Thyroid lobectomy is a relatively safe and low-risk procedure.
You can support your thyroid before and after surgery with an anti-inflammatory diet, low stress, and supplements like vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium.
There are also physical exercises like neck stretches and voice therapy that can support your recovery after surgery.
If you’ve been told you need a thyroid lobectomy, don’t worry — this type of surgery is a very routine and low-risk procedure. However, there are still things you can do to support your body before and after surgery to ensure you have the best possible outcome and maintain your thyroid health moving forward.
In this article, we’ll discuss what a thyroid lobectomy is, why you might need one, what other options you may have, whether there are natural alternatives to a lobectomy, natural support before the surgery, and maintaining healthy thyroid hormone levels after the procedure.
What Is a Thyroid Lobectomy?
A thyroid lobectomy is a thyroid surgery that removes one half, or one lobe, of the thyroid. You may also hear a thyroid lobectomy referred to as a partial thyroidectomy.
Although it’s typically an outpatient procedure with a pretty low risk of complications, it may still be considered a “major surgery.” However, it’s a candidate for robotic surgery, which uses a very small incision, reducing scarring. You can also expect to go back to your normal activities after 24 hours — just no heavy lifting.
During a thyroid lobectomy, you’ll be placed under general anesthesia. If a surgeon is performing the procedure, they’ll make a small horizontal incision as close to a skin crease as possible to reduce the appearance of scarring. Then they’ll remove the affected part of the thyroid and close the incision. During the procedure, they may also take a small biopsy of the remaining thyroid tissue to check for any abnormalities.
Thyroid cancer in which only part of the thyroid is affected and there’s no lymph node involvement; typically this is papillary thyroid cancer, which is an abnormal growth or nodule on one side of the thyroid
Noncancerous thyroid nodules on one lobe of the thyroid
Thyroid goiter (abnormal growth of the thyroid gland itself)
Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland)
Autoimmune thyroid disease (Graves’ disease that has been unresponsive to treatment)
Keep in mind that not all cases of these conditions will require a lobectomy. Especially in the case of autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease, there’s almost always a non-surgical solution involving diet and lifestyle changes and supplementation.
Is Thyroid Surgery My Only Option?
Of course, this depends on your situation. But you always have multiple treatment options, and you may want to get a second opinion before agreeing to surgery. In our clinic, we have helped many patients recover from thyroid issues like Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and many other endocrine conditions.
Are There Natural Alternatives to Thyroid Lobectomy?
There are some cases where thyroid surgery is necessary and unavoidable. But in general, improving thyroid health and function is possible through natural therapies like diet, targeted supplementation, and light therapy.
A systematic review and meta-analysis (the highest quality research) showed that selenium supplementation for three, six, nine, and 12 months reduced thyroid antibodies for patients who were being treated with prescription thyroid hormone replacement (like Synthroid). Selenium supplementation also reduced thyroid antibodies after three months in hypothyroid people who weren’t previously being treated with medication [9 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
This research, and other research on hypothyroidism, is often relevant to hyperthyroidism too, as autoimmunity is the primary cause of both conditions.
In hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid that produces too much thyroid hormone), L-Carnitine is an amino acid that can both help prevent and reverse hyperthyroid symptoms. It has no known toxicity or drug interactions, and causes minimal side effects [11 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 12 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Apart from diet and supplements, there’s some encouraging data showing that low-level laser therapy can improve thyroid function and decrease TPO antibodies. The therapy also reduced the amount of levothyroxine medication the patients needed, even after nine months of follow-up [13 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 14 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Natural Support for Thyroid Lobectomy
If you do need to have a thyroid lobectomy, there are several things you can do to support your body before and after surgery.
