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

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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.

152 Responses

152 Responses

  1. Hi Tarryn,
    Today I diagnosed PCOS, My Gyn refer me for (IRT)Insulin Resistance Test to confirm it. I have been diagnosed Thyroid from past 1 1/2 year. I m desperately hoping to have baby from last 2 year. Today I am feeling so much low to know this I have PCOS. I came to home and started searching to know what is exactly I should do to cure fast. I love to eat and drink dairy like yogurt and milk, which I found is risky to have. I want to know how can I control it with natural diet and have baby pram at home.

    Thanks & luvs

  2. Hi Tarryn,
    I have pcos and my problem is abdomen fat.which diet i should follow to loose my weight?can u plz help me?Thank you.


    1. Hi Hannah,

      Why not register for a free account and you can get access to a free meal plan and shopping list that will give you a lot more info on PCOS and Diet?


  3. I drank a large amount of milk and I have PCOS. I would drink at least 3 16oz glasses a day. I cut out all dairy 4 weeks ago and have not lost a pound. I now drink only water, but it does not seem to matter.

    1. Hi Mary,

      It must be so frustrating for you. I really believe that it’s important to keep going dairy free for your PCOS. What does your diet look like? You need to make sure that you are following a good PCOS diet and exercising regularly.

      Hang in there! It is possible!


  4. I drink lots of milk, soy milk, almond milk, fat free half and half. I used to go dairy free. Now I have hypoparathyroidism. I take 50,000 units of vitamin D every 14 days. I have Pcos. I was born with it. I take 2550mg of Metformin every day. Thyroid disease is another facet of pcos.

    1. Thanks for sharing Laurie. Thyroid issues are definitely closely linked with PCOS!

    2. I also take large doses of vitamin D. I did it on my own to combat depression, and going just by how I feel, I am now taking 14,000 iu/day. After having been tested, my doctor was shocked to find that my lab level of vitamin d was still below mid-range.

      I also wanted to say that I have had PCOS for about 30 years and I have never had a thyroid problem, although my doctors through the years have thought I did, but testing every couple years confirms that for me, it is functioning as it should.

  5. I was wondering about hormone free milk. When I switched my family to it, I noticed that my SD quit developing like with regular milk. So is hormone-free organic milk okay to drink or should I stop drinking it? I used to be lactose intolerant so I could never have dairy and now that I can have it, I can’t go a day without it…that’s why I ask. I was recently diagnosed with PCOS (no cysts) with a prolactin and growth hormone secreting tumor on my pituitary gland. We have be TTC for about a year before we found out about my newly discovered condition.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Hormone free milk is better than regular milk but it still contains IGF-1 which will impact on your insulin and testosterone levels, making your symptoms worse. So, I would still recommend cutting out all forms of dairy from your diet.

      Good luck!


      1. Since I posted I have gone dairy-free and starchy foods free( white bread, white rice, potatoes and highly processed foods). The dark hairs on my face and belly have almost comeplete disappeared I have lost some weight and my energy levels have gone up tremendously. The putitary nuerologist took me off of my prenatals and prozac at the start of July. He upped my Vitex (chaste berry) from 1800 mg/day to 3600mg/day until I could get FertilAid and FertilCM. I start herbalife (allergen free shakes of course) with the total control and multivitamin as well. My hair has slowly stopped falling out in clumps, my cycles are more regular too. Oh for my midnight ice cream cravings I eat SoDelicious chocolate chip cookie dough… They have a nice line of dairy free ptoducts.

  6. Thanks for your blog Tarryn! I was diagnosed with PCOS last year (finally!) based on blood labs, hirsutism and family history of ovarian cysts, despite a negative pelvic ultrasound. My old primary physician wouldn’t pursue the diagnosis because I wasn’t “obese enough” and my old Ob/Gyn said I probably had PCOS but couldn’t treat with hormones due to a genetic predisposition to clots, so “why bother with testing?” Found the right Docs and now we’re making progress.

