Should women with PCOS avoid Gluten?


A PCOS diagnosis often requires changes to one's diet and lifestyle. Through your internet searches, you may have come across the topic of gluten and PCOS.


What is Guten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat that holds the bread together and helps it to rise. It is the gluten that gives the dough its elastic texture. Gluten is found in wheat and other grains such as barley, oats, triticale, Kamut, rye and spelt.


Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

A review published in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten. Among them are depression, anxiety, migraines, schizophrenia, epilepsy, neuropathy, dementia, and autism. Other health issues caused in response to gluten intake, are; bloating, stomach pain, chronic fatigue constipation, chronic diarrhea and vomiting.

Many women with PCOS often experience similar symptoms and can often think they have gluten intolerance.

Should you avoid Gluten?

There is no clear research that indicates you should avoid gluten if you have PCOS. However, gluten sensitivity causes chronic inflammation and women with PCOS also suffer from chronic inflammation, which can in turn, exacerbate the problem.
Furthermore, gluten contains lectins, which can bind to insulin receptors and create insulin resistance. High insulin causes androgen levels to increase in turn making PCOS symptoms worse.


Gluten an endocrine disruptor

Hormone disruptors are chemicals which interfere with hormone systems, and gluten is known to be a hormone disruptor. This is a result of farmers desiccating their wheat crops with glyphosate, a systemic herbicide and crop desiccant.


Research has shown glyphosate blocks the enzyme aromatase, which is meant to aid in the androgen to estrogen conversion, in turn causing an excess of androgen.


Gluten and Weight loss

There are claims that avoiding gluten can help with weight loss. Yes, weight loss can happen. However, in reality, the weight loss is most likely due to a reduction in overall calories. Beginning a gluten-free diet leads to a decrease in the amount of carbohydrates and processed foods and an increase in whole foods, such as fruit and vegetables.


Eliminating high calorie and high-fat foods will result in weight loss, even without going gluten - free.

On the other hand, following a gluten - free diet may result in weight gain, as gluten - free products can be high in calories. It is, therefore important to read food nutrition labels, to ensure healthier food choices.


Disadvantages of a gluten - free diet

Not only can a gluten - free diet be hard to follow, it can also cause nutrition deficiencies. Gluten - free products lack the vitamins and minerals that gluten products contain. As a result, nutritional deficiencies in those vitamins and minerals can occur. Gluten - free diets can be low in vitamin B12, vitamin B6, Vitamin D, folate, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and fiber.


FODMAPS and amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs)

As I stated above there has been no clear research indicating whether gluten effects PCOS and if you should avoid it.

Although, studies have found other possible causes for the symptoms women with PCOS and those who are gluten sensitive are experiencing.

A study conducted by Peter Gibson at Monash University, concluded FODMAPS could be causing what people have interpreted as gluten sensitivity.
Recent research has emerged indicating it is a different protein in wheat that is causing several chronic health conditions, such as, multiple sclerosis, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and also contributes towards the development of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

Past studies focused on gluten and it's effect on digestive health problems. However, new research has begun to look into another protein found in wheat called amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs). Research has shown that consuming ATIs can lead to the development of inflammation in more parts of the body beyond the gut, including the brain, kidneys, lymph nodes, and spleen.



In conclusion, there is a lack of evidence to suggest women with PCOS should follow a gluten - free diet. No set diet exists for PCOS, therefore, it is all dependent on the individual and their symptoms.


However, due to the constant renewal of research avoiding certain food groups can result in nutrient deficiencies, therefore it is best to limit the amount we consume.


Visit a doctor before you follow a gluten - free diet as you may not be celiac or gluten sensitive. It may be that your stomach and small intestine cannot absorb high FODMAP foods.





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