Thyroid nodules are incredibly common. We see many patients (particularly women) with this complaint at our clinics. In fact research has shown that by the age of 60, more than 50% of the population has at least one thyroid nodule. Luckily most thyroid nodules are not cancerous; only approximately 5 to 10% are.
Thyroid nodules can be solid or fluid inside; sometimes they produce thyroid hormone and sometimes they don’t. It is important to find out as much information about the nodules as possible, as this determines their treatment. If you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid nodules, your doctor may offer a range of treatments: surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, or no treatment at all. Often thyroid nodules are left alone and the patient is advised to have them monitored regularly. Is this really the best option? Should you just do nothing and let them get worse, or hope they’ll go away? We think not.
There are several reasons why thyroid nodules may develop; addressing these factors can help in their natural treatment.
Thyroid nodules can vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. The thyroid gland can contain one nodule or several. Sometimes a thyroid nodule can be visible just by looking at your neck; often thyroid nodules are present deep within the thyroid, therefore can only be seen on ultrasound.
Diagnosis of thyroid nodules
When a thyroid nodule is detected, it is important to find out if it is cancerous, or if it is producing thyroid hormones. A thyroid ultrasound is always performed, in order to see the size and structural composition of the nodule, and to find out if other nodules are present within the gland. It is also important to have a blood test, to determine if the levels of thyroid hormones are normal. Often hormone levels are normal. Sometimes a blood test will show hyperthyroidism because the nodules are producing excess quantities of hormones.
A thyroid nuclear uptake scan is used to determine if the nodules are “hot” or “cold”. The term hot means the nodules are producing hormones, and this often results in hyperthyroidism (an over active thyroid gland). Cold nodules are nodules that aren’t producing hormones; they might be composed of fluid (cysts), solid material or rarely, they may be cancerous. Luckily in the vast majority of cases thyroid cancer has an excellent prognosis and it very rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
Why do nodules form on the thyroid gland?
There are several factors that increase the risk of thyroid nodules:
- Deficiency of the minerals iodine and selenium. It is quite difficult to obtain adequate quantities of these minerals through diet, and consequently many people are deficient. Your doctor can order a urine test to check for iodine deficiency. We commonly order this test for our patients and it’s rare to find a person who isn’t deficient. The level of selenium in the soil of most parts of the world is quite low; consequently very few foods are a good source of selenium. Brazil nuts provide selenium, however we commonly see patients who regularly consume Brazil nuts, yet their health improves substantially once they take a selenium supplement.
- Vitamin D insufficiency increases the risk of nodules, polyps and fibroids in many areas of the body. Vitamin D controls the way in which cells grow and divide. Therefore not having enough vitamin D in your body is a risk factor for cancerous and non-cancerous growths on your body. You make vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunshine, but many people are not able to be outside frequently enough to produce sufficient vitamin D, plus vitamin D gets manufactured in your kidneys and liver, and if the health of these organs is compromised, this also affects production. It may be advantageous to take a Vitamin D supplement.
- Exposure to ionizing neck radiation is a risk factor for thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. Such exposure can be incurred through dental X rays and chest X rays. We are all exposed to an increasing level of radiation through modern appliance, mobile phones, wireless internet and aircraft. This is probably one factor responsible for the increasing global incidence of thyroid disorders. It is interesting to note that iodine deficient individuals are particularly sensitive to the harmful effects of radiation on the thyroid gland.
- Research has shown that some pesticides promote the formation of thyroid nodules.
My recommendations for thyroid nodules
- Thyroid Health capsules, which provide effective levels of all the nutrients most important for the thyroid gland: selenium, iodine, vitamin D and zinc.
- Regular consumption of seafood and the inclusion of seaweed in the diet. This provides additional iodine.
- Regular consumption of raw nuts and seeds, for the minerals and essential fatty acids they contain. Other sources of beneficial fats for the thyroid gland are avocados, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado oil and coconut oil.
- The avoidance of mucus producing foods such as margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oil, dairy products, deep fried foods and processed foods.
- Minimize sugar in the diet, as it promotes inflammation and weakens immune function.
- Natural progesterone cream. Many women are progesterone deficient and this can worsen a thyroid problem.
In many instances, following these guidelines can lead to shrinkage of thyroid nodules, and sometimes they can slowly break down and dissolve. This may take a few years, and depends on how large the nodules are and how many of them are present within the gland. There is a great deal more information about all thyroid conditions in our book Your Thyroid Problems Solved.