What Are Parathyroid Glands?

You’ve probably heard of the thyroid gland (if you’ve been on this blog before, I’m sure you have), but have you ever heard of the parathyroid glands?

Fun fact: parathyroid glands and the thyroid gland are actually unrelated!

So, what are parathyroid glands?

According to parathyroid.com (I know, there’s a website for everything and it’s incredible): Parathyroid glands are small glands of the endocrine system that control the amount of calcium in our blood and bones. There are 4 parathyroid glands located behind the thyroid gland in the neck…

Parathyroid glands regulate blood calcium by producing parathyroid hormone (PTH) in response to changing blood calcium levels. Why is blood calcium important? Well, because proper levels ensure that the nervous system and muscles work properly and that bones remain strong.

What could go wrong with your parathyroid glands?

Parathyroid glands can produce too much PTH, causing hyperparathyroidism. Typically, this is caused when one or more of the parathyroid glands grows into a benign tumor called a parathyroid adenoma, and constantly produces an excess of PTH.

Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism typically include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney stones
  • Excessive urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tiring easily or weakness
  • Depression or forgetfulness
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Frequent complaints of illness with no apparent cause
  • Nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite

While symptoms can range from mild to severe, hyperparathyroidism can be diagnosed before symptoms become apparent. When symptoms due occur, they are a results of damage in other tissues or organs due to high calcium levels in the blood or urine or too little calcium in the bones (according to the Mayo Clinic).

How do we promote parathyroid health?

We can help our parathyroid glands along by eating a healthy diet that contains calcium and vitamin D. Since the parathyroid glands control blood calcium levels, it is important that we give our bodies enough calcium for the parathyroid to regulate. It’s also important to get enough vitamin D as it aids in the absorption of calcium.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Dark leafy greens (kale, okra, spinach…)
  • Oranges
  • Calcium fortified foods (cereal, non-dairy milk, juices, bread products)

And you can find vitamin D in:

  • Mushrooms
  • Oily fish (salmon, sardines…)
  • Liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Vitamin D fortified dairy and grain products

There is always the option of calcium and vitamin D supplements, if needed, but always consult with your doctor or medical team before taking any kind of supplement.

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care provider 

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