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Gluten For PCOS: Good or Bad

If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), chances are you may have considered following a gluten-free diet. Gluten and PCOS is a hot topic among the internet and social media. Some websites warn against eating gluten and claim it may cause hormone imbalances, inflammation, and worsening insulin resistance. Others argue that there is no research to support a gluten-free diet for women with PCOS. Lets discover what is gluten and how its linked with PCOS.

Gluten is a group of protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten acts as glue and hold food together. There are two common forms of gluten; gliadin which gives bread the ability to rise during baking and glutenin, which is responsible for dough's elasticity.

Gluten and Gut

A GFD is the only treatment for patients with celiac disease and non celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects 1% of the population. The consumption of gluten from wheat or barley causes damage to intestinal villi causing the intestine to become inflamed results in the malabsorption of certain nutrients. Patients with celiac disease and NCGS experienced symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and extra- intestinal symptoms.

Gluten and PCOS

PCOS is multifaceted hormonal metabolic disorder of women in their child bearing age. The exact cause of this disorder is unknown, however insulin resistance and low grade chronic inflammation are main contributor.

There is no scientific evidence that recommends a GFD for women with PCOS. However, some women experience bloating, mental fogginess and chronic fatigue that may associated with underlying gluten sensitivity. One study found that women with PCOS had dysbiosis (imbalance in the gut microbiome) and less diverse gut microbiome than women without PCOS. It is worth a trial of GFD in these women as an experiment. A GFD is mainly composed of whole food with less processed food intake, so women with PCOS experience weight loss and better insulin sensitivity and improvement in their PCOS symptoms. However, this can be achieved by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Gluten-free diet; is it healthy ?

When someone with out celiac disease and gluten sensitivity switch to gluten free diet, they may experience certain nutritional risks. Avoidance of several kind of foods naturally rich in fibre (grain) and low content of fibre in GF diet may results in less fibre intake. The GFD also increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies, especially in B vitamin, iron and trace elements.

Take home Message

A gluten free diet for PCOS is not a necessity, and nutrition for PCOS women should be personalized, as the underlying causes of PCOS can vary from person to person. Reducing gluten consumption or avoiding it could potentially lessen inflammation, but more research is needed before recommending a GFD to all women with PCOS. Try to focus on what you add into your diet to help with your PCOS like omega 3 fatty acids, high fibre, carbohydrates, and increasing protein intake. Before going on a GF diet, always consult your GP or registered nutrition professional.

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