Goitre: symptoms, causes and dietary management

What Foods Cause Goitre?

You or someone you know might be suffering from thyroid problems. It is a relatively common complaint in India. One of these is goiter. Goiter refers to the enlargement of the thyroid gland. In a healthy individual, the thyroid gland is butterfly shaped and located at the base of the neck. If you are suffering from goiter, you will likely experience swelling in the neck area. Before we get to diet, let’s have a quick review of the thyroid gland.


Why is the thyroid gland important?

The thyroid gland is a small component which plays a huge role in regulating our health:

  • Hormones: Working together with the pituitary gland located in the brain, the thyroid gland produces two hormones known as T4 (Thyroxine) and T3(Triiodothyronine). These two hormones help to produce two more hormones: Adrenaline and Dopamine. Adrenaline is produced by the body when we need extra energy, for example, when we are being attacked and need to run away as fast as possible. Dopamine is the happy hormone. It is released when we participate in pleasurable activities such as exercise, playing with our kids or pets and after sex. This hormone reduces stress and promotes a general sense of well being.
  • Regulating metabolism: A healthy thyroid gland will ensure a high metabolism rate. This means that the carbohydrates and proteins you eat will be broken down and converted to energy much more quickly. This prevents weight gain. Also, nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream more effectively.
  • Calcium regulation: Thyroid controls how much calcium is circulating in your bloodstream through the production of the hormone calcitonin.
  • Other functions: The thyroid gland regulates body temperature and controls the heart rate.

Thyroid problems are much more common than heart disease or diabetes. Goiter is just one such issue. It is an abnormal growth of thyroid tissues and happens when too much thyroid stimulating hormones have been secreted. But swelling in the neck area may or may not occur. Let us look at some other symptoms of goiter.


What are the symptoms of goiter?

Do you suspect that your health problems are due to a malfunctioning thyroid gland? Here are the most common symptoms of goiter:

  • Feeling a swelling at the base of your throat. This is more obvious when you are shaving or putting on makeup
  • Persistent coughing and hoarseness
  • Feeling like your throat is being stretched tight from inside
  • Feeling breathless or having to breathe deeper
  • Difficulty experienced while swallowing food or drinks
  • Hair loss and abnormal weight loss or gain
  • Abnormal nervousness, hyperactivity, fatigue, increased sweating and appetite, and reduced resistance to cold temperatures


What are the causes of goiter?

The causes of goiter vary from everyday reasons to serious underlying illnesses. A medical professional should be consulted to diagnose the proper reason.

Some causes of goiters are:

  • Deficiency of iodine in the diet:  The body cannot make iodine on its own and due to which requires regular intake of tiny amounts of iodine. People in developing countries are more at risk of iodine deficiency, especially if they live at high altitudes or inland.
  • Hyperthyroidism: This condition is a result of too much thyroid hormone being secreted by the gland.
  • Hypothyroidism: Sometimes, the thyroid gland produces too little hormones. The body tries other ways to compensate for this deficiency with the result that the gland gets enlarged.
  • Pregnancy: Certain hormones secreted only during pregnancy can result in an enlarged thyroid gland. For this reason, it is most common to experience goiters during pregnancy.
  • Your status: Goiters are more likely to occur in women and in people over the age of forty. If you have a family history of goiter you are more likely to suffer from it too.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to heavy metals and compounds such as nitrates, pesticides, arsenic, and mercury can cause goiters.


The role of diet in controlling goiters

The possibility of goiters is increased when we consume foods high in goiter-causing substances known as “Goitrogens”. A thyroid-friendly diet helps to reduce goitrogens and increase foods beneficial to the thyroid.

Here’s how to get started:

Foods to include in diet:

  • Iodized salt and iodine rich eggs, dairy, fish and seaweed, milk and baked potatoes
  • Selenium supplements and selenium-rich foods such as legumes, eggs, and tuna
  • Zinc-fortified foods such as beef, chickens, oysters, and other shellfish

Foods containing goitrogens should be reduced as much as possible from the diet:

  • Cruciferous vegetables: Cabbage, broccoli, spinach, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radish, and bok choy
  • Soy in all forms
  • Starch-rich foods and certain fruits: peanuts, pears, peaches, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and cassava
  • Certain nuts and seeds: Millets and pine nuts
  • Gluten: barley, wheat, rye, bread, beer, pasta, and cereals
  • Highly processed foods: Cookies, cakes, sugary treats
  • Drinks: Green tea, coffee, and alcohol



A medical professional must diagnose goiter. Also, all supplements must be taken only if prescribed by a doctor. A customized diet plan by an expert dietitian is essential for the management of Goitre. The right foods can go a long way toward relieving thyroid related problems.

Good luck and healthy happy living to you!

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