Marla Ahlgrimm on the Unknown Hormone

Marla AhlgrimmThe thyroid gland plays a major role when it comes to hormone health, says retired pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm. It controls and produces many hormones that affect our daily lives. Calcitonin is one of these, but it is a hormone that remains shrouded in mystery.

Q: What is calcitonin?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Calcitonin is a hormone that originates in the thyroid gland. It is produced by the C-cells and suppresses the parathyroid hormone, which helps to regulate phosphate and calcium levels in the blood.

Q: How does it work?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Calcitonin controls the body’s potassium and calcium levels. It does so by inhibiting the cells that break down bone. These osteoclasts collapse healthy bone tissue, which forces calcium into the bloodstream. By preventing osteoclasts from eroding bone, calcitonin reduces the amount of calcium in the blood. It is also suspected that calcitonin inhibits the amount of calcium reabsorbed by the kidneys. Calcitonin levels are determined and controlled by calcium levels in the bloodstream.

Q: Why is calcitonin unique?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Calcitonin is considered a unique hormone because, although doctors know what it does, its importance is not fully understood. There are few, if any, symptoms related to high or low calcitonin levels, though extremely high levels may indicate a type of rare medullary thyroid cancer. High calcium levels in the blood do not cause this type of cancer but are one symptom that should definitely not be ignored.

Q: Should I talk to my doctor about my calcitonin levels?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Chances are, the topic will never come up. However, if bloodwork indicates that your calcitonin levels are off, you may wish to speak with your doctor to determine if there are any undiagnosed thyroid issues that need to be addressed. High levels of calcitonin may warrant further testing to rule out thyroid cancer. Otherwise, calcitonin is typically not of concern.

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