Let’s start with what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other grains in smaller amounts.
So why would a protein be problem for PCOS? Well if you’ve heard me talk about reversing PCOS naturally there are three things to tackle- inflammation, insulin resistance and hormone regulation. And gluten can cause inflammation if you are sensitive to it so it could be contributing to one of the three key things we need to manage well.
However, there is no scientific evidence currently to say that gluten is a problem for all women with PCOS. So it’s not a one size fits all.
What are the possible problems?
People who have the worst time with gluten are people who have been diagnosed with coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks itself, creating an assault on the lining of their gut that leads to all sorts of serious health problems. If you think you have coeliac disease you should consult your doctor asap.
There are also a small number of people who have a wheat allergy – a wheat allergy means the person’s immune system recognises wheat as an ‘enemy’ and mounts an immune response which cause symptoms that are typical of any allergy – hives, difficulty breathing and even anaphylactic shock.
Aside from these two conditions, the rest gets a little more difficult to pinpoint. Some people seem to have gluten sensitivity, even though they are not allergic and do not have coeliac disease. This seems to be related to the fact that gluten can cause inflammation in the gut for some women which can lead to symptoms such as diarrhoea or constipation and bloating and feeling tired all the time, headaches, and bone or joint pain that go away when you stop eating gluten. If this is you, you may have a gluten intolerance and you should listen to your body and avoid gluten for this reason.
Am I sure?
Before you resign yourself to a life without gluten, I just want to highlight one other possibility for you to potentially save you from going gluten-free unnecessarily. When women go gluten-free, they automatically cut out a lot of the foods that, as women with PCOS, we should eat much less of anyway.
Not only might you be cutting out bread, pasta, cakes, pastries etc but because gluten lurks in so many processed foods, you may have also cut out a lot that, which is a big win for PCOS symptoms. (unless you start shopping in the ‘free from’ aisle and end up with a lot of unhealthy gluten free foods anyway!).
So it might be worth asking yourself- did or does my gluten-free diet mean I changed the types of foods and meals I would have normally had that included ready meals, ready made sauces, unhealthy condiments etc? And did I instead by default start eating more meals made from scratch?
If yes, you feeling better and or losing weight and or other improvements may have been down to a better overall diet rather than the fact that you were gluten-free.
The bottom line
The bottom line is having PCOS does not automatically mean a gluten -free diet is right for you or will help reverse your symptoms. So don’t rush straight to this if you don’t have the symptoms I have described above.
However, women with PCOS do struggle with inflammation and we are at higher risk of autoimmune conditions, so it’s very possible you have a genuine problem with gluten. If you notice improvements after going gluten-free, then it might well be right for you.
Want to learn more from me? You can join my free PCOS Facebook group here.