Sometimes an irritant like a stray food particle gets into an oyster shell. The creature responds by building up mineral layers around the irritant, keeping it from further irritating the mollusk or causing problems. Would it surprise you that your thyroid has a similar process, leading to thyroid nodules? Your body is intelligent, so its first goal is to protect you. Creating thyroid nodules is one of the ways it guards itself against the effects of toxins.
What are Thyroid Nodules?
Thyroid nodules are abnormal growths of thyroid tissue that form a lump within the thyroid gland. A small percentage of nodules are cancerous, but most are benign.
Nodules can be fluid-filled, solid, or fall somewhere in the middle. Some nodules, called hot nodules, produce excess thyroid hormone. Cold nodules don’t produce hormones, and warm nodules function as normal thyroid cells. Treatment options will depend on which kind you have.
Thyroid nodules themselves are common. The American Thyroid Association (1) estimates that by age 60, half of all people have at least one nodule. So, what causes thyroid nodules?
Your Body Doesn’t Make Mistakes
Your body is intelligent and created to work correctly. Even autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease result from your body functioning properly. It’s just adapting so that it can operate in an altered environment.
Nodules are one of the ways your body responds to toxins within the thyroid gland. Like the oyster, your body forms a capsule around toxins to keep them from affecting anything else. The nodules may be an abnormal growth, but they’re the result of the body doing what’s necessary to protect itself. They’re a sign that something needs addressing. When you address that toxin, your body no longer needs to protect itself with a nodule. If there’s no longer a need for a nodule, it just might disappear.
Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules
Most of the time, thyroid nodules have no symptoms. Some of them produce excess hormones, leading to hyperthyroidism. However, the vast majority don’t increase thyroid hormone levels.
Some people with nodules complain of neck, jaw, or ear pain. Other times, a nodule can grow to the point of pushing against the windpipe, leading to difficult or painful swallowing and breathing. A nodule in this position can make it easier to choke. If the nodule is located where it interferes with the vocal cord nerve, you may notice a hoarse voice.
Be aware, however, that not everyone with nodules experiences these symptoms. More often, thyroid nodules are discovered during a routine examination.
If you have a hot nodule, you will likely experience some symptoms of hyperthyroidism as well:
- Rapid heart rate
- Irregular heart rate
- Pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
- Increased hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Changes in bowel movement
- Sleep problems
- Nervousness, anxiety, or irritability
- Heat intolerance
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of bone density, leading to osteoporosis
- Warm, moist skin
- Thinning skin
- Fine, brittle hair
Who Gets Thyroid Nodules?
Cleveland Clinic lists some “risk factors” for thyroid nodules. A few examples are:
- Family history of thyroid cancer, radiation, or nodules
- Increasing age
- Uterine fibroids
- Increased levels of the hormone insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1)
- Metabolic syndrome
- Alcohol consumption
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Iodine deficiency
Many of these risk factors are connected. Alcohol consumption can lead to troubles with metabolism, which can lead to obesity. These symptoms all come back to the same thing. If your body is under stress—be it from traumas, toxins, or thoughts— it won’t work as well as it should. Your body’s purpose is to function correctly, and it’s always trying to return to homeostasis. It’s smart enough to do what it must to protect itself.
Common Treatment Options for Thyroid Nodules
The treatment method your doctor suggests will depend on the type of thyroid nodules you have. Cleveland Clinic (2) and the American Thyroid Association (1) break these types of nodules down and give descriptions of each.
- Colloid nodules. Colloid nodules are an overgrowth of thyroid tissue. They aren’t cancerous. Colloid nodules are the most common type of nodules and don’t spread beyond the thyroid gland.
- Thyroid cysts. These growths are at least partially filled with fluid. Low chances of being cancerous. Cysts bigger than two centimeters are usually monitored or biopsied.
- Inflammatory nodules. Inflammatory nodules are a result of long-term inflammation of the thyroid. These may or may not be painful.
- Multinodular goiter. A goiter can consist of several nodules, which are generally benign.