    I have cut out most dairy to curb cholesterol except homemade yogurt and the occasional cheese plate or summer visit to the ice cream parlor. I have noticed an immediate difference in acne but no weight loss, or reduction in hirsutism or oily skin. I’ve been making my yogurt with organic antibiotic and rSBT free milk, and culturing it longer which eats up all the lactose and creates a tangier taste. Is this a safe way to incorporate minimal dairy for a PCOS sufferer?

    1. Hi Erin,

      I’m sorry that you’ve had such a hard time getting diagnosed but I’m glad that you’ve finally found a good doctor!

      The milk that you use still contains IGF-1 which will still impact on your insulin and testosterone levels. So, why not try cutting it out for a month and then reintroduce it slowly to see how you feel?


  7. heya.. very informative article… can we have powdered milk as a daily calcium source supply?

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Here is an article that might help: Basically, IGF-1 levels are unchanged in powdered milk so I would till avoid it. There are other sources of calcium, such as beans, collard greens, sardines, kale, canned salmon, sesame seeds, almonds and oranges.


  8. Tarryn,

    I soooo want to thank you for this article!! It has literally changed my life. I have been fighting severe acne for years and have tried every known product for my face in that time frame. I have even been on Doxocyclene for two years and still my face was just getting worse and worse. I decided to try the no dairy approach two months ago and just WOW!!!! It wasn’t easy for me, but as of today I could actually leave my house without makeup for the first time in many years. I still have some redness but otherwise, my skin has COMPLETELY cleared up. In addition to giving up dairy, I have added two things I wanted to share. I take Evening Primrose Oil supplements twice a day and I use a pure, alcohol free Witch Hazel toner a few time a day on my face. No special creams,, nothing else. I still occasionally use a little butter and sometimes a little hard cheese, like on Pizza night (Friday night at our house). But no milks, cream, yogurts, soft cheeses, etc… I also stopped taking Doxocyclene completely right from the start!! I hope this information might also help someone else.

    Thank you again,
    Cathy 🙂

    1. That’s AMAZING, Cathy! Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad you’ve seen such a dramatic improvement!

  9. I’ve recently begun to fear I have PCOS (I don’t have insurance and can’t have the tests run or get in touch with a doctor, so I’m trying to be pro-active.) Is it possible to substitute goat milk/products for cow? I notice that goat products tend to be lower on the hormone scale and (I think) less processed. I’m so glad you have this site!!

    1. HI Izzy,

      Any milk will have IGF-1 which will impact on your insulin and testosterone. So, I would still avoid it…


  10. Hello, I have recently been diagnosed with pcos and I’m having a tough time with it. Last week my doctor gave with the pill (cilest) to try, I have had to stop taking it as its been making me physically sick! Went back to the doc yesterday but I had to see a different doc as my usual one is away all week and this other doctor was not very helpful at all, he just told me to wait until my usual doctor is back!

    I am interested in trying to manage my pcos myself with diet but I have no idea where to start. I have no idea what is good for pcos and bad!

    I’m lucky as I’ve got two beautiful children and we don’t want anymore so I’m not doing it for pregnancy.

    I need to manage it as soon as possible though as I get the shakes and get very weak a few hours after a meal and I’m wandering if this is to do with insulin? I also get very hot sometimes.

    My skin is awful and makes me feel like a spotty teenager even though I’m 26 🙁

    I would really appreciate some advise on a diet plan or any good tips as I have no idea what to do.

    Thank you in advance


    1. Hi Kimberley,

      I’m sorry that you’re having such a hard time with your PCOS!

      It sounds like your insulin levels are rising and then crashing, giving you the shakes. Also, your skin issues could be caused by high testosterone.

      Why not register for a free account which will give you info on what foods are good and you’ll also get a free meal plan? It’s a good place to start to get to grips with a PCOS diet.

      Also, amke sure you’re taking supplements like Inositol and Folic Acid, Omega 3, Vitamin D and Magnsium. It is possible to manage PCOS naturally!

      Good luck!


