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What is a goiter?

Goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland due to iodine deficiency, thyroid issues, or infections of the body. Goiters can range from small to large and may or may not present with symptoms. 

What causes goiters?

Goiters, which are an enlargement of the thyroid, can occur for a few different reasons. Many people with underactive or overactive thyroids may develop goiters, as their thyroid swells due to excess stimulation from hormones. Sometimes in these situations the whole thyroid swells, while other times solid or fluid-filled lumps called nodules develop, causing some parts of the thyroid to be enlarged while others retain their normal appearance.

Goiters can also occur as a result of an iodine deficiency. This is the most common reason why goiters develop. As the body’s need for iodine increases, the thyroid enlarges to try and find any that’s available.

What does a goiter look like?

Goiters can be large or small, and usually appear as a small fleshy pouch just below the Adam’s apple. 

Larger goiters may be a cosmetic concern, and if they’re left untreated long enough they may lead to breathing and swallowing issues.

How can I shrink a goiter naturally?

Most of the time, goiters that are small and don’t interfere with your everyday activities are not a cause for concern. If you develop a goiter, your doctor will want to test your thyroid hormone levels and go over your diet in-depth to ensure you’re getting enough iodine.

It’s much more important to treat the cause of the goiter, since there’s not much you can do to alter the goiter itself. Once the underlying condition clears up, the goiter should as well. 

If your doctor has determined that a lack of iodine is the cause, you should make sure you’re getting enough iodine in your diet. That’s the easiest way to shrink a goiter that occurs due to iodine deficiency.

Related Terms

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Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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