What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a hormone disorder which impacts 1 in 10 people in the UK alone. Unfortunately, due to underfunding and a wide variety of symptoms that vary between individuals, it can often go underdiagnosed. Whilst It can affect any person of reproductive age, onset is most common in people in their late teenage years to early 20’s. If you display any of the following symptoms consulting with your doctor for diagnosis is recommended; irregular periods, infertility, excess body and facial hair growth, loss of hair on the head, acne and oily skin.
Whilst there is no cure for PCOS, symptoms can be managed, one of the first avenues commonly explored is lifestyle change. Within this, dietary recommendations are often discussed. You may have read going dairy-free can help to manage PCOS symptoms, and you wouldn’t be alone. In fact, one study found 17.4% of people with PCOS have tried a dairy-free diet to manage PCOS, but is there any evidence to support this?
What is a dairy-free diet?
Simply, a dairy-free diet involves excluding any foods containing dairy including milks, cheese and yogurt, amongst some. Individuals following a vegan diet, or who have a lactose intolerance may adopt such diet, and whilst with all dietary patterns it can still be balanced, it will require more consideration and planning.
Dairy foods are considered important in making up a healthy balanced diet. They include vital nutrients such as calcium, B12 and many more, which all support your overall health.
Should you avoid dairy if you have PCOS?
If you have been advised or read following a dairy free diet to help manage PCOS, it may be from claims that dairy increased inflammation, and chronic inflammation is linked with PCOS. However, in contradiction to this, consuming dairy has not been shown to have adverse effects on biomarkers of inflammation. Furthermore, an analysis of 52 trials found dairy could have anti-inflammatory effects, including in those with metabolic disease.
However, there is some suggestion that adapting your dairy choices may help with acne and/or oily skin. In a review of 27 studies conducting in populations of individuals without PCOS, fat-free and low-fat dairy foods did have some impact on acne development. Whereas full fat dairy products were found to have less of an effect. Therefore, if you do suffer with acne/oily skin as a PCOS symptom, you may want to try opting for full-fat dairy over low-fat dairy options.
As mentioned, symptoms of PCOS can vary between individuals, and therefore what works for one person may not work for another. There is no one-size-fits all. Working with a health professional can be helpful to find the approach that works for you.