    2. Definitely look into a type-2 diabetes meal plan. It will get you started, but keep in mind that recipes calling for dairy need substitutions. I have done tons of research during the 20+ years since my diagnosis. Our family is now following a paleo or primal blueprint diet, which is, by definition, free of dairy, wheat, grains, etc, and totally easy. I have found Pinterest to be THE best source of ideas, recipes, resources and meal inspiration.

      I am walking a thin line of being diabetic and exercise, although I strongly dislike the reality, is a necessary evil to managing PCOS, weight and blood sugar levels. It doesn’t take much; a 20-minute brisk walk to get the blood moving helps, and drink lots of water. This helps on many levels. Go as natural as you can with your diet (think cavemen) and you can’t go wrong. It sounds rather over-the-top at first but when you start looking at the things cavemen ate, they are exactly what we should be (or not) eating to control our PCOS. Meats, veggies in plenty, nuts and no grains, legumes, dairy….. Just makes sense to me after struggling all these years to figure out how to manage PCOS. Call me weird but it’s very simple, makes sense and works! Since adopting this way of life I have lost over 50 pounds, as long as I don’t stray from the healthy foods and move a little bit every day.

  11. “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.”

    Umm…. correction. They are WAY BETTER in a latte than milk. 😉

    Blue Diamond makes Almond/Coconut milk that’s pretty delicious. I highly recommend it in black tea with a bit of honey.

  12. Hello Tarryn,
    Can you please share your thoughts on Greek yogurt (example Chobani flavored non-fat yogurt)? Also for almond milk do you recommend only using original/unsweetened or is vanilla flavored almond milk OK?

    Thank you!

  13. Hi Tarryn,

    I recently came across your website and I have found it very helpful, thanks! I am trying to eliminate or at least cut back on dairy in my diet and I was wondering is oat milk ok? I have tried almond and hazelnut milk, but like the oat milk much better. Or should I try a rice milk? The oat milk also has calcium and vitamin D which I also saw as a plus.


    1. Hi again,

      I have one more quick question, is caffeine ok? Is one cup of regular coffee ok or should I switch to decaf if we are trying to conceive?


  14. Hi,

    I recently got diagnosed with PCOS and I’m only 19, so I’m having a hard time dealing with the fact that losing weight won’t be easy. I’m not over weight, but I have put on weight in the past year or so. I wanted to know if dairy products like cheese and yogurt should be given up as well.

    Thank you! 🙂

  15. Hey tarryn,

    I have a PCOS since last year but I have worried about myself and trying to lose weight loss. How I have find a PCOS diet lists to eat right?

  16. Hi Tarryn

    I have had PCOS for over 19 years now and have found your website very interesting. I had no idea about dairy products and have recently cut out all dairy products and tried the alternatives that are available on the market. There is a vast selection but I am not keen on any of them. Another alternative I have tried is Goats Milk is this OK?

  17. Hi Tarryn,
    I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2002 and didnot care much about the diet then and till recently when I found all symptomns attacking me from all sides and to add on i have also hypothyroidism. I concieved once after inducing ovulation and had a miscarriage in my 5th month.After that my diet was totally out of control and I was careless about everything, until recently i discovered that my situation is worse! I need your help for a diet for PCOSand hypothyroidism.I cant take cabbage , broccoli etc due to thyroid disorder…! I badly need help!

  18. Hi Tarryn

    How about Oat or Rice milk? I hate almond or coconut flavours :)!


  19. Just a little to add: rice milk is a huge NO,NO, as it’s made from white rice which is a fast absorbing carb and is banned from pcos/IR diet.

  20. Hi, I have recently been diagnosed with PCOS and I am also lactose intolerant. I drink lactose free cows milk such as Zymil. I usually have it in my coffee and not much else. Is this ok? Or can you recommend an alternative that goes well with coffee?

