Should your PCOS Diet Be Dairy Free? – Everything You Need To Know

by Becky Miller on April 5, 2013

Screen shot 2013 03 26 at 4.07.55 PM1 150x150 Should your PCOS Diet Be Dairy Free?   Everything You Need To Know


Dairy is so controversial in today’s health circles. For everybody really, but especially for women who have PCOS. For the purposes of this post, I will be revealing and helping you understand the ‘hot topics’ that surround dairy in a PCOS diet to make a more informed decision on whether or not to ditch the dairy in YOUR PCOS diet.

Can’t We All Agree?

There are many different types of PCOS professionals out there and the verdict doesn’t seem to be completely clear among the PCOS professionals. Maybe you’ve noticed this lack of continuity and are now completely confused as to what to believe is best for your PCOS diet so let’s get informed on all of the controversial ‘hot topics’ that need to be considered in making an informed decision as to whether or not to ditch the dairy in your PCOS diet. 

Read and consider the topics that are of interest to your particular curiosities. Considering the length of this informative article post, each of the following topics to consider is a highlighted ‘point’ in this article for your convenience. 

‘Hot Topics’ To Considering Dairy In A PCOS Diet

  • Will sugars in dairy products wreck my PCOS diet?
  • Can consuming dairy give me cancer?
  • Does dairy contain hormones and antibiotics that can aggravate PCOS?
  • I won’t get enough calcium if I go dairy-free.
  • Will eliminating dairy improve my PCOS skin concerns?
  • Does dairy contribute to infertility?
  • Are all PCOS women lactose intolerant?
  • What Are PCOS Dairy Alternatives?

If any of these questions or topics have crossed your mind, let’s get informed!

Will Sugars In Dairy Products Wreck My PCOS Diet?

Your body recognizes the sugars in milk as sugar. We will consider insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) a bit later, but it is an element in dairy that is necessary to consider for all PCOS women.

The word insulin refers to the sugars found in milk, or lactose sugars. Many women with PCOS deal with insulin resistance or similar symptoms to insulin resistance.

BOTTOM LINE: Consuming dairy causes the same physical reaction and insulin spike as any other insulin containing food or products, which should be limited in any PCOS diet.

Can Consuming Dairy Give Me Ovarian Cancer?

IGF-1 found in milk increases risk for ovarian disruption and even cancer. IGF-1 is a hormone stimulant. Any time we’re messing with hormones in a woman with PCOS, it can get messy because women with PCOS have hormones that are already so sensitive. (1) Women with PCOS are already at higher risks of developing ovarian cancer  because of the increased levels of circulating androgens and an elevated LH:FSH ratio (Lutenizing Hormone, Follicle Stimulating Hormone). Consuming dairy doesn’t help knowing that (2) the galactose in milk has been studied and found to increase the risk for ovarian cancer even further.

BOTTOM LINE: The IGF-1 found in dairy increases the already high risk (due to PCOS) of developing ovarian cancers. 

Does Dairy Contain Hormones & Antibiotics That Can Aggravate PCOS?

Yes. If you are blissfully unaware of the path and process of milk production from the cow to your drinking glass, I urge you to get educated on what you’re consuming. Aside from the ethics of how dairy cows are treated, you need to know how the dairy products you choose to consume affect your PCOS . You might re-think your dairy decision. Here’s why.

Antibiotics: The conditions in which dairy cows are kept, processed and treated are so poor and unsafe that the cows are given antibiotics to keep from disease and illness. 


  • rBST and rBGH are hormones given to dairy cows to increase milk production at rates of up to 15% higher. rBST is a hormone that you may have seen on some milk labels, particularly ‘rBST Free.’ rBGH is recombinant bovine growth hormone and is the same thing as rBST. They are both genetically engineered and made by injecting cow genes into e-coli. Yuck! These hormones are linked to increasing levels of IGF-1, which increase risk of cancer even further. 
  • (3) Estradiol is given to cows to induce and accelerate mammary involution or milk production. Again, messing with the delicate hormonal balance with added hormones is not good for PCOS.
  • Dairy cows are milked post partum. As you can imagine, cows that have just given birth have hormones in their milk that are unnaturally elevated and especially not meant for human consumption. Consuming these hormones in dairy causes disruption in the delicate PCOS hormonal system.

