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How does the Endocrine System Control Metabolism?

The thyroid,which is part of the endocrine system, controls the rate at which the body's cells use energy.
A malfunctioning thyroid is usually first detected by a physical exam of the thyroid gland, followed by blood tests.
People with an overactive thyroid may experience insomnia.
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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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The endocrine system affects nearly every cell and organ in the body. It is made up of glands that release chemicals to control many bodily functions, including cell growth and development, mood, sexual functions, and metabolism, the process of converting fuel from foods into energy for the body to function. Although the endocrine system is comprised of many glands, all of which work together, it is the thyroid gland that directly effects metabolism.

The thyroid is the gland responsible for secreting hormones that control the rate at which the body’s cells burn fuel for energy. The more hormones the thyroid produces, the faster the chemical process of converting fuel to energy occurs.

In a normal, healthy endocrine system, all the glands produce the right amount of chemicals for the body's needs, but sometimes, the glands do not work normally. In the case of the thyroid, people may have either an overactive or an underactive thyroid. An overactive thyroid is a condition called hyperthyroidism, and an underactive thyroid is known as hypothyroidism.

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An overactive thyroid produces too much of the thyroid hormones and causes the body’s metabolic rate to increase. People suffering from an overactive thyroid might lose weight even when they eat more, and they often experience other, more severe symptoms like fatigue, depression, a fast or irregular heart beat, and insomnia. An underactive thyroid does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone, which causes the metabolic rate to slow. People with an underactive thyroid may gain weight or have difficulty losing weight, along with other symptoms similar to those of hyperthyroidism.

Many people with a previously healthy thyroid may develop irregular function with age. Since the gland directly effects metabolism, which is directly linked to weight, a sudden change in weight generally prompts a thyroid check. A medical professional can help patients monitor their thyroid health with routine physicals and blood work. People who are experiencing symptoms of thyroid dysfunction should consult a healthcare professional.

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fBoyle
Post 13

Let's not forget that the endocrine system organs are all connected to one another. The pituitary gland, for example, is just as important as the thyroid gland in regulating metabolism.

The pituitary gland is the gland which keeps the thyroid gland in check and helps regulate how much hormone it produces. We can't even tell whether the thyroid is working properly without checking the pituitary gland hormones.

The endocrine system is truly a system. It works well when every "player," that is, every gland in the system is working well.

bear78
Post 12

@StarJo-- I've heard about soy, but I've never heard about coffee interacting with thyroid medication.

I have hypothyroidism which I'm taking medications for. My doctor told me to avoid all foods that come from the cabbage family-- so cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. I'm also supposed to avoid soy, peanuts and strawberries.

Apparently, these foods can prevent the endocrine system from recognizing the hormones and reacting to them. So if I took the medicine and ate these foods, it would be like not taking the medicine at all.

turquoise
Post 11

@anon4353, @jml-- I'm not sure that any food or drink can do that to the extent of treating or balancing out hypothyroidism. If you have this condition, it can only be treated by taking additional hormones to speed up metabolism.

So you would be taking synthetic thyroid hormones that mimic natural thyroid hormones and this will get your metabolism to work faster. I really don't think that a particular food or drink can do this.

feasting
Post 10

It's interesting that the endocrine gland system responds to some of the same foods when it comes to regulating hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. For both, berries that have lots of antioxidants, like strawberries and blueberries, are good choices, as well as salmon.

My sister has an overactive thyroid, and her doctor told her to eat broccoli, kale, or cabbage once a day. He also mentioned yogurt, milk, and protein, but he included berries and fish, as well.

She doesn't eat a lot of meat, but she gets protein from nuts and beans. Her doctor said that those would be helpful in regulating her thyroid, too.

lighth0se33
Post 9

@StarJo – It's also helpful if you avoid alcoholic drinks. I have an underactive thyroid, and my doctor told me that alcohol could make me gain even more weight than I already have.

I gained nearly twenty pounds rather quickly, so I knew that something was wrong. I wasn't eating anything different or exercising any less, so I was relieved to hear it was related to my endocrine system function.

StarJo
Post 8

I've heard that you should avoid soy and caffeine if you are taking medication to treat an underactive thyroid. Both can interact with the medicine.

My cousin has hypothyroidism, and she is currently on medication for it. She can no longer eat some of her favorite foods, like edamame and tofu. She also had to cut down on her coffee and soda consumption.

cloudel
Post 7

I remember learning that in the endocrine system, the pituitary gland is responsible for kickstarting the thyroid gland. It releases these hormones that stimulate the thyroid, and then the thyroid can do its thing to regulate metabolism.

anon257453
Post 6

If you are taking eltroxin for the rest of your life, should you be using a supplement?

anon240198
Post 5

Coconut oil speeds up the metabolism and can correct hypothyroidism.

Fenbeast
Post 3

Hypothyroid symptoms are sometimes related to deficiency in iodine (which is one of the basic building blocks of thyroid hormones) and selenium (a building block of certain enzymes required for the conversion of the T4 hormone to T3, which is the hormone active in the cells). Fish, seaweed, and other foods rich in iodine can sometimes help with hypothyroidism.

jml
Post 2

What foods or drinks stimulate the endocrine system to increase thyroid activity?

anon4353
Post 1

What foods and drinks stimulate the endocrine system so that hypothyroidism is minimized? In other words, what foods or drinks stimulate the metabolism?

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