There are a handful of women’s issues that doctors will tell you can be related to celiac disease: celiac can be triggered by pregnancy, delivery, menopause, and undiagnosed celiac can cause infertility and osteoporosis.

What you don’t see often is any research on the relationship of celiac disease to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS. I recently did some research that looks at why some people think the two may be related.

The Mayo Clinic’s website describes PCOS as

“…the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. The name of the condition comes from the appearance of the ovaries in most, but not all, women with the disorder — enlarged and containing numerous small cysts located along the outer edge of each ovary (polycystic appearance).” — MayoClinic.com

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website women with PCOS often deal with infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, excess hair growth, acne and obesity. They often have trouble getting pregnant as well.

So what does PCOS have to do with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity?

Well some would say they may be more related than people think. Surefoodsliving.com recently conducted an “Ask the Doctor” segment with Dr. Aron who, during the process of answering a bigger question, said “…PCOS and celiac are related”. While that doctor didn’t really elaborate, another expert did.

BellaOnline.com’s infertility editor discussed PCOS and infertility. The article sourced Melissa Diane Smith who’s a nutritionist, health educator and author of Going Against the Grain. She says

“…85% of her PCOS clients test positive for a sensitivity to gluten. When these women remove gluten from their diets they often see a marked improvement in their PCOS symptoms.”

One blogger knows about this issue all too well.  This mother of two has both PCOS and celiac disesase.  She writes about this very subject in detail on her blog Hormones and High Chairs.  She says,

“i previously wrote about a possible link between celiac disease and pcos, and for me, that possibility is stronger than ever…i didn’t have periods that were less than 3 months apart. dx and gluten free diet began mid march. my first “real” period on may 10 (see previous blog). and i was waiting to see if i had to wait 3 months or if i could possibly become regular again.

drum roll please… 5 weeks… that’s only 35 days… i have another period.” – Hormones And High Chairs Blog

Then she also explains the importance of staying gluten free if you have PCOS,

“…eating gluten free is extremely important. It’s difficult and frustrating, but when i think of how good i feel, how i don’t have emotional outbursts anymore, i have zero bloating and am losing weight steadily, and no more physical pain, i don’t want to eat foods with gluten.”

In Conclusion…

So you’ve gotten this far in my post. Still you won’t find any major study or conclusion linking the two ailments. What I will offer you is a thought: celiac disease can be tied to liver and kidney problems, cancer, infertility, bad teeth, depression, osteoporosis and other bone issues, nervous system disorders, rashes, and more. So if all of these seemingly random problems can happen with untreated celiac disease, is it so impossible to think that celiac and gluten sensitivities wouldn’t play a role in PCOS?

If you have PCOS and are wondering about whether celiac is playing a role, why not get the blood test? I know in many cases it may be tough to convince your doctor to run the test if he or she isn’t familiar with the bizarre connections celiac can have with other ailments. But I think for many, it could be worth the time and money.

Note: I am not a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor on your health care to find out what is right for you.

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22 Responses to “Is PCOS a Symptom of a Gluten-Sensitivity or Celiac Disease?”

  1. I’ve never been tested for CD, but FWIW, I was diagnosed with PCOS 14 years ago and removing gluten from my diet has given me the first normal and regular cycles of my life… for about two years now.

  2. What blood test should I ask for?

  3. Kathy,
    Here’s a link to the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research which gives you the names of the blood tests: http://celiaccenter.org/celiac/faq.asp#blood
    If you’re looking for a test for PCOs I am not as educated in this area, but I found a link that could at least get you started: http://pcos.about.com/od/callingyourdoctor/f/bloodtests.htm

    Good luck!
    Amy

  4. I’ve been diagnosed with pcos and endometriosis. My doctor suggested I try a gluten free diet before putting me on more meds. After about 1 month of eating gluten free my blood tests came back really good. My insulin and blood sugar was starting to get back to normal, my liver function was no longer worrisome and I no longer felt so much anxiety after eating my meals. I would say there is definitely something there that does affect it.

  5. PCOS all my life, never had regular periods my entire life with no way to find a cycle pattern. Finally lost all my periods for over five years. I’ve been gluten free for 18 months and I am regular (between 32-37 days) and fertility obgyn says the PCOS is completely gone. They can’t test me for Celiac because I refuse to go back to gluten. I am completely convinced.

  6. I have had PCOS for 8 years. I’ve managed it naturally until a couple of years ago when I finally gave in and started taking Metformin and a handful of supplements trying to feel better and get the energy for exercise, etc. After trying to concentrate on diet and exercising for twelve weeks without much success, I got my doctor to admit something else was wrong. He had me try an appetite suppressant called Phentermine which was a mistake as all of my symptoms got worse. I also tried thyroid hormone which didn’t make me feel better. Finally, out of desperation, I paid out of pocket for all the tests with an alternative med doctor and found out I have antibodies to gluten, soy, cow’s milk, and eggs. All the healthy protein snacks and lean proteins I was choosing were slowly killing me. I know I’m a half a second away from being full blown diabetic but for the first time, I know now what NOT to eat. We’ll see how things go. I think gluten intolerance causes a lot of health issues. Look at your family. So many of the women in my family have had fertility issues (endometriosis,) osteoporosis, etc. Many of the men and women have sleep problems/narcolepsy. I can see the pattern in my own family even though none of them have the obesity issues (except for an Aunt and a cousin.)