I Won’t Get Enough Calcium If I Go Dairy-Free

Myth! The major source of calcium does not come from milk or dairy. It comes from dark, leafy green foods and Vitamin D. (4) Milk or dairy doesn’t reduce fractures or increase bone health and in fact, can increase your risk for fractures! If you take a broad perspective look at the World’s consumption of milk, you will see that in countries that do not consume dairy as a regular part of their diet actually have the lowest rates of osteoporosis and calcium deficiency in the world! Compare that to the United States’ high rate of fractures and calcium deficiencies and I believe you will see that something doesn’t add up!

BOTTOM LINE: Eating more dark, leafy greens and supplementing with Vitamin D3 will give you more calcium than dairy products. Try kale, Swiss Chard, spinach, cabbage, collards and broccoli and get out in the sun!

Will Eliminating Dairy Improve My PCOS Skin Concerns?

It has been proven in clinical studies that dairy contributes to PCOS acne. Put your World perspective lenses back on and look at how acne, a common PCOS symptom, affects the rest of the world. You will find that in less modern and wealthy countries with diets either low or dairy free, acne is non existent.

Dairy consumption spikes male sex hormones, androgens and testosterone, which are responsible for the hormonal production of acne. These anabolic hormones in addition to IGF-1 (remember that ugly hormone from earlier?) literally stimulate your skin to produce skin blemishes. In studies (6) it has been proven that dairy is associated with acne because of the presence of hormones.

BOTTOM LINE: Dairy is a major factor in eliminating PCOS skin issues. Ridding dairy from your diet will reduce the anabolic male sex hormones that are responsible for the hormonal production of acne. 

Does Dairy Contribute to Infertility?

It has been studied and found that (7) ‘low-fat dairy foods and lactose may impair fertility by affecting ovulatory function.’ That means that those women who consumed low-fat dairy products did not ovulate and we all know you can’t get pregnant unless that happens!

You may have keyed in on the term ‘low-fat’ and are probably wondering if you can  just drink full fat milk. In this same study it was found that  full fat dairy had opposite and positive effects on fertility. {BUT} Consider all of the other hormonal additives that are in today’s milk and I still wouldn’t drink full fat dairy to improve my fertility. Here’s why. It seems that the positive benefits from full fat dairy to fertility are more associated with women having a healthy intake of healthy fats. Women’s bodies NEED fat in order to maintain hormonal balance and cellular structure. 

BOTTOM LINE:  Dairy seems to have more risks than benefits associated with PCOS to justify consuming dairy for fertility. Get your healthy omega’3 and other essential fatty acids from other sources in your diet. Eggs, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, avocado, fish (especially wild-caught salmon) and tahini (sesame paste). 

Are All Women With PCOS Lactose Intolerant?

Did you know that (5) 75% of people are lactose intolerant? You’re probably also aware of the fact that dairy can further aggravate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a common symptom of women who have PCOS.

Dr. Mark Hyman, a functional medicine doctor, has to say this about adult dairy consumption.

“The majority of humans naturally stop producing significant amounts of lactase – the enzyme needed to properly metabolize lactose, the sugar in milk — sometime between the ages of two and five. In fact, for most mammals, the normal condition is to stop producing the enzymes needed to properly digest and metabolize milk after they have been weaned.”

BOTTOM LINE: There’s a reason why 75% of people are lactose intolerant. Our bodies weren’t designed to consume dairy beyond weaning. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with you if you are lactose intolerant, it’s very normal.

So, What Are PCOS Dairy Alternatives?

I’ve given you a simply, delicious and healthy recipe for homemade almond milk. I also recommend unsweetened coconut and almond milk that can be purchased from your local markets.

Raw dairy products are also an option. Raw dairy or milk is not been pasteurized. The process of pasteurization is the ultra heating of dairy to kill any bad bacteria in the milk. (8)The problem with pasteurization is that it actually rids the milk of essential vitamins and nutrients. Good luck finding raw milk in your markets because it is only legal in 6 states (CA, CT, ME, PA, WA, AZ). Check out The Campaign For Real Milk for help finding it near you. Do your research and make every attempt to visit the farm you will be sourcing from. Learn more about safety and benefits of raw milk and how to Identify high-Quality Sources of Raw Milk.

