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PCOS and Dairy, Dairy Challenges

Dairy & the challenges it can cause

Dairy in the past has been touted for its amazing benefits for bone-building calcium and vitamin D3 and being a good source or protein, however, research has been surfacing that dairy can cause many issues, especially for women with PCOS. When it comes to the balance of PCOS, there are some very important things to know about dairy such as IGF-1, rGBH and estrogen.

The basics of dairy

Dairy is derived from female cows’ milk, the milk that is normally used to nurse her calves. Dairy farmers continually breed female cows as soon as they are in heat leading to most of her life being spent pregnant or nursing. When a female cow is pregnant, she naturally produces estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin as well as a hormone called IGF-1 (AKA Insulin-like Growth Factor 1), not to mention artificial hormones that may be injected into her such as zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate. Now, IGF-1 is crucial for calf development, however, it can cause a lot of issues for women with PCOS.

IGF-1 in dairy & PCOS

PCOS & Dairy

As you’ve learned in the Carbohydrate Education section, many women struggle with insulin resistance which

leaves an excess amount of glucose (hyperglycemia) and an excess amount of insulin (hyperinsulinaemia) in our blood stream leading to excess ovarian androgen production and future diabetes development. In a study that was conducted in 1992 that was analyzing the relationship of IGF-1 and IGFBP-1 (AKA Insulin-like Growth Factor Binding Protein) and PCOS, concluded that women with PCOS do not necessarily have an excess amount of IGF-1, as suspected, but instead, have low levels of IGFBP-1. What this suggests is that there isn’t enough IGFBP-1 to bind excess IGF-1 in women’s blood streams, so when we expose our bodies to IGF-1 through the intake of dairy, we don’t have enough IGFBP-1 “collecting” IGF-1 in our blood streams. When this happens, we can have a build-up of IGF-1, which has the same structural and functional role as insulin, triggering ovarian androgen production.


Right before birth and during nursing, mother cows naturally produce a hormone called bovine somatotropin (bST) also known as bovine growth hormone (bGH). This hormone is secreted by the cow’s pituitary gland and is provided to her baby. Our greedy farmers wanted to extend the time period that the mother cows would produce milk so they genetically engineered artificial growth hormones rbGH (AKA recombinant bovine Growth Hormone) or rbST (AKA recombinant bovine Somatotropin) to increase their milk production. These artificial hormones are a very large concern. According to The Center of Food Safety, cows being treated with rbGH/rbST have had significant health defects. These defects include utter (such as mastitis) and hoof problems and serious reproductive problems such as infertility, polycystic ovaries, fetal loss and birth defects. They also note that cows treated with rbGH/rbST have high levels of IGF-1 and as you’ve learned above, intaking more IGF-1 would be detrimental to our hormonal balance. If all of these things are developing in these sweet mother cows, can you imagine what they are doing to us? There is no way that ingesting this would be of any benefit for our own health. Many companies are now labeling their products as rbGH/rbST-free to ensure safety from this artificial hormone.

Excess estrogen is a challenge, too!

 Due to our excess amount of estrogen (as well as testosterone) as talked about in the Carbohydrates Education section due to low serum levels of SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin), we place ourselves at risk for developing particular cancers that have estrogen-receptors such as colon, pancreatic, breast and liver. Now, a mother cow produces milk to feed her calves, so she also has high levels of estrogen circulating her body, particularly closest to her delivery, and of course circulating in her milk (Ireland, 2006) . We then drink that milk leading to a large intake of estrogen on top of our already excess amount of estrogen in our own blood streams. This leads to way too much estrogen circulating throughout our bodies which creates difficulty with mood stabilization and of course, increased risk of estrogen-fueled cancers.

Take home message-Knowledge IS Power

PCOS Balance, PCOS and Caffeine

After all is said, dairy is obvious to cause many issues with balancing our PCOS symptoms. There are many reasons to follow a dairy-free diet, however, if you choose to consume dairy, ensure that it is organic and 100% grass-feed (when appropriate) reducing your exposure to rbGH/rbST. If you choose to follow a dairy-free diet, ensure you are consuming enough calcium-rich foods such as:

  • Canned salmon (with bones)
  • SardinesAlmonds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Turnip greens
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Bok Choy
  • Butternut squash
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard




Ireland, C. (2006). Hormones in Milk can be Dangerous. Retrieved from http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/12.07/11-dairy.html

The Center of Food Safety. (2016). About rbGH. Retrieved from http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/1044/rbgh/about-rbgh