Thyroid nodules are an incredibly common condition and something we see a lot of in our clinics. A nodule is basically a growth; therefore it refers to a lump on the thyroid gland. There may be one thyroid nodule or several. Thyroid nodules are usually benign, but occasionally they may be cancerous. Some thyroid nodules produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. This can become problematic because they can cause the thyroid gland to become over active. These nodules are referred to as hot nodules. On the other hand, cold nodules do not produce thyroid hormone. It is quite likely that you have one or more nodules growing on your thyroid gland without realising it and without experiencing symptoms. It is ideal to treat thyroid nodules in the early stages, because once they become too large or numerous, it may be necessary to remove the entire thyroid gland surgically.
Luckily there are several treatments that are effective for managing thyroid nodules in the majority of cases.
What causes thyroid nodules?
A number of factors raise the risk of developing thyroid nodules. The most common ones include:
- Mineral deficiencies. Deficiencies of iodine and selenium are extremely common. In fact it is rare to find an individual not deficient in these minerals. Iodine and selenium are both required for the manufacture of thyroid hormones, but they also help to keep the thyroid tissue healthy. Iodine and selenium both help to protect the thyroid gland against harm caused by radiation and chemicals.
- Vitamin D deficiency. You predominantly obtain vitamin D from sunlight, however it is also found in small quantities in a few foods. Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common and it raises the risk of cancer, nodules and polyps in your body.
- Radiation and environmental chemicals. We are all exposed to high levels of radiation on a daily basis. Mobile phones and phone towers, electrical appliances around your home, internet connections and satellite equipment all bombard our bodies with radiation continually. Radiation causes DNA damage and in that way it raises the risk of cancerous growths in our body. A number of studies have shown that pesticides on food raise the risk of thyroid nodules.
- Some dietary and lifestyle factors raise the risk of thyroid nodules. These include obesity, high alcohol intake and high blood insulin levels caused by a high carbohydrate diet.
What to do if you have thyroid nodules
You may have initially become aware of that fact that you have thyroid nodules because you felt or saw a lump on your thyroid. This is the most common way they are first discovered. However, thyroid nodules can also grow deep within or behind the thyroid, where you cannot feel them. The initial investigation of thyroid nodules is usually an ultrasound (sonogram). This is a harmless, non-invasive test. Depending on what the ultrasound shows, you may be required to have one or two additional tests: a fine needle biopsy and a radionuclide thyroid scan. The fine needle biopsy is where a needle is inserted into each nodule, to obtain a sample of cells from within it. The cells are examined under the microscope to determine whether they are cancerous or not. The radionuclide thyroid scan aims to determine if the thyroid nodules are producing excessive amounts of thyroid hormone or not.
Recommended nutritional treatment of thyroid nodules
If your thyroid nodules are not problematic enough to require immediate surgery, the following strategies are usually very effective:
- Make sure your diet is as healthy as possible. Your thyroid gland is obviously connected to every other part of your body, so eating junk food and having an unhealthy lifestyle will have a bad effect on your thyroid. Eat as many vegetables as possible and make sure some of them are raw. Hardly anyone eats enough vegetables. They are vital in your diet for the minerals and antioxidants they provide.
- Take a selenium supplement. It is very difficult to get enough selenium from food because there is very little of it in the soil. A good daily level of selenium to take in supplement form is 100 to 200 micrograms.
- Take an iodine supplement. It is also very hard to get enough iodine in your diet unless you eat seaweed regularly. You can take between 160 and 400 micrograms of iodine daily. However, we recommend you avoid iodine supplements if you currently have an over active thyroid gland.
- Avoid dairy products. Dairy products are designed to make things grow quickly; a calf benefits from all the hormones in cows’ milk because it needs to grow very quickly. However, you do not need to grow because you are probably an adult. Cow’s milk is full of growth promoting substances (even organic milk) and this can promote or aggravate cancer in your body.
- Make sure you obtain sufficient vitamin D. We get vitamin D predominantly from sunshine but very few people are outdoors regularly enough to achieve this. Also, for much of the year the sun’s rays are not strong enough to obtain vitamin D. This means a vitamin D supplement is often necessary. You can take between 1000 and 5000 IU of vitamin D in supplement form, depending on your current blood level of the nutrient. Vitamin D, iodine, selenium and zinc are all combined in Thyroid Health Capsules.
- Keep your blood insulin level low. Insulin is a growth promoting hormone, therefore if you have nodules on your thyroid, insulin will stimulate them to grow. Factors that raise insulin include: abdominal obesity, alcohol, lack of exercise and a diet high in sugar and flour.
There is a great deal more information about thyroid nodules in our book Your Thyroid Problems Solved.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.