Does going dairy-free have a positive impact on PCOS symptoms?

Does going dairy-free have a positive impact on PCOS symptoms?

Life begins with dairy. Mother’s milk is the first food a baby is fed at birth, but then as we grow older, do we need dairy anymore? In conversations revolving around PCOS nutrition, dairy has gained a certain bad reputation. You might have been told to stay clear of dairy completely or reduce your intake. But is that case for everyone? Let’s clear it once and for all.

Wholesome Dairy

No matter the quandary around it, we cannot ignore the fact that dairy is wholesome food. It is economical, gives us good quality, easily absorbable proteins, and is an excellent source of calcium. They are the only natural source of galactose, a simple sugar, which plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of the nervous system. So, to eliminate something this important the reasoning behind it should be equally strong. We will discuss why there is a negative aura around dairy and why you shouldn't be following that influence mindlessly and talk about when you should second-guess dairy.

When should you give up on dairy?

There are three major triggers of PCOS which include androgen (male hormone) excess, insulin resistance, and chronic inflammation. Dairy might play a role in aggravating these factors. Of all the studies conducted to establish the relationship between dairy and PCOS, one of the major findings was that dairy could be a causative factor in the worsening or development of acne.

It is also established that the risk seems to be higher when there is the intake of two or more servings of dairy in a day. In addition to acne, studies show that dairy could potentially increase the production of insulin in the body and hence a threat to worsen insulin resistance.  So, putting together these two harmful effects, dairy may seem like an unwise addition to the diet.

Two main indicators on when you might need to bid farewell to dairy.


Removing or reducing dairy intake in case of chronic skin conditions like adult acne has shown to have positive improvement on the symptom. You may wonder why this might be the case. It is because of an insulin-like growth factor secreted more because of milk which causes an excess in the androgens leading to more acne. Again, this does not mean complete elimination of dairy, even a reduction can go a long way, but do check with your nutritionist who will help you make the most suitable choice for you.


Where there is even a mild insensitivity towards digesting dairy then it might be advisable to ward off dairy for a few months and then slowly introduce it back if deemed necessary. Depending on your degree of sensitivity, your level of intake of dairy will be decided. Said that, in case of insensitivity, dairy can be included in its fermented forms like curd, buttermilk, etc, they are a good addition for gut health and might be tolerated better as well.

In conclusion, answering the simple question of is dairy bad for PCOS? Not necessarily. When you eliminate dairy completely without a specific indicator, your body's general ability to digest dairy is also compromised. A few months down the lane your body may refuse to digest the said food group altogether. So, please be informed before making a decision. Not every woman with PCOS should give up on dairy unless it is completely indicated, so it would be best to get a professional opinion before eliminating a major food group from the diet. In most cases, just limiting the intake of dairy has alleviated the symptoms. When used wisely, dairy or a few forms of dairy could be an asset in managing the condition as well.


  1. Juhl CR, Bergholdt HKM, Miller IM, Jemec GBE, Kanters JK, Ellervik C. Dairy Intake and Acne Vulgaris: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 78,529 Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Nutrients. 2018 Aug 9;10(8):1049. doi: 10.3390/nu10081049. PMID: 30096883; PMCID: PMC6115795.
  2. Tucker, L. A., Erickson, A., LeCheminant, J. D., & Bailey, B. W. (2015). Dairy consumption and insulin resistance: the role of body fat, physical activity, and energy intake. Journal of diabetes research, 2015, 206959.
  3. Ulvestad M, Bjertness E, Dalgard F, Halvorsen JA. Acne and dairy products in adolescence: results from a Norwegian longitudinal study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2017 Mar;31(3):530-535. doi: 10.1111/jdv.13835. Epub 2016 Jul 16. PMID: 27422392.
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