By Dr. Shawn VanWinkle

One of the most common health problems that are plaguing our society today is thyroid problems. What most people don’t know is that thyroid problems can cause problems with brain function and vice versa, brain problems can cause issues with thyroid function. Thyroid disorders can lead to neurological, mood and cognitive symptoms. In addition, brain injuries can cause a variety of thyroid symptoms. To understand this concept better, we will review how these two organs can influence each other.

5 ways the thyroid and brain influence each other:

1. Thyroid hormone promotes microglia cell growth in the brain. Microglia cells help neurons grow, develop networks to communicate with each other, reduce neurodegeneration and maintain a healthy blood brain barrier. Neurons use neurotransmitters to communicate messages with each other. In order for neurons to be healthy they rely on good functioning microglia cells. Unhealthy neurons can lead to unhealthy communication with the thyroid gland!

2. Thyroid hormone influences the production of a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin. It also helps prime serotonin receptors in the brain. Receptors are proteins on cells that allow for a variety of messengers to communicate with the cell! Serotonin helps regulate your mood and is necessary to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep at night! Serotonin is also used in the brain to tell your pituitary to release a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH tells your thyroid to make thyroid hormone.

3. Decreased thyroid hormone leads to decreased production of another brain neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. This can lead to early dysfunction and even degeneration of areas of your brain that are essential for balance, coordination, memory and normal stress responses!

4. Thyroid hormones affect enzymes that make and breakdown a brain neurotransmitter called GABA. Your brain uses GABA to calm you down and keep your brain/mind from being overactive! GABA is also used by the brain to help control how much TSH is released from the pituitary gland. Too much or too little can affect how much thyroid hormone is released from the thyroid gland.

5. Finally, the release of another brain neurotransmitter called dopamine is influenced by healthy thyroid hormone production. The brain uses dopamine to regulate behavior, cognition and how well your body moves! In addition to serotonin and GABA, the brain uses dopamine to influence TSH release from the pituitary gland.

What you can do:

If you experience thyroid symptoms or have suffered from a brain or head injury, it is important that you find a health professional that can assess the health of both of these organs. Because of how important it is that these two areas of your body are having healthy communication with each other, it will be just as important to implement a health strategy that assesses and supports both areas to help you restore and regain your health!

Copyright © 2013 Integrated Health Systems. All Rights Reserved. Dr. Shawn VanWinkle is an Associate Doctor at Integrated Health Systems. To learn more about how we can help you with your health goals visit our website at A free initial consultation can be scheduled by calling our office at 303-781-5617.