One randomized controlled trial wanted to see if performing neck stretching exercises after thyroidectomy could improve neck pain. A total of 80 patients who had undergone thyroidectomy were randomly assigned either to perform neck stretches for four weeks or to a control group. The results showed that patients in the stretching group experienced significantly less neck pain and disability than the control group after one week and one month following thyroidectomy [19 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
The stretching exercises consisted of the following eight steps:
Relax shoulders and neck sufficiently
Turn face to the right
Turn face to the left
Incline head to the right
Incline head to the left
Slowly raise hands fully then lower them
Participants were asked to perform five repetitions of the stretches, three times per day.
A self wound massage was another technique used to improve post-surgical neck and voice symptoms after thyroidectomy. Four weeks after surgery, 45 female patients who underwent thyroidectomy were randomly assigned to perform wound massages for four to 12 weeks or to a control group.
The results showed that the massage group had significantly greater improvement in wound adhesions, neck discomfort, swallowing discomfort, and voice discomfort compared to the control group. Objective voice analysis also showed that the massage group had significantly greater improvement in several measures that are associated with proper laryngeal (voice box) movement [20 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Note: Participants were trained on how to safely perform the massage, and massages lasted 10 minutes, performed three times a day.
Lastly, voice therapy — consisting of activities like relaxation and breathing exercises, laryngeal massage, and resonance therapy — may help the healing process and improve objective measures of voice quality.
A nonrandomized/noncontrolled clinical trial attempted to see if voice therapy could improve measures of voice quality after thyroid surgery. Thirty-five patients who had undergone total thyroidectomy or lobectomy were given voice therapy three times a week for up to six months. The results showed that voice therapy improved objective measures of voice quality compared to before therapy, and that patients perceived that their voice quality improved after voice therapy compared to before therapy [21 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
It’s important to note that this study had no control group, so it isn’t clear how much voice therapy improved the participants’ voice quality. However, the perception of improved voice quality could be particularly helpful for patients who have significant voice issues after surgery.
How to Maintain Healthy Hormone Levels After a Thyroid Lobectomy
Patients who undergo thyroid lobectomy have a distinct advantage over those who undergo a total thyroidectomy (removal of the entire thyroid gland). Thyroid lobectomy patients still have part of their thyroid, so they may not need supplemental thyroid medication like levothyroxine.
But, with only 50% of a functioning thyroid gland, these complications are still possible. Other more subtle side effects include possible weight gain, increased risk of osteoporosis, and hypothyroidism (underproducing thyroid hormones), which may show up as fatigue, feeling cold, constipation, muscle weakness, and weight gain, among other symptoms [16 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 23 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 24 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Whether you’re taking supplemental thyroid hormones or not, supporting your thyroid after surgery looks like:
Prioritizing key nutrients that support thyroid health
Improving and supporting gut health
Making sure to get plenty of rest and take time to destress each day
Follow up with your endocrinologist for regular lab testing to check on your thyroid hormone levels (TSH, T3, and T4).
Key nutrients are the same ones we mentioned earlier for natural thyroid support: vitamin D, calcium, selenium, and magnesium, among others. You should make sure to eat foods that carry these nutrients regularly, but you can also work with a healthcare provider to determine which ones you may need to supplement.
At our clinic, we’ve been able to help many patients like Monica, a 36-year-old woman who came to us with hypothyroid symptoms that didn’t respond to conventional thyroid medication. We were able to get her feeling much better using dietary changes (a low FODMAP diet to start), probiotics, a multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D, and some supplemental fiber. This significantly improved her symptoms where thyroid medication did not. The root issue was actually a gut problem, not a thyroid problem first.
If you need a thyroid lobectomy, there’s no need to panic. This procedure has a very low risk of complications and typically improves a patient’s quality of life significantly post-surgery [39 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]. The best thing you can do to support your body’s ability to recover is to maintain a thyroid-supportive and anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, as well as potentially incorporate some extra physical support, like gentle stretching exercises and neck massage.
If you want to consult with one of our doctors at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine and put a plan together to support your thyroid health, reach out to us today.
The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.
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