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An enlarged thyroid is also known as a goiter. A goiter is not malignant and is not a reaction to an increased production of hormones within the thyroid (endocrineweb.com), as other deficiencies are. Goiters are a visible enlargement of the thyroid and, if not treated, will continue to grow, regardless of whether one suffers from any symptoms or not. They are uncomfortable but are treatable when detected early.
The thyroid is a gland located in the throat and is part of the endocrine system. The thyroid functions as a hormone producer. Sometimes the thyroid can produce too many hormones (also known as hyperthyroidism) or not enough (hypothyroidism), causing health problems. Also, the thyroid can develop into a goiter, if there is a lack of iodine in the diet or if there are increased thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) being produced in reaction to defective hormone synthesis. Those who suffer from hypothyroidism may discover during an ultrasound that their thyroid is slightly enlarged, due to swelling. However, an actual visible enlargement of the thyroid is known as a goiter and is not related to hypothyroidism. Goiters are common in countries where poor diets exist with little iodine. However, this is not a common cause in the United States, as Americans consume high doses of iodine, primarily in packaged foods (endocrineweb.com).
A goiter takes several years to develop, so an individual may have one for quite some time without realizing it (endocrineweb.com). Fewer than 10 percent of Americans who undergo a thyroid biopsy will discover that they have cancer. Goiters are more of a nuisance than they are a life-threatening problem (Thyroid-Info).
The way to prevent goiter is to be sure that there is sufficient iodine in one's diet. An endocrinologist will prescribe thyroid hormone pills to those who have small goiters. This method will stop the goiter from getting any larger, but will not shrink it down (Thyroid-Info).
Green tea is an herb that acts as an antioxidant in the body and can reduce inflammation, even that of an enlarged thyroid gland (UMMC). The leaves can be consumed in a tea, or, for those who dislike the taste, the herb can be taken in a capsule form found at a vitamin store.
Bladderwrack, a type of seaweed, is another herb that can help to slow down the growth of a goiter. However, this herb should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor, as the wrong dosage can result in either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism (UMMC).
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there are certain foods that do not react well with individuals who have a thyroid condition and can make the thyroid flare up, or enlarge. Such foods include soy, dairy products, peanuts, pine nuts, broccoli, cauliflower and those with preservatives. Foods to stock up on are seaweed, whole grains, bell peppers, blueberries, tomatoes and squash.
Once a goiter reaches an astronomical size, the best method is to surgically remove it (Thyroid-Info). This is usually a last resort, as enlarged thyroids grow so slowly that they can be caught and treated early. However, if the thyroid is surgically removed, the patient will be placed on prescription hormone replacement drugs for the rest of her life.