    Cheers 🙂

    1. Hi Elle,

      Some small amounts in coffee should be okay. Having looked at Zymil, I’d say it’s not ideal as it is still basically cow’s milk. However, I still have a small amount of milk in my tea and I find that I am still able to manage my symptoms with this small amount. It really depends on how well controlled your PCOS symptoms are. You could always try almond milk and see how you go?


      1. Or coconut milk, which has even more health benefits than almond milk, especially if your almond milk is not organic. Who knows what pesticides and chemicals have been sprayed on the almonds during the growing process. So Delicious coconut milk (found in stores in cold section by regular milk and almond/soy milks) is both organic and extremely healthy. No, I’m not getting kickbacks from the company :). I just like it and believe it to be a better alternative to non-organic options. It is my belief that pesticides and chemicals add to our issues, which few mention.

  21. Hi Tarryn,

    I’m trying the dairy free but with a very busy day I find I’m mostly eating oatcakes! I start with a breakfast of porridge and almond milk.

    Nibble on cheese flavoured oatcakes (not sure if these are ok dairy wise)

    Salad for lunch and a couple more oatcakes

    Fish or chicken and veg for supper.

    I am constantly having headaches which feel hormonal do you think this could be the diet?

    1. Hi Karen,

      How long have you been on this diet? It could be your body “detoxing” and adjusting to your new way of eating. Also, you could try things like nuts, hummous and veggies, hard boiled eggs, deli meats, fruit with almond butter as an alternative to your oatcakes.

      Hope that helps!


  22. Hi I would like some help here I have pcos new which means that I have to change my diet I leave in Africa and some of the foods u have there we don’t so it’s very difficult or expensive to buy. What I try to eat for bfast I have have maize prorage, fruit & Fibre flask or brown bread if I don’t have money I eat white bread which is so cheap lunch I have brown rice with our local dish with is always fish with onines with orange or apple dinner I have fish or chicken with coscos with salad . We don’t have like coconut milk here or almond milk here the only thing we have here is soy milk, full fat milk, low fat milk and skim milk which I use and they are all long life butter we have but they are imported so what should I do help thanks

  23. HI Tarryn,

    Thanks for your answer. But what I don’t understand is to mix carbs en protein. Ik always learned proteine or carbs. Rather not together, because the insuline wil transport the fat from the proteine directly to your cels. I hope you understand what I’m saying. Somteimes it is hard to translate. Can you explain why you should put them together?


    1. Carbs alone are burned quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike (rise rapidly), which is not good if you’re insulin resistant or pre-diabetic. Protein is burned/used much more slowly, so when you eat both during a meal or snack, the slow-burning protein mixes with the fast-burning carbs, which all effectively keeps your blood sugar (or glucose) from going nearly as high as it would had you not eaten any protein. It doesn’t take very much protein to do this; a spoonful of peanut or other nut butter, 1/4 cup raw almonds, half a hamburger patty… You should never eat a carb without also eating a protein. Hope this helps!

  24. Hi Tarryn,

    This is an very good website. I am Dutch and in the Netherlands there is very little to find about this. Here the doctors just give you clomid and wish you good luck. (not really, but you understand what I mean to say)

    I am wondering. I was told I should cut down on carbs. I tried it for a while and it was hard. I don’t do that anymore. I take an D-Chiro Inositol and I feel great. But what do you eat on an regular day?

    This is my dayplan during my workweek. (weekend are usually not like this)

    I eat buckwheat pancakes for breakfast (made with milk)and red fruits
    In de morning I eat Low fat greek yoghurt with walnuts
    At noon I eat bread of spelt. (I don’t know if the english word is spelt) On my bread I put some meat, hummus or Salmon.
    In the afternoon I take soms buckwheat crackers or rye Bread with goats cheesspread.
    For dinner al kinds of foods, it depends. Meat or fish with a lot of vegetables, not a lot of no potatoes. En if I make a sauce, Rice or Pasta.
    In the evening I take some coffee or tea with a piece of dark chocolate (sometimes the one without soy, sugar and milk, it’s raw and contains goji en orange and is 3-dubble the price of a normal bar)

    Is this so bad? I thought it was okay, but reading this article made me wonder. I think it contains a lot of dairy. But I don’t know what to substitute. I don’t want to take to much carbs and fruit is not my thing. Smoothies maybe.
    Yoghurt, goatscheese, milk in the pancakes and somytime cream for a pastasauce. I don’t want coconot with every meal, just the asian ones.

