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Flaxseed & Goiters

By Joseph McAllister

A goiter, or swollen thyroid, can have a variety of different causes. One potential cause is an iodine deficiency, which can be related to significant flaxseed consumption. Although iodine deficiency is rare in most developed areas, it is possible in some Third World regions.


Swelling in the thyroid, also known as goiter, is generally the result of over- or under-production of thyroid hormone. Goiter is easily recognized, as the thyroid sits to either side of the Adam's apple and is quite close to the surface of the skin. If you notice a thyroid lump, you should seek medical attention immediately; goiter can be a sign of serious conditions like Grave's disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and thyroid cancer. It may also indicate an iodine deficiency, though this is less common with the modern diet.

Food Connection

Certain foods are known to be goitrogenic, or contributors to thyroid swelling. The exact impact of a particular food will depend on whether the goiter is cause by depressed or elevated thyroid function; thus, it is critical to consult your doctor to determine the goiter's origin. Hypothyroid patients will want to avoid goitrogenic foods that depress thyroid function, such as cabbage, spinach, kale, soy and broccoli. Individuals with hyperthyroid conditions may benefit from eating more of these foods.

Flaxseed Benefits

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are excellent sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that these fatty acids can help reduce your risk for heart disease and cancer, and contribute to brain health and function. Flaxseed is also rich in protein, dietary fiber, and many different vitamins and minerals.

Flaxseed and Goiters

Flaxseed contains thiocynate, which can interfere with the absorption of iodine by the thyroid gland and therefore lead to goiter. Fortunately, since the modern diet generally contains plenty of iodine, this is rarely a serious condition. If you do notice goiter symptoms, your doctor will be able to give you specific guidelines regarding any necessary changes to your diet, including your flaxseed consumption.

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