. So, it is essential to have an adequate intake of B vitamins. Vitamin B12 is found in animal products. Although breakfast cereals and bread may be fortified with vitamin B12, vegetarians and vegans may require supplementation to ensure the correct intake. Good sources of vitamin B12 are:
Participation in physical exercise has a great effect on energy metabolism by increasing energy expenditure and the resting metabolic rate for hours after exercise. Exercise has been shown in some studies to increase the amount of circulating thyroid hormones.
Although some studies have found that exercise doesn’t have any great effect on circulating levels of thyroid hormones, it can have other beneficial effects. For example, it can help with weight loss, psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression as well as improving cardiopulmonary fitness.
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 Lab Tests Online UK. (2015). TSH. Available at: https://labtestsonline.org.uk/tests/tsh
 British Thyroid Foundation. (2018). Your Thyroid Gland. Available at: http://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/your-thyroid-gland
 National Health Service. (2016). Overactive Thyroid (Hyperthyroidism). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/overactive-thyroid-hyperthyroidism/
 National Health Service. (2018). Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/underactive-thyroid-hypothyroidism/
 Chung, H, R. (2014). Iodine and Thyroid Function. Ann Pediatr Endocrinol Metab: 19, pp 8-12
 British Thyroid Foundation. (2018). Thyroid and Diet Factsheet. Available at: http://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/108-thyroid-and-diet-factsheet
 Collins, A, B and Pawlak, R. (2015). Prevalence of Vitamin-B12 Deficiency Among Patients with Thyroid Dysfunction. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr: 25(2), pp 221-226.
 National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. (2018). Vitamin B12. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/#h3
 Ciloglu, F., Peker, I., Pehlivan, A., Karacebey, K., Ilhan, N., Saygin, O and Ozmerdivenli, R. (2005). Exercise Intensity and its Effects on Thyroid Hormones. Neuro Endocrinol Lett: 26(6), pp 830-834.