- Thyroid cancer. Cancerous nodules are rare. Cancer is found in less than 6.5% of thyroid nodules. That doesn’t mean this isn’t what most doctors consider to be the biggest concern when nodules form.
- Toxic Nodules and Toxic Multinodular Goiter. These happen when the nodules or the multinodular goiter produce extra thyroid hormone. Often, these result in hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism from Graves’ disease is associated with bulging eyes and elevated antibody count. This version of hyperthyroidism comes with neither of these.
Upon discovery of a nodule, your doctor will likely do further tests. The goal is to better understand which of the above they’re addressing.
Testing for Nodules
- Thyroid function tests. These blood tests mainly involve testing TSH levels (thyroid stimulating hormone). Some blood tests may also test thyroid hormones. Thyroid function testing helps determine whether you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. These conditions may occur with or because of the nodules. Testing only the pituitary hormone TSH and the hormones the thyroid produces gives an incomplete picture.
- Thyroid ultrasound. An ultrasound can tell cysts from solid nodules. Ultrasounds can also determine where the nodules are on the thyroid and if there are more.
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy. This biopsy is often used to determine whether a nodule is cancerous. A sample of cells is taken with a thin needle and tested in the office.
- Thyroid scan. A thyroid scan can tell the difference between cold and hot nodules, which produce excess thyroid hormone. Hot nodules are usually not noncancerous. A thyroid scan cannot differentiate between cancerous and noncancerous cold nodules.
These tests give your general practitioner a better idea of the state of your thyroid, which makes a difference in how they handle the nodule. A cancerous nodule is more urgent than a benign one.
Treatments for Thyroid Nodules
After understanding what kind of nodule(s) you have, your doctor may decide on one of the following:
- Watch and wait. If the nodule is noncancerous and not growing, your doctor will likely only schedule follow-ups to ensure it doesn’t get worse.
- Thyroid Hormone Therapy. Thyroid hormone therapy decreases the production of TSH and the growth of the thyroid.
- Radioactive iodine. Your doctor might give you radioactive iodine. The thyroid absorbs radioiodine, and the radioactivity shrinks the nodules.
- Anti-thyroid medication or beta-blockers. These are generally given to people with toxic nodules or toxic multinodular goiters.
- Laser or radiofrequency ablation treatment. This treatment is more common in Europe and Asia. It decreases the volume of large, benign, and growing nodules without affecting thyroid function. (4)
- Surgery. If the nodules are cancerous, obstructive, or otherwise problematic, your doctor will suggest surgery to take them out. Surgery may take the form of near-total thyroidectomy (removing nearly the entire thyroid). That isn’t as common anymore as a more limited surgery to remove only part of the gland.
The latter four may appear to do more for your thyroid health than a simple “watch and wait.” The problem with these is that the tests don’t address the toxicity, which is often why the nodule exists.
Contributors to Thyroid Nodules
Every physical ailment we experience—illness, wounds, or anything else—comes from inflammation. Inflammation comes from three sources: traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
Traumas are the physical stresses we deal with daily. When someone says “trauma,” it can be easy to think of significant physical stress like a car crash or major fall. But these aren’t the only physical stressors that can affect your body. Microtraumas such as stubbing a toe or sitting in one position all day will also affect you.
Toxins are chemical stressors. These include allergies, hormone imbalances, heavy metals, and pesticides you ingest. If you take in a lot of sugar or food dyes, your body will be under a heavier toxic load.
A hormone imbalance—too much or too little of something —will take a toll on your body, causing imbalance. For example, the same globulin can transport estrogens as thyroid hormones (5). If one chemical stressor is estrogen dominance, you may have thyroid problems. This can happen even if the thyroid is otherwise working correctly.
Allergies, heavy metals, and pesticides also all take a toll on the immune response. Too much stress on the immune response is what leads to autoimmune disorders.
