Does a Gluten and Dairy Free Diet Really Help PCOS?

Let’s put it in perspective: you have been recently diagnosed with PCOS and you are desperate for natural ways to reduce your symptoms. Your friend has told you that cutting out gluten and dairy is meant to reduce inflammation and be beneficial. You trial it for a couple of months but you really miss bread and cheese, so you have decided to do your own research. You start wondering if what your friend suggested is even true. Well, here are your answers.

Diet and PCOS:

As much as we like to restrict our diets when we receive a new diagnosis because it makes us feel like we have some sort of control, the ideal diet for PCOS is quite simple – one that is healthy, balanced and includes a variety of foods from all 5 food groups.1 So no, to answer your question, it is not necessary to cut out gluten or dairy if these are foods you enjoy and tolerate!
It is important to fill your diet with fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (including fish and seafood), low fat dairy options and wholegrains, specifically those that are high in fibre and low GI (such as oats, wholegrain bread and brown rice).1 Decreasing your intake of saturated fat and alcohol is also recommended.1 Each of these steps will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and will reduce your risk of developing other unwanted comorbidities.

What about the Mediterranean Diet?

Well, what is involved in the Mediterranean Diet you ask? In short, it is a diet packed with vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, wholegrains, fish/seafood and olive oil.2 It allows you to enjoy chicken, eggs and dairy in moderation and red meat on the rare occasion.2
How is it linked with improved symptoms of PCOS? The Mediterranean Diet is anti-inflammatory, meaning it has the potential to assist in combatting the inflammatory status of PCOS.2

Omega 3 and Inflammation:

We already know that PCOS contributes to a pro-inflammatory state which in turn is linked to an increased risk of developing insulin resistance. Well, you also now know that Omega 3 fatty acids have the ability to reduce bodily inflammation and enhance insulin sensitivity, win win!3 Get your dose of omega-3 by including oily fish and seafood into your diet. If you aren’t a seafood fan, other food sources are flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, fortified foods and plant oils.3

Take Home Message:

While there is no cure for PCOS yet, leading a healthy lifestyle and consuming a balanced diet can improve associated complications, such as insulin resistance, and help to reduce the risk of developing other comorbidities. So, the next time someone suggests to remove gluten and dairy from your diet, remind them that there is NO evidence to support this theory and that as always, balance is key.

Written by: Abbey Sissian.(Dietitian Student)
Reviewed: Emily Ross (Dietitian)

References:
1. Faghfoori Z, Fazelian S, Shadnoush M, Goodarzi R. Nutritional management in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A review study [Internet]. Science Direct. 2017 [cited 7 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871402117300115?via%3Dihub
2. Barrea L, Arnone A, Annunziata G, Muscogiuri G, Laudisio D, Salzano C et al. Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, Dietary Patterns and Body Composition in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) [Internet]. PubMed. 2019 [cited 7 September 2020]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31547562/
3. N-3 fatty acids as preventive and therapeutic agents in attenuating PCOS complications. Excli Journal [Internet]. 2019 [cited 7 September 2020];18:558-575. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6785778/

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