PCOS and gluten.... who knew it would be such a hot topic!?
I have always been an incredibly healthy eater and have been interested in health and nutrition from a very young age.
When I was 12 years old, I came home and told my parents I was becoming a vegetarian. As you can imagine, they were quite surprised to hear this considering I was only 12, but I think they had always known I would eventually give meat up.
At the time my decision was based mostly on ethical reasons #animalsarefriendsnotfood. However, the older I got, the more I started to realise how much of a positive impact it was inadvertently having on my health.
Over the years, I made the transition over to a mostly plant-based diet, and have never looked back! Knowing that eating a mostly plant-based diet is not only great for animals and me, but also the planet made it an easy transition.
Anyway, the problem was that once I became a vegetarian, I began supplementing my diet with foods like lentils, beans, nuts, seeds etc., but ultimately I also found myself loading up on carbs! (gahhhh I think I was addicted to fresh sourdough bread with smashed avocado! ....drooooooool)
I honestly never feel like during my entire life of eating gluten I had never felt or seen any negative side effects from it, UNTIL I CAME OFF THE PILL!
I actually didn't even put the two together until after I had been diagnosed with PCOS and had gone to see a naturopath.
She asked me a bunch of questions about my diet and lifestyle and finally asked me if I had any intolerances or food allergies, to which I replied 'No'.
After reviewing my results and seeing a few of my symptoms:
bloating, cramping, foggy memory, headaches and no periods, she suggested to me that maybe I had developed a gluten intolerance! (WTF, how do you randomly develop a gluten intolerance after years of having no issues with it!?!?)
I honestly didn't believe her, but at this point in time, I was so desperate to help my PCOS symptoms and to heal myself naturally that I figured it was worth looking into.
She also mentioned that some women could become more sensitive to things once they come off the pill which is why I may not have had a gluten intolerance beforehand.... weirdly around the same time I had also started to become very irritated by some makeups + facial cleansers too so I guess I was becoming more sensitive to things??
So off I went to research everything I possibly could about gluten, and how it could be worsening my PCOS symptoms.
What I found was quite shocking.
After doing some research, I decided that I was going to do a month of no gluten (sadly for me I did this right over the festive season! wahhh #sadface) to see if I noticed any changes.
Within one week of no gluten, my face started to look less puffy, and I had stopped feeling bloated and crampy (and looking pregnant after every meal).
Within two weeks, my skin was starting to clear up and look less inflamed.
Within three weeks, I felt like I had so much more energy and was started to feel more like myself again. I also noticed I was looking leaner and less puffy all over.
By week four I had decided that even though I truly missed my smashed avo and sourdough bread, the improvements I had seen and felt from not eating gluten were unbelievable and that it was obviously my body's way of telling me that it was much happier and healthier without gluten!
So if anyone has ever considered that gluten may not be agreeing with them, I would 100% recommend trying a month without gluten to see if it makes any difference to you! I can honestly say it has made a huge improvement in my life.
For those of you who are interested, here's the dot point version of what I found out about gluten and its links to PCOS (this info has been a huge game-changer for me so I hope it might help some of you too!)
Recent research shows that at least 1 in 3 Americans and 1 in 4 Australians are predisposed to having a gluten intolerance.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance can include:
- Digestive issues including bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
- Mood disorders like depression, anxiety or PMS.
- PCOS or unexplained fertility.
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, fatigue, fogginess or exhaustion after eating a meal that contains gluten.
A lot of naturopaths are now also reporting that they are seeing a lot more women who have been diagnosed with PCOS also having a gluten intolerance as well. I find this incredibly interesting!
4. Gluten is a Hormone Disruptor
This is a BIG one!
Gluten is a known hormone disruptor. This basically means that the chemicals in gluten can interfere with the functioning of the endocrine/ hormone system. The biggest reason this happens is because most crops, (particularly wheat crops) are sprayed with pesticides that act as xenoestrogens. These substances mimic the role of estrogen in our bodies
With PCOS, our hormones are so out of whack already, that we need to avoid adding anything else to our systems that could cause further imbalance.
5. High in Carbohydrates
Wheat has a high glycemic index rating. This can obviously be a big issue for your insulin levels and cause them to rise significantly. As we know, unbalanced insulin levels are one of the biggest issues of PCOS. A rise in carbohydrates can cause a rise in insulin levels, which can have a big effect on your testosterone levels.
6. Gluten and Chronic Inflammation
If you do believe you are sensitive or intolerant to gluten, then it could be causing chronic inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation is the cause of so many conditions and illnesses and can show in people in many different ways.
Chronic inflammation can also lead to insulin resistance, which means that it can cause higher than normal amounts of insulin to regulate blood sugars.
I really hope that some of you might read this and it could be the missing piece to your PCOS puzzle. (fingers crossed!)
I would LOVE to hear from anyone else who has found that cutting out gluten has made a positive (or maybe negative!?) impact on their PCOS or other hormonal issues.
This is something I am incredibly interested in, and I think the more case studies we can find, the more educated we can become!