    I hope you can help me a little bit.


    1. Hi Stefanie,

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      I think you’re generally on the right track in terms of diet, except for the dairy, as you said. Dairy does tend to raise insulin and testosterone levels. The only other thing is that I would make sure that you include some protein with your buckwheat pancakes as you run the risk of having too much carbs with little protein to balance it.

      I hope that helps!


    2. Stefanie, I also love buckwheat pancakes and I spread almond butter on them. Ever since I tried them with almond butter that’s the only way I will have them.

  25. I’ve started today on going Dairy Free! Tried almond milk, didn’t like that as I found it too sweet. Tried coconut milk which is better but didn’t like it in tea! So for my next challenge, to try and find a nice milk for tea and coffee as I will struggle otherwise!

    1. Well done, Christina! Don’t let milk in your tea be a deal breaker. I have ruled milk and dairy out completely, except for in 2 cups of tea a day. So, if tea is your comfort and something you really enjoy, keep the milk for tea and cut it out for the rest of your diet.


      1. Well my first week done! It was a lot easier being aloud 2 cups of tea with a little milk – organic though!
        I quite liked the coconut milk in other things.
        How does sheeps yogurt compare to normal yogurt and also is goats butter better than cows?!
        In replace of the calcium, ive brought some cod liver oil and calcium tablets as well as the multivitamins and mineral tablets that I take – I didnt want to overdose on a particular vitamin but the pharmacist said it would be ok. Have a good week, Christina

    2. I had given up milk because i felt so bloated and got headaches after consuming and thought i was just lactose intolerant but now it all make sense. I have try them all and i found that the coconut milk is the best close in taste but of course none replace the taste in tea or cafe which is just fine, any ways caffeine should be cut down anyway since for us caffeine makes us crave sweets and carbs which we should stay away from anyway. but yes i give a thumbs up to coconut milk i found mines at a organic store in the refrigerator section is amazing. the brand is call (So delicious)dairy free and i buy the original flavor.

    3. Have you tried “So Delicious” brand coconut milk? It comes in a variety of fat/sugar percentages. I have found one that has only 4 grams of sugar per serving/70 calories. I use it exclusively (as do my hubby and kids) and I make smoothies, ice milk, and use it in everything including gravy and sauces.

    1. Hi Sushmita,

      I don’t recommend milk as it can cause increase in testosterone levels.


  26. Hey Tarryn,

    I have been taking herbal life shake from past 1 year. I use half a glass of cow milk and add herbal life protein and herbal life chocolate powder in it. Is it something right i am doing

    1. Hi Sushmita,

      I would have your shake with a milk substitute or water. The milk will cause your insulin and testosterone levels to rise too much.

      Hope that helps!


    1. Hi Angie,

      Thanks for your question. Whey protein seems to be a little controversial. I have found one article that says that it increases IGF-1 levels which is something we want to avoid with PCOS. However, another study used whey protein in combination with a calorie restricted diet with women with PCOS and they had positive results. I think the protein component is important so I tend to use a plant-based protein like hemp or pea protein.

      Hope that helps.


  27. Hi Tarryn

    I was mainly wondering whether there were any good substitutes to cheese, yogurt and butter?

    Happy Easter! Enjoy your dairy free eggs!


    1. Hi Christina,

      Sorry! I obviously misunderstood 🙂 To be honest, I just avoid them really. I use coconut oil when cooking but I don’t use butter really.

      Hope you also have a lovely Easter! I think I may have a sneaky Easter egg treat!


