the miracle of the hormones

The Rhythm of Life: The Thyroid Gland

Today in factories and modern industrial plants, the most important thing on the agenda is "productivity." Every department of a factory must work with ideal speed but it is not enough that the individual units work to the ideal speed by themselves. Every unit must work in harmony with the others. If one unit thinks that there is an advantage in working on its own faster than the others, this could cause harm rather than benefit. For this reason, industrial engineers and strategic planners work in factories and plants to put planning into place and ensure productivity.

Imagine a factory that produces millions of different products, operates twenty-four hours a day without a break, and has 100 trillion workers. No doubt, an army of engineers and business planners would be required in this factory to formulate a productivity plan and determine how quickly each group of workers will work must productively.

In real life there exists such a factory, but engineers and business administrators do not work in it. The work is done by a small set of cells and the hormones that they secrete.

This factory is, of course, the human body and what is responsible for the productivity of this factory is the thyroid gland. With the help of the thyroxine hormone secreted by the thyroid gland, 100 trillion cells are individually organized to function according to a certain rhythm and at a certain rate of speed. This hormone determines how quickly nutrients are converted into energy and how efficiently food burns in the body.

Children especially have a high rate of metabolism. This is because they obtain a higher energy production from the nutrients in their cells. It is the thyroxine hormone that determines and supervises the speed at which the body cells work.

For example, most young people, especially those still in the process of growth, have a very high rate of metabolism, and the food they consume is quickly turned into energy. In other words, the nutrients they eat are quickly burned so that they do not gain weight easily. Generally, as people grow older, there is no difference in their appetite but, if they eat the same amount of food as when they were younger, they gain weight. The reason for this is that, when they were younger, the body cells produce energy from their food at a higher rate. When a person gets older, the energy produced by the cells from the burning of nutrients is lower and unburned food is stored in the body as fat.

If you were a factory owner, you would work to ensure that your employees worked in the most productive manner and, at the same time, you would make sure that they paid attention to their own health and safety. If the employees in one department of your factory worked more slowly than they should, it would not be good for the factory's general production. If there is no foreman to tell the workers what job they must do and how quickly they must do it, production will suffer.

The same thing happens in our bodies. If there were no foreman to tell your cells how quickly they must work, the result would cause the activity of the cells to slow down, the food you ate would turn to fat, you would not have enough energy to raise your arm, and your whole body would come to the point of exhaustion. When too little thyroxine hormone is secreted, a condition called hypothyroidism occurs which is characterized by these symptoms.11

For a factory to achieve the highest level of productivity, the speed at which the workers do their jobs must be both organized and controlled.

But even if you are not aware of it, your thyroid gland is working for you, secreting the thyroxine hormone that controls each one of the 100 trillion cells and prevents them from slowing down. As a result, you can live your daily life normally.

Thyroxine not only prevents the cells from moving too slowly, it also prevents them from working too fast. Because this hormone is secreted in a definite amount, the speed at which the cells work is kept in balance. If the cells of the body worked more quickly than they should, "toxic goiter" would develop, caused by the excessive secretion of thyroxine.12 Symptoms of this disease include the increase of the metabolic rate, a rise in body temperature and blood pressure, weight loss, excessive sweating and general nervousness. The eyes bulge in their sockets and, in advanced stages of this disease, blindness and even death (due to cardiac insufficiency) can result.

The tissues that make up the human body are continually being renewed. Every day approximately 200 grams of muscle and tissue cells are renewed.13 Every minute 200 million cells in our bodies are produced to replace dead cells,14 and it is the thyroxine hormone that determines the speed at which this renewal takes place.

One of the conditions caused by the malfunction of the thyroid gland is Grave's disease. This condition causes the eyes to bulge (above left). Goiter is a condition caused by the enlargement of the thyroid gland (above right).

How does this hormone-producing thyroid gland know the speed at which the cells in our bodies must function? How does it determine the speed of the replacement of body cells? The person himself does not even know the speed at which his body's cells have to function, and most people are not even aware that their body cells have a particular speed at which they must function. If someone wanted to interfere with the speed at which his body cells work, he could certainly not affect the cells with his own will. In order to do this, he would have to obtain medical help or take some medication. Human beings do not determine the speed at which their own cells work; this is under the control of that small piece of flesh called the thyroid gland.

