Health & Wellness Nutrition

Gluten Free Diet for PCOS?

Cutting back on gluten can have a positive effect by improving blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in women with PCOS.  

If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you may be considering a gluten-free diet. It’s true, women with PCOS report a reduction of PCOS symptoms when they’ve gone gluten-free. Are there studies to back that? Not yet, studies take a lot of time and there is probably one in the mix now. However, while we wait let’s go over some reasons you may or may not want to go gluten-free if you’re struggling with PCOS. 

Take some notes and decide what is best for your lifestyle!

Let’s face it, items that contain gluten in America are higher in refined carbohydrates and sugar than most anything else. Just cutting back on gluten can have a positive effect and improve blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in women with PCOS.  

Did you know that 70% of women with PCOS have a varying degree of insulin resistance? It’s true. 

What is insulin resistance?

A driving condition that leads to multiple PCOS symptoms is high insulin. Insulin resistance is when the cells in your muscles, fat and liver don’t respond well to insulin and the excess glucose in the blood reduces the cells ability to absorb blood sugar to be used as energy. So your pancreas produces even more insulin to lower your blood sugar levels and this generates inflammation and causes weight gain. As time passes, your cells may become more resistant to insulin and this raises both insulin and blood sugar.  This process increases the risk of developing prediabetes, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes.

Lowering your carb consumption can lower your insulin levels. High insulin not only causes weight gain but also causes the ovaries to make excess testosterone and impair ovulation. By eating less refined carbs and added sugar, women with PCOS may experience improved blood sugar levels, less insulin resistance, and overall symptom improvement

Refined carbohydrates are found in white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, sweet desserts, and many breakfast cereals.

Let’s face it, wheat today is not the same as wheat 50 years ago and it has never been easier to grab carbs on the go.

It’s estimated that 40% of the population has a Gluten sensitivity or has Celiac Disease.  

Gluten is found in wheat, barley, spelt, semolina and rye and in sauces, cakes, syrups, soy-sauce, and even some drinks. You’ll find it listed in code words like malt, modified food-starch & dextrin on ingredient labels. Why is it used so much? Well for one, gluten is pretty amazing when it comes to baking, I’ve been gluten free since 2005 and light and fluffy morsels don’t exist. However, are fluffy, sweet pastries worth it when they have such far-reaching negative effect on your health? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. 

If you’re suffering from obesity, fatigue, depression, headaches, arthritis, or digestive problems then you might have a gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease. However, even if you don’t have a gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease, gluten could still be affecting your hormonal health by adding stress to your adrenal glands. This can cause adrenal fatigue and other hormone-related health problems.

The Adrenal Glands and Gluten:
The adrenal glands sit above your kidneys and release hormones into your bloodstream, and likewise respond to feedback from other hormones and chemicals in your body. Gluten sensitivity puts direct stress on your adrenal glands. Where does this stress come from? It’s the inflammatory response in your digestive tract. This inflammatory response occurs every time you eat gluten, if you have a gluten sensitivity. 

This puts stress on your adrenals and eventually they become incapable of repairing themselves; as a result, their function slowly begins to deteriorate. Eventually this causes chronic stress on your adrenal glands from the gluten in your diet and the symptoms cause “adrenal exhaustion.”

Normally your adrenals make hormones called Pregnenolone “Mother Hormones” which are the building blocks for many hormones including sex hormones (DHEA, estrogen, testosterone and progesterone). Which all need to be maintained to prevent PMS, fatigue, depression, loss of libido, hot flashes, anxiety, infertility, and miscarriages.

Though going gluten free isn’t necessarily the answer unless you’re also making lifestyle changes. Don’t get me wrong, gluten free options normally have less sugar, and overall healthier ingredients. However if you are exchanging your high carb diet for one that is the same but gluten free, it isn’t going to fix all your problems. Switching to gluten free bread, cookies and cakes is great if you have Celiac Disease but if you’re looking to reduce inflammation, insulin resistance and reduce PCOS symptoms you need to also find gluten free options that reduce your overall sugar and carb intake.

It takes a lot of work to find companies that produce the best foods for your lifestyle but they are out there. There are some gluten-free foods that have poor nutritional value, are high in added sugar like gluten-free oreos *though they are super good.

If you decide to try a gluten-free diet, focus on eating whole and unprocessed foods that are naturally free of gluten like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean protein, and gluten-free whole grains (i.e. brown rice or quinoa). I call this the old school gluten-free lifestyle. Back in 2005 it was nearly impossible to find good gluten free options. 

Gluten foods always look amazing but are they worth it?

What other options do I have besides cutting out gluten? 

If you’re looking to reduce inflammation without cutting out gluten, here are some suggestions.

1) If you do not have Celiac Disease and are not gluten sensitive and want to keep gluten in your life, try making your breads at home, using quality ingredients and limiting sugar.

2) Include Omega-3 fats in your diet to help reduce inflammation. A study done in 2014 found that having a high ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats had a positive effect on reducing inflammation and reducing risk of developing endometriosis.

3) Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and try to avoid sugar and processed foods. Processed foods aren’t good for anyone because of the unhealthy fats and sugar. The low nutrients in these processed foods like white bread can produce pain and inflammation in women with PCOS and Endometriosis. 

4) A high-fiber diet may improve weight as it will help you stay full after a meal. It’s suggested for women to have around 25 grams per day of fiber though studies show women often get as little as 15 grams a day or less. 

One study done with women who have PCOS showed that higher fiber intake was linked to lower insulin resistance, lower total body fat and lower body weight.1

What you should know about High-Fiber foods – Fiber comes in two varieties: insoluble and soluble. Soluble fiber helps control blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol.  Insoluble fiber is the fiber you always hear about that prevents constipation. Studies show that intakes of 28- 36 g fiber/day, consisting of both soluble and insoluble fiber, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce circulating insulin in adults. Examples of fiber include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts and fruits (apples, berries, citrus fruits and pears). 

5) Studies have found that switching through diet fads and under-eating can slow down your metabolism.2   Not having enough calories can actually negatively impact hormones that control appetite. Instead of thinking about a particular diet, focus on avoiding processed foods, added sugar and refined carbs. Incorporate fresh, organic options into your meals to promote a healthier lifestyle. 

6) Consider adding supplements into your life to help balance your hormones. In one randomized study,  women with PCOS were given 4 grams of myo-inositol per day for 14 weeks and they lost weight. S’moo, which contains myo-inositol as well as 6 other vitamins/minerals and herbs, has helped thousands of women manage their PCOS symptoms. Find a supplement that can help aid you on your journey. 


Medical Disclaimer

This content is strictly the opinion of S’moo and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither S’moo nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

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