Published September 30 2013
I’ve written a few articles on thyroid nodules in the past. One of them was entitled “Thyroid Nodules and Cysts: When Is Surgery Necessary?“, while the other one is entitled “When Should You Be Concerned About Thyroid Nodules?” But a common question I receive from people is “can natural treatment methods shrink thyroid nodules?” As a result, I decided to put together another article which specifically focuses on this topic.
Before I discuss this, I want to point out that in most cases, there isn’t a concern for thyroid nodules. Many of the patients I work with have thyroid nodules. In fact, a recent study revealed that the estimated prevalence by palpation alone ranges from 4% to 7%, whereas ultrasonography detects nodules in 20% to 76% of the adult population (1). Although a malignant thyroid nodule is a cause for concern, the percentage is low. Some studies show that 99% of all thyroid nodules are benign, although the same study I briefly spoke about before stated that the reported prevalence of malignancy in thyroid nodules evaluated by biopsy ranges from 4% to 6.5%, and is largely independent of the nodule size (1).
When it comes to determining if someone has a malignancy, numerous studies have shown that a fine needle aspiration of the thyroid gland is the most reliable and cost-effective method of distinguishing benign from malignant thyroid nodules (2) (3). However, fine needle aspiration is far from perfect, and more recently genetic testing has been used to determine whether someone has a malignant thyroid nodule (4). The goal of this article isn’t to discuss the different methods of determining if someone has a malignant thyroid nodule, but I thought it was important to briefly mention this.
What Conventional Medical Treatment Methods Are Used To Shrink Thyroid Nodules?
Before I talk about natural treatment methods, I want to briefly talk about conventional medical treatment methods for thyroid nodules. Most endocrinologists won’t do anything for benign thyroid nodules. On the other hand, some endocrinologists will use synthetic T4 to help shrink thyroid nodules.
This is controversial, although numerous studies show that giving levothyroxine can reduce the size of thyroid nodules in some people (5) (6). Of course this approach most likely won’t be used if someone has a hyperthyroid condition. And it isn’t always effective in those with hypothyroid conditions. In addition, one study showed that using synthetic T4 is inappropriate in those over 60 years of age, elderly patients, and postmenopausal women (7). The same study showed that in younger patients, synthetic T4 suppression will reduce nodule size in at least one out of every six treated patients with benign nodules, and in these patients the chance of malignancy would be decreased by half.
Natural Treatment Methods And Thyroid Nodules
So let’s discuss the main topic of this article, which is whether or not there are natural remedies to shrink thyroid nodules. While some people who follow a natural treatment protocol have experienced a decrease in size in their nodules when following a natural treatment protocol, there is no specific treatment method for thyroid nodules. Some people have asked me if there is a supplement or herb which can help to shrink thyroid nodules, and if there is such a supplement or herb I’m not aware of it. If you conduct a search online you might see some healthcare professionals claim that certain Chinese herbs can help shrink thyroid nodules, but this is controversial.
Some healthcare professionals claim that castor oil packs can shrink thyroid nodules. I’ve written a blog post entitled “Can Castor Oil Packs Dissolve Thyroid Nodules?“. In this post I discussed how there is no evidence that castor oil packs can help shrink thyroid nodules, although since there is little risk in trying this approach I’m not opposed of anyone trying castor oil packs.
Can Iodine Shrink Thyroid Nodules?
There is some evidence which shows that iodine can shrink thyroid nodules. Dr. Guy Abraham has done a lot of research when it comes to iodine, and he has come to the following conclusion: “Thyroid nodules respond positively to iodine/iodide supplementation. Serial ultrasounds usually show a decrease in the size of the thyroid cysts and nodules and eventual resolution of the lesions.” (8) Another study concluded that nodules are frequently associated with Graves’ Disease in iodine deficient areas (9), although the study didn’t discuss whether iodine supplementation can help to shrink thyroid nodules.
My experience is that iodine can be helpful in some cases of thyroid nodules. Quite frankly, not all of my patients who have one or more thyroid nodules receive a follow-up ultrasound to show whether or not the thyroid nodules have decreased in size after iodine supplementation. In any case, I think that iodine can potentially help some people with thyroid nodules, but this doesn’t mean that I recommend for everyone with thyroid nodules to supplement with iodine. As I have explained in previous articles, I only will recommend supplementation with iodine if someone tests for a deficiency.
It also is important to realize that thyroid nodules might shrink on their own. One study followed the natural course of 420 patients with thyroid nodules (10). In other words, these patients didn’t receive any treatment for the nodules. After 40 months the study showed that one-third of the patient’s nodules decreased in size, while one-third remained unchanged, and one-third of the nodules showed continuous growth. And so even if someone were to take certain supplements or herbs, or use castor oil packs, and if the thyroid nodules eventually decreased in size, there is the possibility that this would have happened even without doing anything.
What About Toxic Multinodular Goiter?
Some people have a condition known as toxic multinodular goiter, also known as Plummer’s disease. This involves an enlarged thyroid gland, and also consists of numerous nodules which result in the excess production of thyroid hormone. In this condition the person will have hyperthyroid symptoms, but unlike Graves’ Disease, the thyroid antibodies are usually negative, and as a result most people with this condition also don’t have any eye involvement. I recently wrote an article entitled “Multinodular Goiter and Natural Treatment Methods“. In the article I discussed how an iodine deficiency does seem to play a role in this condition, along with environmental toxins.
What Should You Do If You Have One Or More Thyroid Nodules?
So if there isn’t a proven method of shrinking thyroid nodules naturally, then what should you do if you have one or more thyroid nodules? If the thyroid nodule is benign then in most cases you won’t need to focus on this. In other words, if I consult with someone with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition and if they have thyroid nodules, in most cases the thyroid nodules won’t play a major role in restoring their health back to normal.
Iodine supplementation is something to consider in some people. However, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t recommend iodine just because someone has thyroid nodules. Regardless if someone has nodules or not, I will frequently recommend testing for an iodine deficiency, and if someone is deficient I will then recommend iodine. I will always address other compromised areas of the body, such as weak adrenals, gut problems, and mineral imbalances. And as I mentioned with toxic multinodular goiter, an iodine deficiency and toxins are two big factors to look into.
In summary, there isn’t any treatment method I’m aware of which specifically shrinks thyroid nodules. So while following a natural treatment protocol might result in a decrease in size of thyroid nodules, there is no guarantee that following a natural treatment protocol will accomplish this. But the good news is that in most cases it doesn’t matter, as most of the time the thyroid nodules aren’t causing any problems. Also keep in mind that sometimes thyroid nodules will shrink on their own over time.