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Should All Women with PCOS Eat Gluten-Free?

Should All Women with PCOS Eat Gluten-Free?

Are you thinking of changing your diet to one that's gluten-free? You're not alone. The number of gluten-free diet books and products available are exploding. Some gluten-free products claim to promote everything from better sleep, increased energy, weight loss and even thinner thighs and cleaner skin. Some gluten-free claims offer treatment for autism and rheumatoid arthritis. It's no surprise that the primary reason many buy gluten-free foods is a belief that they are viewed as healthier than other foods. Women with PCOS may particularly benefit from a gluten-free diet because the majority of the acceptable grains are low in glycemic index and won't spike insulin levels.

Gluten-free & Weight loss

If you have PCOS, you can't avoid hearing about women with the syndrome who have shared on the internet that they have gone gluten-free and lost weight. But the reality is, eating gluten-free foods is probably not causing the weight loss. It's common for individuals who adopt a gluten-free diet to have a lower carbohydrate intake overall which results in shedding pounds.

On the other hand, if not followed correctly, gluten-free diets can result in weight gain as gluten-free products sometimes can have more calories (and sugar) than their counterparts. For example, a single serving of regular pretzels provides 108 calories. Compare this to a serving of gluten-free pretzels which have 140 calories.

A Gluten-Free Necessity

For the millions of individuals who suffer from celiac disease, eating a gluten-free diet isn't a choice; it's a necessity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body can't process gluten, the protein in wheat, barley, rye, malt, brewer's yeast and, in most cases, oats. Often overlooked, Celiac disease can cause significant long-term health problems if a gluten-free diet isn't followed.

Some people feel gluten causes their health problems, such as upset stomach and fatigue. A sensitivity to gluten, also known as gluten intolerance, may involve bloating, abdominal pain, and fatigue. Those who claim to be gluten intolerant and who omit gluten feel better and experience less bloating and abdominal weight loss.

It may be tempting to stop eating bread and other gluten-containing foods if you believe they're bothering you but you should wait until you get tested by a doctor as going gluten-free makes it harder to diagnose celiac disease.

The Disadvantages to Gluten-Free

Despite its many benefits, a gluten-free diet has some disadvantages. If not followed correctly, a gluten-free diet can result in a diet that is low in iron, folate, niacin, zinc and fiber. Many gluten-free foods have added sugars to add flavor. The taste of packaged gluten-free foods has come a long way but still has a way to go.

If you are considering a gluten-free diet, here are some tips to do it healthfully:

  • Before beginning a gluten-free diet, be sure to do some research so you know what you are getting into. You may find the resources below useful.
  • Substitute gluten-containing foods for a variety of gluten-free whole grains such as amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, corn, millet, sorghum, brown or wild rice and teff.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment in your own kitchen. Gluten-free flours can easily be substituted into your favorite dishes.
  • Read food labels carefully to make sure you are getting the whole grain benefits. Food ingredients list from the largest amount to smallest.
  • Watch out for added sugar. Look at the amount of sugar on the label and check the ingredient list. If sugar or a sugar word is one of the first three ingredients, opt for another food.
  • Be careful not to rely on packaged, canned or frozen gluten-free foods. These products contain a significant amount of sodium.
Bottom line: A gluten-free diet, if followed correctly, offers numerous health benefits to women with PCOS. If you don't have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, a gluten-free diet doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. Weight loss associated with a gluten-free diet is most likely due to a reduction in total carbohydrate intake rather than the gluten-free foods itself.

Gluten-Free Resources

American Celiac Disease Alliance: http://americanceliac.org
Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign: http://celiac.nih.gov
Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network: www.foodallergy.org
Academy of Food and Nutrition: www.eatright.org
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness: www.celiaccentral.org
Gluten Freely: www.glutenfreely.com

Share your gluten-free tips with us!

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