  28. Some interesting advice on cutting out dairy. There seems as though there are some great milk alternatives but what about cheese, yogurts, butter/spread? Or is it best to illiminate those completely. If I can get my head around alternatives then I think I will be ok. This Easter weekend I am paying a large Tesco a visit to get my stocks in! The moo free chocolate sounds good too!
    Thanks everyone :o)

    1. Hi Christina,

      Cheese in particular is a no-go. It causes a huge insulin response in spite of being quite low carb and will not help your testosterone levels. Butter seems to be okay as there is a fairly low dairy content in butter. Yoghurt has little IGF-1 and should be okay.

      Hope that helps when you’re at Tesco!


      1. What about vegan cheeses. Made out if almonds, and such stuff? Do you know anything about that?

    2. You can always make your own yogurt so you can make sure it is free of anything and you can use organic milk. Amazon and Ebay have a lot of yogurt kits to help you make it.

  29. I’ve dairy (almost) out of my diet. I love chocolate so I eat dairy & gluten free chocolate by Moo free. There is actually a good selection of dairy free products if you know where to find them.

  30. Cutting dairy out of your diet works! Not only will you see your waist line shrink, you will feel better and happier! You will have less break outs, less mood swings, and lower levels on your next blood panel. Dairy has sugar, hormones, and antibiotics which are basically the worst things for us girls with PCOS, especially those of you with Insulin Resistance like me. I felt 100% better when I cut out dairy. I also started to notice I would get moddy or feel sick about 40 or so mins after a yougurt, or a glass of milk, so I quit doing that to myself! Alternitives are almond milk (that I love) coconut milk, and hemp milk. Soy still has too many hormones that can hurt you.. And sugar free chocolate almond milk makes a great latte!

  31. Sadly I suffer from hertism which has always been a problem and at the moment I still have dairy in my diet! I am thinking that as milk has testosterone in it, this could possibly be linked to it?!

    1. Hi Christina,

      Dairy definitely makes acne and hirsutism worse! I’d recommend eliminating dairy and I’m sure you’ll start to see improvements. Remember that hirsutism normally takes about 6 months before you start to see improvements…


      1. I have had PCOS for a very long time and been able to control it successfully by excluding all gluten products, caffeine, sugar only on my Birthday, and eliminating milk. I eat cheese and yogurt as they don’t effect me much. I think the balance differs from person to person as my Mother cannot tolerate any caffeine or simple carb of any kind. A problem I do have is we are also not supposed to eat spices with meat as it causes insulin to rise.

  32. I’ve heard this about dairy products before, but I’m kind of concerned with the rice milk. Rice has a relatively high GI, wouldn’t the milk also? And speaking of rice (but slightly off topic)what do you think of a gluten-free diet (simply because they tend to use rice to substitute wheat.)

    1. Hi Susan,

      Thanks for your comments and questions. Although rice milk and about 25g of carb per glass, it also has a fairly high fat content (good fats) so that helps to balance the carbs, giving it a low GI value. You can see more about that here.

      I think a gluten free diet is a good idea as gluten has been shown to impact on hormonal balance in women (See this article for more info) My only concern with replacing gluten with rice is that rice still has a fairly high GI and contains a lot of carbs, which may make your insulin levels spike after meals. Make sure you’re having good fats and protein with rice to balance the carbs.


  33. I used to use protein powder but am leery of anything processed. It’s good to balance the carbs with whatever is your own choice of protein.

    1. Thanks Kirsty & Tarryn for the great suggestions.

      I’ve only ever had three smoothies in my life so I’m clueless on them. I will have to invest in a mixer!

  34. I suffer will PCOS acne for years & am taking the pill Dianette (Diane) which has greatly helped it but I will be ttc in a few months & will be coming off it so i’ve already started making changes to my diet. I’m drinking rice milk & have cut out white bread, white pasta & eating more green veg.Hopefully this time next I’ll be posting with good news!!

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thanks for sharing some of your PCOS story!

      It sounds like you’re doing all of the right things and that you’re giving your body a good shot at falling pregnant.

      I look forward to hearing your exciting news in the hopefully not too distant future!


