Gluten-free Diet and PCOS: Does It Work?

Posted on November 27, 2021 ·

BY Shruti

Medically Reviewed



You'll often the word 'gluten-free diet' recommended for women with PCOS. But does it actually work? Does it help reduce the symptoms? Read on.
gluten-free and PCOS

If you have been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), chances are you must have come across women online claiming a gluten-free diet as their holy grail. But could a gluten-free diet help you manage PCOS any better? Maybe. A BIG  maybe.

Gluten and PCOS have always been a hot topic for discussion. If you look online, you’ll find dozens of websites claiming gluten’s role in obesity and  infertility. But the truth is, these claims are blanket statements and are not necessarily applicable to everyone.

Although there is no evidence-based research showing a direct connection between gluten and PCOS, we are not completely ruling out the effect of gluten in specific cases.

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Gluten is a family of proteins found naturally in some grains such as wheat, rye and barley. When you think of a pizza dough, the ‘stretchy and elastic’ quality of the dough is due to gluten that acts as a binder. Since these grains — especially wheat, are so commonly found in our daily diet, eating gluten-free involves much more than just eliminating baked goods but also requires careful reading of nutrition labels.

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The popularity of any fad diet, in this case gluten-free, is often based on anecdotal evidence, and intuition. However, the idea that gluten can cause adverse effects in certain cases does carry some truth to it. Gluten has implications on certain gut-related disorders where a gluten-free diet is unavoidable.

  • For people diagnosed with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is a necessity; not a choice. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body generates an immune response that is triggered by eating gluten. 
  • People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may experience health problems such as bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fatigue when they eat foods which contain gluten. 
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Women with PCOS are susceptible to insulin resistance, which is known to cause weight gain. So it makes sense that weight loss is often the first line of treatment to manage PCOS  symptoms. Low-fat, low-dairy and gluten-free diets are often in the news as diet modifications for weight management. 

There is no definite evidence that gluten can make your PCOS worse, but some studies suggest that regular consumption of gluten can contribute to inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Women with PCOS have higher markers of inflammation than women without PCOS. Reducing the amount of gluten intake can potentially decrease inflammation in women with PCOS but more research is required before recommending a gluten-free diet to all. In fact there is no scientific benefit of following a gluten-free diet if you are not gluten sensitive. 

Women who claim they have benefitted from a gluten-free diet often see improvement in their symptoms due to selection of wholesome foods instead of processed items that help cut back on extra calories. 

The decision of adopting a gluten-free diet should be done on a case-by-case situation and under the guidance of a Registered Dietician. Gluten-free diet can be beneficial in lowering overall carb consumption and for women with gluten sensitivity. Instead of eliminating an entire food group, focus on following a healthy, balanced diet coupled with regular exercise that is sustainable in the long run.

Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician

[author_area image="1163" author_name="Dr Iris Lee"][/author_area]

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