  7. I was diagnosed as having PCOS in 2001 and celiac in 2006. Going gluten-free (and removing the rest of my allergens) was the only thing that resolved my insulin resistance and gave me normal periods again. Now, in 2011, I have no symptoms of PCOS and I am a normal weight.

  8. I was on the cusp of getting pcos…my period would be heavy and clot like it was going to stop, couple hairs on my chin started growing in, a lot of scalp hairloss, IBS symptoms and fatigue. As a teen I had mild psoriasis and I wish I was tested for food allergies then. I went to my PCP and she had me blood tested and swabbed for everything to be absolutely sure it was PCOS. Well I got all my bloodwork back and I am gluten intolerant and allergic to peanuts. Once I eliminated the gluten and now eating a diet of fruits, vegetables and lean meats with a good multi-vitamin/herbs…the PCOS is completely gone. I also avoid dairy and buy organic when I can. I sincerely believe that auto-immune conditions are brought on by trigger foods your body is allergic too or poor diet and they manifest differently in each women. If I would have never went to the doctor and let it go…it could have turned out worse like full blown intestinal scarring/Celiac or Hashimoto thyroiditis. Please, Please if you have or have symptoms…go to a good doctor (naturopathic I like them best)and knowledge is power make sure you study your symptoms so you can get to the root cause. Thanks and Be Blessed :)

  9. I was diagnosed with PCOS about 2 years ago. I had been taking birth control for several months before I switched to Metaformin. I’ve been having very regular periods on Metaformin.
    However, several months ago, I began experiencing severe stomach pain, nausea, and diarreah. The doctors were perplexed and tried everything, including a colonoscopy and gastroscopy.
    They even tested my blood for Celiac’s disease. Everything came back negative for any sort of bowel or auto-immune diseases.
    Eventually, my doctor told me to try eliminating gluten to see if I would feel better.
    It’s been a month and I feel SO much better. I have a gluten intolerance that is probably related to the PCOS.
    After eliminating everything with wheat, barley, and rye, I feel much more energetic and healthy. I’ve even lost about 10 pounds!

    It’s interesting that gluten-intolerance could potentially be related to PCOS. Has anyone else tried eliminating gluten and felt a dramatic difference in their well being?

  10. While testing for celiac disease in women with PCOS should be considered, I’m uncertain whether women with PCOS and normal anti-gliaden antibody testing might not still benefit from gluten free diets. For those who have been advised to reduce gluten intake did you see benefit regardless of the celiac testing results?

  11. I was tested in the past for celiac and the blood work showed a positive antibody but the biopsy came back negative. So I continued eating gluten. Fast forward a few years … I’m having trouble getting pregnant. I saw a midwife for it who put me on Metformin which is a diabetes drug used to help your body deal with insulin. This drug is usually prescribed for diabetics or PCOS patients with infertility problems and seems to help most women ovulate regularly. It has shortened my long cycles and helped me ovulate monthly.

    Meanwhile I’m reading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and he explains how wheat creates insulin spikes and insulin resistance … which the metformin is treating. Hmmm. So, I’m thinking if I were on a gluten/wheat free diet (which I’m starting as I type) that my body would ovulate on it’s own without needing the metformin to counteract the insulin resistance that is created by eating wheat/gluten. Make sense?

  12. When I was almost 13 I got my first period. Everything was fine for 3 yeas, it was regular and the only time I missed it was when I was in deep stress. But when I was 16 it became less regular, sometimes coming from every other month to every few months. There was even a time I went 6 months without a period. By then my mom was freaking out and took me to a doctor and they had me tested. They diagnosed me with PCOS and offered me birth control pills which my mom refused to give me. Instead, I tried accupunture and the guy also gave me some vitamins, which didn’t really work. It’s a drag for me to take vitamins and even if I did take them I don’t think it really helped my period. I’m wondering if I could also be a celiac? I don’t have any of the usual signs, anyone have any advice?

  13. I was diagnosed with PCOS over 20 years ago. Back then the connection with insulin resistance was unknown. I had been diagnosed as not ‘processing insulin properly’ over 10 years before the PCOS diagnosis. Thirteen years ago, after the connection was discovered/ made public I started taking Metformin. It was a miracle drug for me.
    In May of this year I was very energetic and active. By the end of July I was so tired I had no choice but to take a nap within 2 hours of eating lunch. After months of this I finally went to the Dr. in October who did a series of blood tests (not CD or GS), but everything else. All normal.By this point I was desperate for some help. I read an article about gluten and all of the symptoms GS caused. Wow! Everything I was experiencing since I’d started eating whole wheat bread everyday in late June/early July. I stopped eating Gluten and within days started noticing an improvement. After 10 days (yesterday) I unknowingly ate something with gluten and 1 1/2 hours later felt like someone had dropped a ton of bricks on my head. (Grabbed the can and discovered that chili has gluten.)
    I don’t know if one causes the other, or they go hand in hand, but it seems to be common to have both. I will be gluten free from now on. My joint pain is improved, my energy levels are increasing, and hopefully all the weight I put on this summer eating healthy whole grains will disappear. My sex drive has also started to come back, too.

