Have you noticed a lump at the base of your neck just below the larynx? Don’t worry, this is perhaps a thyroid nodule, benign in most cases.
Thyroid: What is it?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck, in the throat (it weighs about 1 ounce). The function of this gland is to produce a protein called thyroglobulin, which will combine with iodine to make the following thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3), etc. These hormones are important for the metabolism and all body organs and cells. It promotes the process of absorption of oxygen by the cells, a fundamental mechanism that allows us to fulfill our most basic gestures and movements.
These are small very common growths and are located around the thyroid. After 50 years of age, one in two persons has at least one nodule (they are more common in women). Mild in most cases, they present no health hazard, even when they form cysts (fluid filled). Indeed, whatever the size of a thyroid nodule, it presents no danger to the health. Many people have large nodules that are inconsequential. You just watch them closely to see if they are active or not (in some cases even their size can be reduced). Their size can be annoying (swallowing, difficulties in breathing).
Are thyroid nodules posing a potential risk of cancer?
You should know that only 4% of thyroid nodules are at risk of cancer, which represents a very small percentage. Also, if a nodule is diagnosed as benign, it will always be considered as such. The only downside is if you have a very large nodule (few inches in diameter), it may prevent you from swallowing properly and even hinder the breathing. It can also change your voice.
Thyroid nodules called “hot”
These nodules called “hot” have the characteristic of promoting excessive production of thyroid hormone (thyroglobulin), causing hyperthyroidism that will trigger the following signs:
- Changes of bowel movement (rapid transit diarrhea)
- Dry skin and skin rashes
- Frequent urination
- Increased heart rate
- Cravings (increased appetite)
- Irritability, mood swings
- Difficulty in sleeping, insomnia
- Unexplained weight loss
A nodule may also be linked to hypothyroidism
Nodules may also be the consequence of low production of thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine). When the gland is less “active”, it triggers hypothyroidism. Consequence: thyroid works more and metabolism is slowed. A nodule can develop in the thyroid.
If the nodule reaches a troublesome size, it may require surgery. If it is in the form of a cyst (fluid ball), the doctor may suggest to empty the nodule using a syringe (only downside, it will fill with liquid again in a few weeks).
The doctor may also use radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid cells (which will absorb iodine) or else, propose a removal of the thyroid.
What drugs are used to regulate the production of thyroid hormones?
The consequence of these interventions is production of too little thyroid hormone. To increase the production, the doctor will usually prescribe Levothyrox to increase TSH secretion (thyroid stimulating hormone).
What are the natural solutions for proper functioning of the thyroid gland?
Foods such as onions, garlic, shellfish, fish or pumpkin seeds are a good source of iodine and zinc which are necessary for the proper functioning of this gland.
However, foods such as cabbage, turnips, radish, peanuts, sweet potatoes, broccoli, even if they are rich in vitamins and minerals, contain natural chemicals called goitrogens that may slow down the operation of the thyroid gland. They are therefore to be avoided. However, if cooked, these goitrogens are inactive.