PCOS and Gluten-Free Diets

PCOS BlogYou might hear a lot of your friends, or even family members talking about gluten-free diets. Perhaps you have even heard that a gluten-free diet is beneficial for women with PCOS. It’s no surprise that you have heard so much chatter about gluten-free diets because almost 20% of adults buy or consume food labeled gluten-free, even though only 8% have an actual medical reason to avoid gluten.

Many people assume a gluten-free diet (or an anything-free diet) is associated with weight loss, but this is not always the case. In fact, many gluten free products are actually less healthy as they are higher in calories due to the sugar content. It’s important for people with Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities to follow gluten-free diets but there is no evidence-based research to show eating “gluten-free” is beneficial for those without medical need including girls/women diagnosed with PCOS. So why all the hype and what about the connection with PCOS?

As you may know, PCOS is associated with an imbalance of hormones and insulin resistance (increase in blood sugar levels). When this occurs, it can be difficult for some teenage girls to lose weight, which is why it’s important to have a healthy, balanced diet. There are some websites that suggest that a gluten-free diet will help to better manage the hormone imbalance and insulin resistance but there is no research to prove that this is actually helpful for girls with PCOS.

However, there may be some health benefits to decreasing gluten in your diet. For example, some of the non-gluten containing grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats are good sources of fiber, which will help to keep blood sugar and insulin levels in check! However, it’s probably best to avoid processed gluten-free products such as bread, crackers, and cookies since these will likely not have as many of those beneficial whole grains. Additionally, if not followed correctly, a gluten-free diet can result in iron, folate, niacin, zinc, and fiber deficiencies. So if you have heard friends or family members say they have lost weight following a gluten-free diet… it may be because they started having grains high in fiber and avoided foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, not because they cut gluten out of their diet.

If a gluten-free lifestyle is something you decide is right for you, here are some of our gluten-free, PCOS nutrition tips!

  • Focus on whole foods: limit the number of pre-packaged gluten-free products
  • Look for gluten-free whole grains: millet, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, wild rice, corn
  • Balance your plate: try to pair your carbohydrates with a protein or a dietary fat to keep your blood sugar levels in check
  • Enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables: be creative using the veggies/fruits that are currently in season

-Dietitian Jill