      1. Thanks Tarryn for the quick reply.

        One meal i’m finding difficult to change is breakfast. I now eat wholegrain brown bread toasted (vegetable fat spread butter) every morning with tea & rice milk. Is there anyway I can improve this? Also is wholegrain rice a good alternative to eat for dinner most days instead of mash potatoes?

        1. Laura,

          I have switched to a Paleolithic diet to counteract my PCOS, so all the bread I make for our family uses almond flour (I make my own by finely grinding raw almonds). I also eat smoothies for breakfast, which is much better on my glucose levels than whole wheat bread. I accompany this with a hard-boiled egg to balance the meal. Smoothies are great for getting veggies and fruit without any one taste overpowering another. Throw in sone kale or spinach without knowing its there.

          1. Hi Kristy and Laura,

            Great suggestions, Kristy. My breakfast is pretty similar to yours but I often have a protein powder in my smoothies instead of an egg to balance the carbs.


        2. You can find gluten free bread by Franz now. Should really give Almond or Hemp milk a try Vrs rice which tends to have a very high glycemic index. Also Coconut oil is a natural alternative to vegetable spreads…. never go with hydrogenated oils, processed is bad!

    1. Hi Jessica,

      Soy products are controversial at the moment. Some feel that they can be helpful in balancing estrogen levels, but other research has shown that soy can delay ovulation (not what you want with PCOS!) Also, soy yoghurts tend to be quite high in sugar and artificial sweeteners.

      I personally will only drink soy milk if I’m having a latte in a coffee shop (twice a month maybe) as I think it is marginally better than milk. When I have the option, I drink almond milk and don’t eat any yoghurts. I really don’t miss it though and have seen a big improvement in my symptoms since eliminating dairy.

      Hope that helps!


  35. Hi Tarryn, I ditched dairy 8 months ago and it has meant I have been able to come off my antibiotics that I was taking for my acne, it certainly has made a huge difference and I feel better too! My acupuncturist said that in Chinese medicine they advise that if you have any skin complaints of any sort ditching dairy is the first cause of action.

    1. Hi Jane,

      That’s amazing. It’s always so good to hear when things are making a difference in people’s lives and management of their symptoms!


  36. I found this article so helpful! I have heard that going dairy free can help with PCOS but never understood why. Knowing how dairy impacts my hormones makes it easier to eliminate it from my diet.
    Since being off dairy for about 10 days I have already noticed an improvement in my acne.

    Is there IGF-1 in goat cheese?

    1. Hi Laura,

      I’m so glad that this information has made a positive difference for you. I also find that if I understand why I need to do something, I am far more likely to make the needed changes and stick to it.

      I have read some articles that say that IGF-1 is destroyed in the processing of cheese and therefore isn’t such an issue. My concern with cheese is that even though is it relatively low in carbs, it creates a huge insulin response for some reason. Here is some research that was done on the Insulin Index, if you’re interested:


      1. Wow I wouldn’t have thought that cheese causes a huge insulin response, thank you so much for sharing this valuable information!

      2. Hi Tarryn,

        As I mentioned before I was totally surprised to discover that cheese causes such a high insulin response considering it’s low in sugar and high protein. I have looked at the article that you shared but had a hard time understanding it :). Do you have any tips on reading the article or any other foods that you know of that one might not think is bad for insulin?

  37. You mention antibiotics and growth hormones, which would be in non-organic dairy. Would you still find IGF-1 in organic dairy? Just curious. I haven’t come across this information in any of my research prior to this- just that organic is better because of the estrogen from the growth hormone and antibiotics.

    1. Hi Kate,

      IFF-1 is in all milk, even in human milk. It’s important in the first two years of life to promote growth but after that, it may not be helpful and certainly not for women with PCOS!


  38. What about butter? I can see giving up milk and yogurt, cheese would be hard, but butter would be almost impossible!

    1. Hi Misty,

      Butter is still dairy and contains many of the problematic hormones and antibiotics. If you are going to keep having it, make sure you get organic butter.


