Ice cream, chocolate, cheese… All delicious treats that most women don’t want to give up. You may have heard that going dairy-free could help heal your Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) symptoms, but the idea of drastically changing your diet and eliminating foods that bring you enjoyment almost doesn’t sound worth the sacrifice.
So instead of telling you everything possibly damaging about consuming dairy when you have PCOS, I’m going to give you solutions, tips and ideas for creating incremental positive change in your life, alleviating the symptoms of PCOS, and enjoying your favorite foods at the same time.
Could going dairy-free help heal PCOS symptoms?
Yes! And PCOS friendly meals can be just as delicious and nutritious, I promise!
Please note that this blog post is not a substitute for official medical advice. If you are concerned about your symptoms, suspect you have an underlying health condition, or wish to make dietary/lifestyle changes, please consult your doctor first.
Dairy: Can I never have it again?
Cheese, ice cream, chocolate… can I never have them again?!
Not true, Cyster!
If you’ve seen any of our content before, you’ll know that I’m a big advocate for trying dairy and gluten-free diets for at least 30 days to see if you have a sensitivity to them.
“But why dairy?”
Dairy is just one of those foods that can have an impact on our insulin levels and inflammation, two root causes of PCOS that we want to keep in control.
Does dairy affect gut health?
Think of it this way: the purpose of milk is to nourish a baby mammal and it’s biologically engineered to stimulate the rapid growth of a young animal. It’s nutrient-dense and provides large amounts of everything needed to support growth – great for a baby but a hormonal cocktail is totally unnecessary for women with PCOS who are already metabolic conservers.
Hormones in the dairy, like insulin and casein, trigger metabolic reactions that make us “grow” and gain weight. Casein, an inflammatory protein in dairy, converts to casomorphin, which acts on your brain’s opiate receptors, making you feel literally addicted to cheese! It can even cause symptoms like brain fog and fatigue.
So if you’re trying to cut down your dairy intake and you’re finding it to be a bit difficult to kick that craving, just know that it’s not your fault. The cheese is playing tricks on you!
Does all dairy cause inflammation?
In short, yes! Dairy contains a protein called casein. This protein is not only known to cause inflammation but is also hard to digest and excrete. Studies show that casein has also been shown to be an inflammatory trigger for endometriosis too!
Inflammation, which all PCOS women have, impairs insulin sensitivity. Not only can the casein in dairy affect our level of inflammation, but it also leads to insulin resistance. As a result, the insulin hormone isn’t able to function properly.
It plays a huge role in PCOS weight loss and signaling ovulation. When we have too much insulin in our bloodstream, it can trigger high testosterone in our ovaries, which might lead you to miss periods and affect your ability to ovulate.
Easy ways to try going dairy-free
I can’t say I haven’t touched a single piece of dairy for 10 years (I’ll have a nibble of cheese about once a month or so)… but I am predominantly dairy-free (and so are many of the women in The Cysterhood!
After 30 days of cutting out dairy, myself and our Cysters have noticed…
- A huge improvement in acne (especially cystic acne!)
- A decrease in bloating and belly inflammation
- Less fatigue, brain fog and cravings
- Losing weight!
Not only can we lose weight by cutting out dairy and keeping insulin levels low, but we can also reduce our cravings. High insulin levels throughout the day, which dairy can trigger, can lead to monstrous cravings!
Insulin is a hormone that’s produced by the pancreas, a gland in the abdomen responsible for digestion and blood sugar regulation. Believe it or not, dairy affects our insulin levels as much as bread. Even just a small tub of yogurt can spike your insulin levels as high as a piece of bread. So if you’ve been avoiding carbs in a bid to lose weight… try going dairy-free too!
It may be tempting to swap full-fat dairy products for alternatives like skim milk, but this still has a high insulin index. We know too well that high insulin is both a symptom and a driver of PCOS. High insulin foods can exacerbate insulin resistance – the inability to respond quickly to the hormone, causing glucose to build up in the blood and change the way the body deals with sugar. This is why PCOS Cysters have an increased risk of developing more serious inflammatory conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity.
What’s more, the likes of cheese and chocolate are high in saturated fats, which can exacerbate weight gain issues, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels in PCOS Cysters.
“But how am I supposed to find my sources of calcium now?”
Contrary to popular belief, plenty of foods are rich in calcium, and many don’t contain dairy. Here are a few calcium-rich foods to integrate into your diet if you’re cutting out dairy:
- Chia seeds
- Soy milk
- Dried figs
- Sunflower seeds
- White beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Oranges/orange juice
- Butternut squash
Need some support saying ‘NO’ to cheese?
Oh, Cyster. I get you!
That’s why we created our 4-Week Meal & Workout Plan!
In just 30 days it provides you with an easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan for PCOS Weight Loss!
- If you’re struggling to come up with gluten and dairy-free meals, we’ll show you our fav weeknight meal prep for meals that take less than 30 minutes!
- If you’re a beginner when it comes to cooking and you don’t know where to start, we’ll show you how to select PCOS-friendly ingredients to stock up your pantry
- If you struggle to follow Pinterest workouts for PCOS weight loss, join Sirak for real-time full-length weighted workouts!
You can also grab loads of support, here: