Should You Go Gluten Free for PCOS?

Have you ever wondered if going gluten free would improve your PCOS symptoms? Well, you’re not alone. I hear this so often with my clients!

In this article, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about gluten and if it’s beneficial or harmful for PCOS. 

As always, if you need more personalized advice, you should consult with your healthcare professional or dietitian (like me!). This article should not serve as a substitute for medical advice. 

What is PCOS? 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder affecting many women of all ages. It includes many common symptoms like irregular periods, higher levels of androgen,, and cysts on the ovaries (1). 


One of the less talked about aspects of PCOS is inflammation, which can make symptoms worse and lead to issues like insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome (2). Most people with PCOS have some degree of inflammation and reducing it can be helpful. 

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It gives dough its elasticity, making bread chewy and delicious (3). Lately, gluten has caused a lot of confusion, with some people blaming it for inflammation and other health problems. 

Gluten has not been proven to be inherently inflammatory for people without celiac disease. For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, avoiding gluten is a must. But for the rest of us, especially those with PCOS, the decision isn’t as clear. 

Research on Gluten and Inflammation

The science around gluten and inflammation is not yet conclusive. For people with celiac disease, gluten triggers an autoimmune response that causes inflammation and damage in the intestines (4).

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can also cause symptoms like bloating, stomach pain, and fatigue. However, for people without these conditions, the evidence linking gluten to inflammation is limited and not definitive.

Lack of Research on Gluten and PCOS

When it comes to PCOS, there’s even less research on whether gluten has any impact. Some studies suggest that cutting back on high glycemic foods, some of which contain gluten, in general can help with PCOS by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation (5).

I dug through research from the year 2000 until now and could not find any quality research linking gluten intake and inflammation in PCOS or with anyone without Celiac or gluten intolerance for that matter. 

How to Know If You Are Sensitive to Gluten

Determining if you are sensitive to gluten can be tricky. If you suspect that gluten might be causing you issues, start by keeping a food diary. Note what you eat and any symptoms you experience. 

If you notice a pattern where gluten-containing foods seem to trigger symptoms like bloating, stomach pain, or fatigue, you might have a sensitivity. Another option is to try an elimination diet: cut out gluten for a few weeks and then slowly reintroduce it while monitoring your symptoms. 

For more definitive answers, you could also talk to a healthcare provider about getting tested for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. You could also work with a dietitian to make sure you are looking out for the correct signs. 

Why You May Feel Better After Eliminating Gluten

I hear often that after cutting out gluten, some people with PCOS feel less inflamed and bloated. This is often used as a reason to stop eating gluten. This might make sense, but we should do a little more digging first. 

I’ve noticed that some people will stop eating gluten while also starting other new health habits such as exercise, better overall diet, and supplement intake. The way you are feeling could also be influenced by these other factors. 

It’s also important to note that when most people are eliminating gluten, they are eliminating many overly processed/ high carb foods from their diet. This may also be a possible reason for feeling better. 

Reducing Gluten Intake Instead of Cutting It Out Completely

If you have determined that you are sensitive to gluten, you may not want to jump straight into cutting it out completely. You may try first to reduce your intake of overly processed foods and continue to include less processed forms of gluten, such as whole grains like farro and bulgar. 

You don’t have to go completely gluten-free to see if it helps with your PCOS symptoms. Instead, you could try reducing your gluten intake. 

Also, choose whole grains over refined grains when you do eat gluten, as whole grains provide more nutrients and fiber, which can help manage PCOS symptoms.

Gluten Free Diets Risks

Although it has become more normalized to cut out gluten, it does not mean that this decision should be taken lightly. There are some risks and deficiencies that come with it. 

Nutrient Deficiency


While gluten-free diets can seem like a healthier option, it’s important to note that many gluten-free foods can lack important nutrients and be low in fiber (6). 

Gluten-free foods often use refined grains and starches like white rice flour or potato starch, which don’t offer the same nutritional benefits as whole grains. These substitutes can result in lower fiber content, which is essential for gut health and managing PCOS symptoms. 

Sugar and Fat

Additionally, gluten-free foods can sometimes be higher in sugar and fat to compensate for texture and taste, potentially leading to other health issues (6).

Minerals and Vitamins

People following a gluten free diet have been found to consume significantly lower amounts of fiber, folate, iron, niacin and calcium. For PCOS, it is very important to make sure that you are consuming adequate amounts of nutrients (6). 

It is important to work with a dietitian to make sure that your diet includes all of the necessary nutrients. 

Psychosocial Effects

Following a strict gluten free diet can have impacts on your social life and can contribute to feelings of isolation. It can contribute to avoidance of social gatherings, events, travel, and trying new restaurants (6). 

This isn’t to say that you can’t have a fulfilling life while following a gluten free diet, you definitely can. But it does make things a bit harder and shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

Benefits of Gluten Containing Foods

It’s easy to forget that many healthy foods contain gluten, but they do! Whole grains like wheat, barley, and rye are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are crucial for overall health and can actually help manage PCOS symptoms (7). 

Foods like whole grain bread, pasta, and cereals can be part of a balanced diet when eaten in moderation and combined with protein, fats, and more fiber.

Final Thoughts

Deciding whether to go gluten-free for PCOS is a personal choice. There’s limited evidence linking gluten to PCOS symptoms. Eating fewer processed foods and focusing on a balanced diet full of whole foods can definitely help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms. 

If you think gluten might be affecting your symptoms, talk to a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to create a diet plan that works for you. 

Reducing gluten instead of cutting it out completely might also be a good approach to see if it makes a difference for you without completely overhauling your diet. Choose nutrient-dense foods, gluten or not, to ensure you’re getting all the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs.

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