If you’ve heard about going gluten-free, or you’re considering it to help manage your PCOS symptoms, you might be wondering – what the heck is gluten anyway?!
Gluten is a structural protein. It’s found in things like wheat, rye, and barley– but, for Cysters trying to manage their PCOS, it can be very inflammatory. Sure, it gives bread products their lovely shape… but it could be wreaking havoc when it comes to chronic inflammation.
It’s important to note that there’s a difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. People with celiac disease adopt a gluten-free diet as a necessity, as it’s an autoimmune digestive disorder that can lead to serious long-term complications if it’s left untreated. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, is a milder intolerance that doesn’t cause an immune response or intestinal damage, but the symptoms are similar (e.g. fatigue, bloating, and an upset stomach).
PCOS, gluten, and inflammation
PCOS Cysters can benefit from a gluten-free diet because the majority of the ‘acceptable grains’ and vegetables you can eat are low in glycemic index and won’t spike insulin levels.
Many cysters have found that testing the gluten-free diet for 30 days helped kickstart sustainable weight loss and ease PCOS symptoms. We have found that 30 days of gluten-free is ample time to figure out whether this diet is right for you long-term. Gluten often causes inflammation, which can exacerbate PCOS symptoms and have a negative effect on our weight, skin, hair, mood, fertility, and metabolic health.
Please note this blog post is not a substitute for official medical advice. If you are concerned about your PCOS symptoms, suspect you have a gluten intolerance/food allergy, or wish to make dietary/lifestyle changes, please consult your doctor first.
How to Know When a Food Contains Gluten
Most processed food products aren’t gluten-free unless they have a label stating otherwise. For example, most types of bread, pasta, cake, biscuits, and baked goods will contain gluten.
However, gluten has also snuck into some other processed foods. (Check out my pantry must-haves for eating delicious meals without inflammation-inducing ingredients!)
Here are my top tips for avoiding even the sneakiest of glutens!
1. Check your condiments
Products like soy sauce often contain gluten, but gluten-free options are usually available. For example, San J soy sauce! Certified gluten-free products can only be labeled “gluten-free”, “free of gluten” or “without gluten” if they contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or less of gluten. This is the lowest level of gluten that can be detected in foods using scientifically validated methods. Read the ingredients of your condiments carefully before you drizzle them over your dinner!
2. Check the ingredients first
Be aware of wheat: the ultimate gluten-containing grain! To save time and headaches, check the packaging to see if it says “wheat-free” or “gluten-free” under the ingredients list. You’ll usually find this near the nut allergy or vegan/vegetarian stamps. It should say “Contains: wheat” if there’s wheat flour or wheat starch in there. Remember, there are a host of alternative food staples you can swap in, such as gluten-free bread.
3. Ask about preparation
When eating at restaurants and cafes, items that are usually gluten-free may not be, due to cross-contamination. Oats, meats, fish, and even potatoes are often flour-coated before cooking to improve the texture – make sure you specify that you’re gluten-free to ensure no sneaky flour makes its way into your meal!
4. Look for naturally gluten-free products
If the idea of reading the ingredients labels every time you visit the grocery store exhausts you, have no fear! There are a host of naturally gluten-free foods you can weave into your diet with ease.
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and seafood
- Beans, legumes, and nuts
- Nut flours
5. Tips for a healthy gluten-free diet
There’s no use adopting a new diet if it isn’t healthy, sustainable, and fulfilling. Here are a few top tips:
- Why not experiment in the kitchen? Gluten-free flours (e.g. almond, buckwheat, and amaranth) can be effortlessly swapped into your favorite dishes. You don’t need to ditch your go-to meals to be gluten-free.
- Don’t rely on packaged or canned gluten-free foods. These products tend to be high in sodium and unhealthy fats.
- Review the ingredients list to check for added sugar. Try to limit sugar-rich foods, especially if you’re on a sustainable weight loss journey to manage your PCOS symptoms.
Ultimately, It’s not the gluten itself that’s the problem; it’s the reaction that gluten triggers in the body. If your body doesn’t process gluten well, a gluten-free diet could be the key to kickstarting reversing your PCOS symptoms and beginning the healing process from within.
For more information on the relationship between gluten and PCOS symptoms, check out our blog: “Can Gluten Trigger PCOS Symptoms?”