The Surprising Link Between Gluten and Breasts

March 24, 2016
by Dana Poblete for Thrive Market
The Surprising Link Between Gluten and Breasts

Here’s a side effect of eating gluten that has gone largely unnoticed—is it making your breasts grow larger?

The answer is, quite possibly, yes. The proof is in the prolactin—a hormone associated with breast growth. A 2014 clinical trial found that people diagnosed with celiac disease had elevated levels of this hormone, but once they went gluten-free, prolactin decreased within six months. And since some sources of gluten like baker’s yeast, wheat, and barley contain high levels of estrogen, that might also contribute to extra buxomness.

Whether a sudden jump in bra sizes is a hassle or a blessing, it seems there is a connection between nutrition and overall breast health. Women with celiac disease have also shown a lower incidence of breast cancer, although research is not definitive as to whether cutting gluten is the reason for this. (If you decide ditch gluten for whatever reason, remember that there are a number of gluten-free grains that can fulfill your carb cravings and provide beneficial fiber—which you don’t want to miss out on—as well as protein.)

And don’t worry: most changes in the breasts don’t necessarily indicate cancer. Still, it never hurts to incorporate certain nutritious foods that also seem to promote overall breast health. They include:

Whether you go gluten-free or not, remember that a balanced diet consisting of whole, unprocessed foods, including vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, and certain proteins and whole grains is always great for maintaining a healthy weight, healthy breasts, and staying hormonally balanced.

Illustration by Foley Wu

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This article is related to: Gluten-Free, Health, Tips, Educational

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4 thoughts on “The Surprising Link Between Gluten and Breasts”

  • Anis

    I challenge the author to respond:

    This article is based on very little actually relevant science for most of the people reading it. Firstly both studies are in celiac disease patient populations, which accounts for a drastic minority of the current group of people avoiding gluten in western society. This means the results can not be generalised. To make it even worse, the prolactin study is in a paediatric celiac patients, soon after their diagnosis - again making it less plausible that this is revelant to your readers. The first study even goes on to say it is a reduction in inflammatory cytokines (i.e. treatment of their celiac disease) that is responsible for the reduction in prolactin - suggesting NOT the gluten directly. The second study cited - granted I have only briefly read the abstract (but I'm guessing the author did about the same)- also mentions the increased risk in non-hodgkins lymphoma, small intenstine cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer on a gluten free diet. Why is it that this is not mentioned at all in your article? If you want to present scientific data then present it in its entirety - don't pick and choose lines to make a nice headline to push an agenda.

    • thrivemarket

      Thanks for reading, Anis. We understand your concern. While we agree that these studies are by no means conclusive, we thought the link between gluten, prolactin, and breasts was something our audience might be interested in.

    • thrivemarket

      Hi Anis,

      Thank you for your feedback. You're right, I should have been more detailed.

      We know from various studies that going gluten may increase pro-inflammatory cytokines and going gluten-free may induce anti-inflammatory cytokines ( So that's how I interpreted the connection in the study conclusion: "This paper confirms that PRL may be increased at diagnosis of CD and shows, for the first time, that it decreases after a short course of GFD. Changes in the levels of inflammatory cytokines in CD may account for changes in PRL levels."

      It's possible that the cancer risk from eating gluten-free could be from insufficient dietary fiber, which is why we allude to gluten-free grains. I should have made that connection more clear.

      • Anis

        My feedback comes from my professional concern as a practicing medical practioner that blog writers are providing their readers with mis information because they either mis-interpret the scientific research or blatantly want to jump to a conclusion that is not based in the evidence they cite. I hope this is also your and your colleagues concern as you write health articles with little to no scientific qualification. (I don't mean to insult you you but I say this because nutritional mis-information is a serious current problem and is primarily because of the internet based articles). Great care needs to be taken in the fine details and if there is any degree of uncertainty then it is really not appropriate to comment/write on the topic. Even if the author is somewhat scientifically savvy the readers likely are less so and will jump to their own conclusions from your text (and make health and lifestyle changes based on little to nothing, and worse yet, spread the mis-information).

        I see you've since edited the article (if my memory is correct from my previous reading) to make it more accurate. Thank you for this.

        But for example your article still reads quite strongly that gluten is associated with breast cancer. This is a significant conclusion jump. You have the following SUGGESTIONS from small studies:
        a) gluten may promote inflammation in normal mice
        b) prolactin is found to be increased in paediatric celiac disease patients and decreased once on a gluten free diet. This is not surprising as prolactin is also involved in immunomodulation.
        c) breast cancer risk is decreased in adult celiac disease patients. Along with other cancers. Again quite plausible that the inflammatory response is the cause of this cancer risk, not the gluten, or prolactin directly.

        What is more plausible is that inflammation increases cancer risk. And this is already a known scientific fact. But your readers, being mostly NOT celiac disease patients, will read your article and conclude "if I eat gluten I increase my breast cancer risk". This take away message is not based in the evidence you have cited.

        You can see my concern.

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