How has the thyroid gland determined the ideal working speed for the cells? How does it know the working speed of the hundreds of different systems contained in the cells-systems that scientists are still investigating? Let scientists continue to try to understand these systems; the thyroid hormone knows all the details of these systems, including what kind of intervention is needed to increase their working speed. To do this, it produces a specific molecule type and sends them to each of the cells one by one. In light of this, we must accept that the cells, which make up the thyroid gland and produce thyroxine, have a much higher intelligence about this process than human beings.

Remember, like all the cells in the body, cells that compose the thyroid gland do not have any conscious intelligence.

The thyroid hormones are responsible for the growth, metabolism, development and the organization of the activities in the nervous system.

As can be seen in the picture on the left, a thyroid molecule is composed of lifeless, unconscious atoms. The cells perform their function according to humanly inconceivable genetic program written in their nuclei. This fact brings to light even more the enormity of the miracle of creation.

The structure of the thyroid hormone that determines the speed at which the body cells work.

It is God, the possessor of eternal intelligence and knowledge, Who wonderfully created the cells of the body, the genetic program that determines the functioning of this system, and the inner systems of the cells that translate and interpret this genetic program.

Moreover, in the genetic programs of the cells that compose the thyroid gland, He wrote the molecular formula of the hormone that accelerates the activity of other cells. So it is evident that a remarkably harmonious system has been put in place which proves once more the perfection of God's creation. In the Qur'an, God reveals harmony and perfection that is seen everywhere in the world:

He Who created the seven heavens in layers. You will not find any flaw in the creation of the All-Merciful. Look again - do you see any gaps? Then look again and again. Your sight will return to you dazzled and exhausted! (Qur'an, 67: 3-4)

The Proportion in Our Bodies

Thyroxine has another wonderful characteristic in that it works in cooperation with the growth hormone. These two molecules act together in harmony toward a common goal. There is only one explanation for this: these two molecules were created for this common task.

You will recall from earlier pages that the growth hormone is the molecule that orders the cells of a developing child to grow and multiply. This hormone stimulates the cells to grow in both size and number. But there is another very important detail that must be planned-the speed of cell division. Thyroxine influences the speed of cell division during the period of growth, ensuring complete development of the body.

To understand the importance of thyroxine, we just have to look in a mirror. So long as there is no birth defect, every individual's mouth, nose, eyes, the face-in short, everyone's whole body-has a proportion that resembles that of almost everyone else. The body has this proportion due to the perfect functioning of the thyroxine hormone that God created. If you were reading these sentences years ago as a young person in your developing years, and the thyroxine molecules did not go to each one of your individual cells and inform them of the speed at which they must divide, your body's organs would have developed without proportion. You could even have become mentally impaired, as is the case when cretinism occurs as the result of insufficient secretion of thyroxine immediately after birth. The bodies of people afflicted with this condition lack proper proportions when grown; generally they have very short legs and a large skull. In addition, a lack of thyroxine also causes dwarfism.15

Most of the people you see in your daily life (your schoolmates, fellow workers, people in the street, and your family) have bodies perfectly shaped by God's creation by means of the activity of two small molecules-growth hormone and thyroxine. These hormones are secreted at the right time and in the right amount, commanding trillions of individual cells with orders as to how much and how fast they have to multiply. As a result, a perfectly formed human body comes into being.

The three-dimensional structure of the thyroxine hormone.

In the majority of human beings, the amount of this molecule is adjusted in a very special way so that neither too much nor too little is produced. If the amount of these hormones produced varied too much from one individual to another, there would be major physical differences between people; millions of people would be between 2.5 and 3 meters tall; millions would be one meter or less in height, everyone would have a body and facial structure lacking proportion, and almost everyone would be mentally retarded. Millions of people would die while still in adolescence.

To repeat: the external appearance and physical characteristics of human beings is due to two small molecules that God has wonderfully created-the growth hormone and thyroxine. This is another proof of how God has constructed human beings on a foundation of delicate balances:

He created the heavens and the Earth with truth and formed you, giving you the best of forms. And He is your final destination. (Qur'an, 64: 3)

11 Musa Ozet, Osman Arpaci, Biyoloji 2 (Biology 2), Surat Publishing, February 98, p. 126
12 Biyoloji 2 (Biology 2), p. 126
13 Body Atlas, Ambrose Video Publishing, Inc. New York, Discovery Communications, 1994
14 The Incredible Machine, p. 222
15 The Incredible Machine, p. 241