Is your PCOS Diet Dairy Free? It Should Be!

In “What is the BEST PCOS Diet?”, I mentioned that dairy should be avoided in your PCOS Diet. Since writing that article, I have had a couple of questions on why dairy should not be included in your PCOS diet. It is a bit scientific and complicated but stick with me and I’ll show you why you should ditch dairy.

IGF-1 or Insulin Growth Factor 1

Insulin growth factor-1 is a naturally occurring hormone that has a similar molecular structure to that of Insulin. It also mimics the role of insulin and has insulin-like activity. (1)

Women with PCOS have higher than normal levels of IGF-1.

IGF-1 is also found in cow’s milk and has the exact same structure as that of human IGF-1. Research has shown that IGF-1 levels increase by 10% in adolescent girls from just one pint of milk a day. Women with PCOS have higher than normal levels of IGF-1.

So, what does that have to do with PCOS? Well, women with PCOS have been shown to have higher than normal levels of IGF-1 already and our ovaries appear to be over sensitive to IGF-1. This means that they respond to small amounts of IGF-1.

Add a 10% increase in IGF-1 levels from the dairy we consume and it’s easy to see that our already responsive ovaries are going to go into overdrive.


Cows that are lactating and producing milk produce a hormone called Bovine somatotropin which is important for regulating it’s metabolic processes. It has now been synthesized to create recombinant Bovine Somatotropin or rBST. This rBST increases milk production in lactating cows by preventing mammary cell death (2).

It also produces an increase in IGF-1, something we already know to be harmful in women with PCOS.
It is currently legal to treat cows with rBST in many western countries but it has been banned in the European union.

Here are some of the hormones commonly found in milk (3):

  • Estradiol
  • Estriol
  • Testosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Corticosterone
  • Oxytocin
  • Prolactin


Many cows that produce milk are treated with a range of antibiotics to combat illnesses such as mastitis. Although these chemicals are said to be at such a low rate as to have no effect on the human body, the fact remains that milk and milk products have chemicals and antibiotics that we ingest. Women with PCOS have such a fragile balance, adding anything, even at small quantities may just upset the balance.

Calcium and Dairy

So, what now? What about all of the Calcium we will be losing out on if we give up dairy products?
Well, a number of studies have shown that increased consumption of milk does not lead to a decrease in fractures in women and does not improve bone integrity in children. If fact, exercise plays a more important role in improving bone density. So, we don’t need milk or dairy products for our bones (4).

So, what about the calcium?

Calcium IS important for a number of reasons (5):

  • Nerve impulse transmission
  • Muscles contraction
  • Secretion of hormones like INSULIN
  • Stabilisation proteins and enzymes.

Sources of Calcium

If you’re not getting your calcium from dairy, where should you get it from?
There are many other sources of calcium, both in plant and animal products. Here are a few (6): curly kale, okra, horseradish, watercress, red kidney beans, petit pois, broccoli, cabbage, celery and parsnips.

Since cutting out dairy myself, I have lost 8.5 lbs and have seen some improvement in my PCOS symptoms. You will also probably see a big improvement in your PCOS acne if you ditch the dairy from your PCOS diet.

Dairy alternatives

There are some alternatives to milk such as coconut, almond, hazelnut or rice milk. They aren’t great in a latte but are perfect in smoothies or cereal.

What do you think about ditching dairy? Have you seen any improvements in your PCOS symptoms since cutting out dairy? I’d love to hear from you! Just leave me a comme

The PCOS Weight Loss Program Inclues:


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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

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