Final Thoughts

It is a personal decision that I have made to NOT consume any dairy products. It has benefited my PCOS and my professional experience has shown me that women with PCOS who do not consume dairy show improvements with specific PCOS symptoms, particularly ones I’ve already covered in this post.

If you have suspicions on whether or not you are lactose intolerant or just want to see if your PCOS will improve, try eliminating ALL dairy from your diet for 2 weeks and then challenge. After 2 weeks, slowly start incorporating dairy into your diet paying careful attention to your digestion, skin and menstrual cycle patterns. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at the way you feel. I know I feel better without dairy in my diet and my PCOS thanks me for it everyday!


About Me 150x150 Should your PCOS Diet Be Dairy Free?   Everything You Need To KnowBecky Miller is a health coach for women with PCOS. She loves being able to walk the PCOS path with each of you. To receive more of the latest PCOS tips, news and deals, check the box below. You’ll receive more PCOS packed information just like this, PLUS a FREE PCOS Kitchen Guide straight to your inbox. Won’t you journey with me?

Becky Miller, PCOS Health Coach



(1) Use of dairy products, lactose, and calcium and risk of ovarian cancer -Results from a Danish case-control study. Mette T. Faber, Allan Jensen, Marie Sogaard et al. Acta Oncologica, Apr 1, 2012.

(2) Schildkraut JM, Schwingl PJ, Bastos E, Evanoff A, Hughes C. Epithelial Ovarian Cancer Risk Among Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Obstet Gynecol 1996;88:130904-10.

(3) Milk Production of Dairy Cows Treated With Estrogen at the Onset of a Short Dry Period. Bachman, KC. Journal of Dairy Science. Vol. 85 Issue 4, Apr 2002

(4) Milk, Dietary Calcium and Bone Fractures In Women – A 12 Year Prospective Study. Willett, WC. Am J Public Health. 1997 Jun;87(6):992-7.

(5) National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference: Lactose Intolerance & Health. Final Statement. February 22-24, 2010.

(6) High School Dietary Dairy Intake and Teenage Acne. Adebamowo, CA. J Am Acad Dermatol 52(2):207-14 (2005 Feb).

(7) A Prospective Study of Dairy Foods Intake and Anovulatory Infertility. Chavarro, JE. Hum Reprod. 2007 May;22(5):1340-7. Epub 2007 Feb 28.

(8) The Untold Story of Milk: The History, Politics and Science of Nature’s Perfect Food: Raw Milk from Pasture-Fed Cows. Schmid, R. March 16, 2009.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle April 15, 2013 at 2:13 PM

I went diary free at one time and while I love almond milk I just can’t let go of cheese – do you have any cheese alternatives that are good?


Becky Miller April 15, 2013 at 9:34 PM

Hi Danielle, If you’re trying to live a dairy free lifestyle I would encourage you to try to eliminate cheese, too. It contains addictive properties (opiate like) that make it harder to give up, but you can do it! Also, there are vegan cheese alternatives that can be found at health markets.


asma June 28, 2013 at 10:49 PM

a very helpful read.


geri August 1, 2013 at 7:59 AM

thank you so much for this information! i have suffered w/ pcos symptoms such as acne, facial hair, getting cysts and stuff! just horrible and i never suspected milk/dairy! i look forward to this new journey of no dairy! :-)


Becky Miller August 12, 2013 at 5:38 PM

You’re welcome! Keep me posted!


Bee August 3, 2013 at 11:24 PM

Thanks for the info


Becky Miller August 12, 2013 at 5:37 PM

You’re welcome!


Tina August 4, 2013 at 5:09 PM

Thanks for sharing the valuable information!!!


Becky Miller August 12, 2013 at 5:37 PM

You’re welcome!


Teresa January 29, 2014 at 9:26 PM

I’m not sure I can give up dairy completely. Would it help at all to cut out most but still eat some?


Becky Miller February 22, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Try it for a while. I believe you will find that it is not as difficult as you think once you try it.


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