You go into your doctor with some concerns about your health — maybe you’re feeling exhausted and lethargic, no energy, you’ve unexpectedly gained some weight, you’re fighting insomnia and brain fog… Or worse, you’ve found a lump at the base of your throat.
What seems like an achingly long time and dozens of tests later, and your doctor gives you the news: it’s your thyroid and he wants to take it out.
In fact, thyroidectomy is being studied by some doctors as a treatment not just for Graves, goiters, thyroid cancer and other growths, but for Hashimoto’s disease.
Surgery, no matter how supposedly major or minor, is no laughing matter, and neither is removing a vital organ from your body! Being faced with the possibility of a thyroidectomy can be a terrifying and confusing ordeal.
Can you ever heal after having a thyroidectomy and return to a “normal” life? Will you have to take synthetic hormones forever?
Do you need to have a thyroidectomy in order to heal? Is it the only way forward?
So let’s break it down and clear up some of the confusion.
Thyroidectomies: The good, the bad, and the ugly
First, let’s talk about what a thyroidectomy is and when it might be necessary.
A thyroidectomy is just what it sounds like: removal of all or part of the thyroid gland. The thyroid has two “lobes” — picture the two wings of a butterfly. When only one lobe is affected by a growth or other problem, sometimes only a partial thyroidectomy is necessary, and the patient can keep the other lobe, which can continue to function normally.
When part of the thyroid is removed, the other part can continue to produce some or even all of the thyroid hormones the body needs.
A full or partial thyroidectomy is a common treatment for thyroid cancer, because one of the best treatments for cancer is to remove the cancerous tumors before they have a chance to spread.
If you have a confirmed cancer diagnosis, thyroidectomy may be medically necessary and is definitely something to consider. However, I recommend first watching The Truth About Cancer series; then take the treatment options that resonate with you to your doctor, and use your list and her recommendations to come up with your personal healing plan.
When it’s not cancer
Unfortunately, many doctors are quick to prescribe a thyroidectomy for problems that don’t include cancer. Goiters, Grave’s disease, other benign (non-cancerous) growths and even hyperthyroidism are sometimes treated by removing the thyroid.
And while thyroidectomy is generally considered “safe” by the western medical community, there are risks any time you have surgery. Risks with thyroidectomy can include uncontrolled bleeding, infection, nerve damage, and damage to the airway or vocal chords.
In addition, removing the thyroid gland causes a permanent imbalance in your hormones that is most often treated with artificial thyroid hormone replacement drugs — which have side effects and complications of their own.
My personal opinion on this (and this is not medical advice, remember) is that surgery is too often prescribed as a remedy for thyroid problems. Just because we can live without our thyroid, doesn’t mean we should, and too often, surgery is provided as the solution before the root cause of the problem has ever been found![bctt tweet=”Just because we can live without our thyroid, doesn’t mean we should.”]
It reminds me of the old saying, “When you have a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.” A surgeon is likely to recommend surgery to fix most any problem he thinks he can fix, because that is what he is trained to do.
But in many (if not most) cases, thyroid problems can be addressed with diet and lifestyle changes that address the root causes of the problem, rather than just trying to eliminate the symptoms.
Treatment options to prevent thyroidectomy
Of course, you must work with a doctor you know and trust, because every situation is unique, but in my experience, many thyroidectomies could be avoided given the time and opportunity to address the root causes of the problem with lifestyle changes:
- Add a functional medicine doctor or qualified coach to your healing team. Functional medicine looks at the whole body and the whole person, rather than focusing on a single symptom or set of symptoms. A functional medicine doctor can help you identify and treat the root causes of your thyroid problems.
- Tackle the three pillars of thyroid healing: repair your leaky gut, support your adrenals, and balance your hormones. For many people, this trifecta will help to address the root causes of your thyroid problems and put you on the path to healing.
- Eliminate the possibility of infection. Working with a doctor who understands the intricacies of thyroid disease, have yourself tested for the most common infections that can be an underlying cause of thyroid problems. A wonderful program that helps you work with your doctor to battle infections is Dr. Izabella Wentz’s Hacking Hashimoto’s Program. She developed this course “for people who have “tried everything”, after having worked with hundreds of people with Hashimoto’s. In surveying the participants, 75% were able to reduce their fatigue and 56% saw a reduction in thyroid antibodies within three months, among many other improvements.”
- Check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Many problems are caused or exacerbated by deficiencies in our diet. We live in such an age of abundance, it’s hard to imagine that our bodies could be starving, but often they are because of the poor quality or variety of foods we eat.
- Add more iodine and selenium to your diet. Iodine is vital for proper thyroid function, but too much can be toxic. Selenium is a natural balance to prevent iodine toxicity. Adding iodine and selenium-rich foods to your diet can be a healthy way to help rebalance your thyroid.
Of course, if you’ve already undergone a full or partial thyroidectomy, don’t worry! There is still hope for you to heal.
In my experience working with hundreds of thyroid patients, I’ve found that the same diet and lifestyle changes that have the biggest impact on people looking to heal their thyroids often have the same kind of impact on people who have had their thyroids removed.
Following the three pillars of thyroid health will improve the way your body accepts and processes thyroid hormone, and may help you reduce the amount of thyroid hormone you need to take as a replacement therapy — and therefore reduce the side effects.
Whether you have already undergone a thyroidectomy, are facing a recommendation for one, or simply want to prevent the need for one in the future, I provide a ton of resources on healing your thyroid, including:
- Our totally free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Report and Coaching Sessions
- Right here on my blog, where I talk about what’s worked best for me and my clients, as well as the latest research and resources I come across. You can subscribe to get new blog posts delivered right to your email by signing up on the righthand side of the page.
- My book, Healing Hashimoto’s Naturally — part memoir, part instruction manual for how I personally healed my Hashimoto’s disease.
- My exclusive free 6 Thyroid Myths That Can Keep You From Healing workshop — with info on the comprehensive Thyroid Fix in 6 program, which walks you through, step-by-step, the exact actions you need to take to heal your thyroid and get your life back! We’ve seen hundreds of participants in the Thyroid Fix in 6 avoid, decrease, or even eliminate the need need for thyroid medications.
- The incredible Your Best Thyroid Life Video Bundle, in which I personally invited 27 of the world’s top health experts to share their best tips for living with and healing thyroid disease.
Remember, no matter what diagnosis you’re facing, you always have a choice. Build your healing team with that in mind, and you can heal and have a normal life again!
Jen Wittman is a Certified Holistic Health Expert, Chef, Author & Vitality Coach, who teaches women how to reverse thyroid and autoimmune conditions naturally. She’s helped hundreds of women decrease (or even eliminate) their thyroid medications and has helped others stay off thyroid medication entirely.
Through her free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Jen teaches easy and simple steps to thyroid healing that can fit into your busy day. She also provides print outs to bring to your next doctor’s appointment so you can get the support and respect you deserve.
**This article contains the ideas of Jen Wittman and is not meant to be considered medical advice. For medical advice, consult a licensed doctor or specialist.