Thoughts are our mental patterns throughout the day, which can help or harm our health. Focusing on positive mental habits and minimizing emotional stressors supports your health. However, constantly being stressed out by coworkers, deadlines, family, and more will damage your health. Practicing gratitude is a fantastic way to promote positive mental patterns.
Thyroid Nodules are a Sign of Thyroid Toxicity
Traumas, toxins, and thoughts contribute to inflammation–the underlying cause of every physical ailment. Toxins are an immediate cause of nodules even beyond inflammation.
The thyroid gets more blood flow than most organs in the body. If there’s a toxin in the bloodstream, it will eventually come into contact with the thyroid. When a toxin interacts with any body tissue, the tissue absorbs it and becomes inflamed. Inflammation can lead to the destruction of the inflamed tissue and, as a consequence, the toxin.
This process is not unlike how a nodule forms. The nodule is a direct response to toxins that flow through the thyroid, building up extra tissue to protect itself.
If you have a nodule on your thyroid gland, it’s a sign of thyroid toxicity. Are you drinking a lot of alcohol? Do you have a hormone imbalance? Are you buying dirty dozen produce and toxic household cleaners? All these things can negatively affect your thyroid and contribute to nodules.
Where to Begin with Thyroid Toxicity
We encounter toxins daily, many of which we’re not even aware. Ease your toxic burden by getting your food allergies tested and cutting them from your diet. While waiting for the results, cut sugar, dyes, the dirty dozen, and GMOs from the foods you eat. Setting yourself up with a personalized, non-inflammatory diet is one of the best ways to support your health. Adding organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens gives your body additional support!
Look into your environment. Your water, air, cleaning supplies, and hair products may contain toxins you’re unaware of. Ladies, do your beauty products, lotions, or nail polish have hidden toxins? Throw out your plastic cookware, non-stick pans, and pesticide-laden coffee to reduce your toxin intake in the kitchen. Check for other hidden sources of plastic, as well.
It can seem overwhelming, but even addressing a few of these places can ease the burden on your body.
Important Tests for Thyroid Nodules
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
- Thyroid Panels: Access Custom Thyroid Panel or Thyroid with Hormones Panel
Diet for Thyroid Nodules
Hippocrates once said, “let food be thy medicine.” The body can only work with what you give it to work with. How do you set yourself up for success with health and nutrition?
- Personalized Nutrition, based on your food allergy test results
- Organic, whole foods
- Cut sugar from your diet – Excess sugar contributes to inflammation. It also tends to feed infections and other imbalances.
- Organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for added nutrition.
Supplementation for Thyroid Nodules
Common supplements used at The Wellness Way for Thyroid Conditions include the following:
Lifestyle Modifications for Thyroid Conditions
Start somewhere! Begin to eliminate toxic household and personal care items.
Educational Resources for Thyroid Nodules
Videos & Webinars for Thyroid Nodules
- Thyroid Issues | A Different Perspective | Episode 111
- There’s No Such Thing as a Thyroid Problem! | A Different Perspective | Episode 91
- Thyroid The Untold Story Part 1 Dr. Patrick Flynn – YouTube
- Thyroid The Untold Story Part 2 Dr. Patrick Flynn – YouTube
- Thyroid | TWW Quick Tips
- Thyroid | DPF Unscripted
Articles to Support Thyroid Nodules
- Thyroid Conditions: How Do You know if You’re Low or High, and What Can You Do?
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: The Destructive Thyroid Disease That Slows You Down
- Levothyroxine and CBD: Which One? When? Or Both?
- What Your MD Isn’t Telling You About Your Thyroid Medication
Connect with us!
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help! Contact a Wellness Way clinic today and set yourself firmly on the path to wellness!
- Thyroid Nodules: American Thyroid Association
- Thyroid Nodules: Cleveland Clinic
- Thyroid Nodules—Diagnoses and Treatment: Mayo Clinic
- Laser ablation therapy is effective for shrinking benign thyroid nodules but has significant complications: American Thyroid Association
- Sex hormone-binding globulin and thyroxine-binding globulin levels in premature thelarche: PubMed