  39. I may give this a try. I was diagnosed 3 years ago & have had 2 surgeries already to remove cysts. I don’t want to go through this forever! I’d also like to start a family but I’m not sure if my body will let me.

    1. I noticed a HUGE improvement in my symptoms when I went off dairy. I think it will make a big difference for you. In terms of starting a family, it can be a difficult, long road but it really is possible!

      1. Yes, it truly is! Five years ago I did Kimkins, which is evel lower carb than Atkins. I lost weight quickly and after only 4 months, I was down 37 pounds and pregnant!!! I had been infertile for 14 years prior, and had tried everything up to invasive procedures, sometimes more than once. Nothing worked, until I lost weight. I don’t think it had so much to do with losing weight, although that certainly didn’t hurt, but more to do with abandoning the dairy and gluten. My first pregnancy happened at the age of 37, and in the years since I have gotten pregnant 4 more times but have miscarried each time. I remain convinced the changes are due Primarily to dietary improvements. Best of luck to you all who are trying to conceive! You all have my heartfelt good wishes.

        1. Hi Kristy,

          Thanks so much for sharing your story! It is amazing how much impact diet has on our symptoms and I agree the eliminating dairy and gluten is essential!


    2. Sorry for sounding dull (I am very new to PCOS) but I thought that PCOS could not be treated by surgery and you could only control symptoms with diet and excersise as it can not be cured. Am I wrong?

  40. My question is; what about eggs? They’re considered dairy in many circles, and even in the paleo world, yet for paleo followers, are ok. I use eggs as my protein for most breakfasts since they’re so quick and easy.

  41. Dairy was the very first thing I ditched when I got my confirmation diagnosis. I found it really easy to do. I simply swapped our any milk for unsweetened almond milk with calcium. I don’t eat cheese so no big deal there and easy to give up anything else dairy related.

    I feel so so SO much better I can’t even tell you.

    1. That’s amazing Lia. Dropping dairy is not something that is spoken about in the medical community but I really believe it has a huge impact on our PCOS symptoms!

  42. I was curious about that too. I love yogurt and cheese but, I’d definetly co sider giving them up if this applies to all dairy.

    1. Thanks for the comments Liz and Charalene,

      I’ve done some more research and it seems that any milk produced by mammals has IGF-1 in it so that rules out goat’s milk as an alternative. When it comes to IGF-1 in cheese and yoghurt, it looks like it is destroyed or made ineffective with quick fermentation processes so technically, they should be okay.

      The only other thing to consider is that the protein in dairy causes a huge insulin response (more than you would expect considering it’s sugar content). So, your insulin levels may still react strongly to cheese and yoghurt. I have personally decided to cut out all dairy products and I feel much better for it. You could always try is for a month and slowly reintroduce it to see how it impacts your PCOS symptoms.

      Here’s some of the research I found, if you’re interested:


        1. Hi Cathy,

          I tend to use butter if I’m cooking because it has such a low dairy content. I don’t use any milk for cooking or baking though. I tend to substitute with almond or coconut milk.

          Hope that helps!


          1. Thanks Tarryn! What do you think is better in coffee? Almond or coconut milk or something else?

          2. Hi Cathy,

            It’s all down to personal preference. I personally prefer almond milk but try both and see which one is better for you.


          3. How does butter have a “low dairy content” – given that it is made from milk/cream?

          4. Is there a difference between margerine and butter in regards to this. I think it would be easy to cut out butter OR margerine, but am wondering what to do in regards to baking…I tend to have margerine in the house more often than butter

  43. Interesting stuff! Given that I have a degree of IR, this may well be worth me trying out.
    The only thing I did just want to clarify is if this just applies to milk, or is it the whole dairy range (i.e. yogurts, cheeses etc)? I know that the treatment/manufacturing processes involved in cheese & yogurt making often kill off a lot of the more active components found in milk. So would this be the case with the IGF-1 molecule and other various hormones too?
    Thank you 🙂