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What are parathyroids?

The parathyroid glands are actually four tiny glands that sit in the lower neck. They are found very near another gland in the neck called the thyroid gland. Although the parathyroid glands may lie very close to the thyroid or even be found inside of it, they have a very different function. While the thyroid regulates energy levels and growth, the parathyroid glands regulate calcium levels in your system.

Normal Thyroid Area

The parathyroid glands regulate calcium in your body by making more or less of a hormone called parathormone (or PTH as it is also called). The parathyroid glands constantly measure calcium levels in the blood as it flows through them. If the calcium level gets high and is unsafe for your body, the normal glands sense this and decrease or stop their hormone production. This in turn lowers the calcium in your body and all returns to normal. Abnormal glands are unable to do this. They make too much hormone and continue to raise the blood calcium even when it is already very high.

One might ask why regulation of calcium is so important to safety and good health. First, it is important because calcium is a critical factor in maintaining good strong bones. We want to maintain a large storehouse of calcium in our bones. Abnormal parathyroid glands begin to “steal” calcium from the bones rather than leaving a healthy reservoir. This can lead to thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis) and premature fracture.

The second very important role for calcium in the body is its job in the central nervous system. Calcium helps regulate brain function and the transmission of signals along our nerves. Abnormal calcium results in difficulty with concentration, memory and depression to name a few.

Once one understands these facts then the problems caused by abnormal parathyroid glands become clear. Again, the high calcium levels and the symptoms are occurring because one or more of the parathyroid glands is no longer normal and produces too much hormone. As the next sections will discuss, high calcium may cause brittle bones, premature fractures, bone pain, general loss of energy or fatigue, gastric reflux, kidney stones and high blood pressure. In short, the bodily system has a major malfunction.

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