What you need to know about the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
The Biomarker Handbook is a curated series that seeks to provide readers with insights on each biomarker we cover in our blood test packages and its relation to our body.
As most of us know, our thyroid produces hormones. Additionally, healthy hormone production is critical for our overall wellbeing. It is responsible for a variety of bodily functions, from managing our weight and maintaining a strong central nervous system, to regulating our cardiovascular health.
Enter the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (THS), which is responsible for your body’s healthy hormone supply—along with many other critical health indicators.
Here is what you need to know about TSH, the effects of producing too much or too little of it, and how best to maintain its balanced production.
What is TSH?
TSH is a hormone produced in the brain’s pituitary gland which controls the thyroid’s function.
It is also a key biomarker in measuring our health, since it controls our thyroid gland, along with everything associated with it. This can include weight management, metabolism, heart health and the body’s overall hormone production.
However, without adequate TSH production (hypothyroidism)—or with overproduction of it (hyperthyroidism)—we may experience everything from weight gain and trouble sleeping, to a host of other health ailments.
Types and Variations of TSH Biomarkers
TSH is responsible for causing the thyroid to excrete the hormone thyroxine (T4), which is further converted to triiodothyronine (T3). Moreover, these are the hormones which most actively regulate metabolism.
Low levels of this hormone can lead to a slow metabolism, weight gain, and depression; while too much of can lead to nervousness, sudden weight loss and brittle hair.
Additionally, other serious health complications regarding your endocrine system can stem from improper TSH levels.
Testing for TSH
TSH can be tested and thyroid health evaluated in many ways, including the measurement of:
- T4 by Radioimmunoassay (RIA)
- T3 by RIA
- Pituitary production of TSH
- Iodine uptake scans
- Thyroid scans
Thus, make sure to monitor the production of TSH through health evaluations and other means of testing.
Frequency of Tracking for TSH
Thyroid testing should be performed annually, unless your doctor advises more frequent intervals. This would include if you have:
- Undergone any radiation treatments which include x-rays in the head and neck region or radioactive iodine testing.
- A history of treatment with amiodarone or lithium.
- A diagnosis of thyroid disorders, including hyperthyroidism.
You should also have it checked if you experience:
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- Swelling in the neck region.
- High cholesterol.
- Pregnancy planning.
- Not feeling well after childbirth.
What Should You do if TSH Levels are Abnormal?
The irregular production of TSH and it’s symptoms may indicate bigger and more dangerous health problems.
But fret not! These are a few additional treatments:
- Hypothyroidism: Low levels of TSH are often treated with Levothyroxine. Levothyroxine is a daily thyroid hormone pill and a synthetic form of T4. The prescription of T4 is dependent on an individual’s level of thyroid under-performance.
However, hypothyroidism can also be caused by a diet low in selenium or iodine, the lack of physical activity, or other hormone-related causes.
Therefore, you should choose to evaluate your diet, exercise and gut health before going on a drug treatment program. Thus, to get your TSH levels back on track, a change in your diet or lifestyle may be all you need.
- Hyperthyroidism: An overactive thyroid can come from many causes, including Graves’ Disease (an autoimmune disorder), excess iodine in the system and tumors and high doses of tetraiodothyronine.
Treatments can include anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine treatment or even the complete removal of the thyroid.
To combat hyperthyroidism, maintain a diet high in calcium, with adequate sodium levels. Additionally, consider a diet high in vitamin D, since high levels of TSH can lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.
Remember, not only can a balanced THS production help keep you fit, healthy and happy. It can also save your life!
Interested in other biomarkers, check out the rest of The Biomarker Handbook.
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