  14. I started my period at a young age, 11. I always had terrible cramping and nausea due to my cycle every month. After 2 years of having to miss school because the pain was so bad my mother tried talking to my pediatrician. The doctor would always dismiss my symptoms and tell me to take midol (for anyone who has dealt with pain from PCOS, you are laughing). Fast forward a few years, I had just graduated high school and still have problems. Finally went to a Gyno, who performed vaginal ultrasounds and low and behold I had two cysts on my left ovary and one 3cm cyst on my right. Tried birth control and was miserable bc I bled 3 weeks out of the month instead of one. I decided to just deal with the pain like I had been. It took me 4 years to get pregnant with my son and I’m now having a lot of digestive problems/ upper abdominal pain. Maybe going gluten-free would help? Anyone else think so???

  15. I am 38 years old and was diagnosed with PCOS at 26. At 27 years old, I had a hysterectomy for severe endometriosis. However, I thought after having my hysterectomy my PCOS symptoms would go away but they never did. Any thoughts?

  16. I didn’t get periods until I was almost 15. Learned last year that I’m celiac. Think they tend to be later for people born with it. Have polycystic ovaries. Not sure if they are better after six months of being totally gluten free. Still get a little moustache! Read in a book on vit d that there r 2 studies show ing a link between pros and vit d deficiency.

  17. I got my first period at 12 and every 28 days I would get my period for 6 days. Until I was 18 and decided that it was my best interest to seek some kind of contraception. Being young and naive I went to the doctor to discuss this he suggested I get a Depo Provera injection’s and if I went to the chemist next door he could give me the shot straight away. I unknowingly agreed. I was not warned about any possible side effect’s. For the 3 month’s the Depo Provera shot was active I spotted continuously
    and then about 2 days after the shot expired the spotting stopped I was over joyed at the time. 3 months after the shot expired I went to the doctor to discuss why I had not yet got a period. He looked it up and informed me it could take up to 9 months to get a period back regularly. That was 7 years ago. 12 months after first getting the shot I went to a different doctor she ran some blood’s and I found out I had PCOS. I lived in denial for quite some time but a year ago I decided to give Metformin another go. It hasn’t changed anything unfortunately.
    So 2 weeks ago I started getting hive’s all over my arm’s and I was clueless as to why. This went on for 5 days and on the 5th day I noticed I was getting them straight after eating wheat. So I Googled Gluten Intolerance. As I was reading the symtom’s I realised that I have so many of the. I get tired after eating thing with gluten, I suffer from memory loss / Brain fog, PCOS / Infertility, Digestive Issue, Migraine headaches and Inflammation. So I took my self to an after hour’s doctor and he told me my rash had nothing to do with what I was eating it was a contact rash I tried to explain I had’nt come in contact with anything different and the rash only flared up after eating he did listen. I ended up convincing him to test me for Celiac Disease I haven’t got the result’s yet But I’m on day 7 of a gluten free diet and so far I’m feeling the best I have felt in alot of year’s so regardless gluten is out for me. I’m hoping that by trying this my PCOS and Infertility issue’s will change. As my husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for 6 year’s so far with no success.

  18. I am not sure if there is a misconception regarding PCOS and celiac’s disease. I know there is a link between PCOS and Diabetes (which if you think about it, if you got rid of the stuff that is bad for diabetics you are also getting rid of the stuff that contains gluten) I was diagnosed with PCOS early in life. My doctor told me that years ago there was a phenomenon that women who couldn’t get pregnant due to diabetes would suddenly get pregnant after taking glucophage, as it would affect the blood sugar, Later another doctor told me that there is a correlation between PCOS and Diabetes.

  19. I had pcos until I went gluten free. For 8 yrs I was not able to concieve. I had irregular periods, although I did not have weight issues I have excessive hair growth and oily acne prone skin. I went gluten free and after 6 months I was pregnant. That baby was born and 19 months later I was pregnant again with no trouble at all. Also the excess hair growth and oily skin had stopped. I know for a fact it was all gluten. I was gluten free For about 4 years and in the last 6 months I started cheating. At first I had terrible headaches, but I continued eating it anyway until I now have facial hair coming back. Along with fast excess hair growth on my legs and so on. My skin is oily and I am hungry all the time! I need to get my act together and go gluten free again! I can honestly say I know better.

  20. My daughter has PCOS. She is 33 years old; had some massive GI tract problems this last autumn though she had already lost a lot of weight (diet and exercise), then stopped gluten and lost 14 lbs in 2 weeks which then stabilized. Her blood test for celiac was negative, but with a colonoscopy doctors have just spotted formations that look like celiac. Point here: celiac needs to reach a certain level of severity before it is picked up on a blood test. However, damage from gluten can be progressive. Catch early; ask for colonoscopy if your blood test is negative.

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