By Lindsey Bussie
The media is all abuzz with the mystery of early puberty in girls. What exactly is considered early? How long has this been going on for? Mainstream media will have us thinking this is a mystery, and there’s nothing we can do, but that isn’t true at all.
Early onset puberty, or precocious puberty, is when a child’s body begins changing into that of an adult too soon. When puberty begins before age 8 in girls and before age 9 in boys, it is considered precocious puberty. Recently, girls as young as 6 or 7 have started early puberty. Ideally it should start around 10 or 11, with menstruation starting around 12 to 13, which is still early based on recent history. The average age for the start of menses in a healthy young girl 100 years ago was around 15. What’s causing our kids to start puberty earlier and should we be concerned?
With early puberty comes the potential for mental health problems, like higher anxiety levels, lower self-esteem and a more negative body image compared to girls who did not go through early puberty. There is also a risk for stunted growth.
Why is Early Puberty Increasing?
Over the last 60 years, we have seen an increase in the use of plastics, chemicals, factory farming (think massive milk production with added hormones/antibiotics and soy-based foods and formulas) and a decrease in nutritious food. Our kids are being hit from all angles early on. While it might be easy to feel overwhelmed with this information, there are simple and easy ways to help our kids. Let’s start with:
- Use as little plastic as possible
- Reduce exposure to chemicals
Plastics have all sorts of chemicals in them, including phthalates. Phthalates are known to cause all sorts of problems (breast/thyroid cancer, premature birth, low sperm count, hormone dysregulation). Using as little plastic as possible might sound overwhelming, it can be broken down into manageable steps to maximize your effects.
Reducing plastics for beginners:
- Don’t heat up food or drinks in plastic. Heat increases plastic’s ability to spread its hormone disruptors into our food and drinks. Warming things up in glass, cast iron, or stainless steel will prevent that from happening.
- Avoiding steam-in-bag options at the grocery store or self-serve plastic cups (think single serving cups like easy Mac) is a great first step!
- Store as much food in glass or metal as possible.
Reducing Plastic level: Intermediate
- If you have a green thumb, try growing some of your fruit and veggies. If you don’t, visit your local farmers market and see what they have available (rather than buying produce in plastic bags at the store).
- Convert your personal care lines to plastic free. Bars of soap, toothpaste/powder, make up and cleaning supplies can all be found in plastic-free options. Earthley offers an array of all natural personal and home care items.
Reducing Plastics level: Advanced
- Shop the bulk aisles at your local coop and bring your own plastic-free containers (mason jars and mesh bags are great!)
- Plant your own garden from seeds (lots of plant nurseries use plastic containers to grow their plants)
- Can/preserve/freeze your produce in mason jars or other plastic-free containers.
Now that we’ve tackled plastics, let’s take on chemicals (specifically, harmful chemicals). Here are some simple steps to cutting down on chemical exposure.
Reducing chemicals level: beginners
- Keep clothing fire retardant free. In an effort to keep our kids safe, they’ve been exposed to chemicals in their clothes, especially their pajamas. So look for clothes made from natural fibers, and not treated with fire retardants, which are endocrine disruptors.
- Read those food labels and buy organic whole foods. Anything that you can’t clearly read or understand you should think twice about buying. Shopping the out perimeter of the grocery store will help keep you in line with fruits, veggies, and proteins.
Reducing chemicals level: Intermediate/Advanced
- All-natural pest repellent for your yard and those little bodies
- Kick artificial fragrances to the curb (perfume,candles,scented soaps and laundry detergents) use fragrance free or natural fragrances
- Watch out for canned items from the store. While most are BPA free, we don’t know if what they’re using now is safe (BPS, a common replacement for BPA, isn’t better)
How to Prevent Early Puberty (Naturally)
What if your little is showing signs of early puberty? Or maybe you just want to be proactive and help make sure your kids are on a healthy path. If adults can have out of balance hormones then why can’t kids? If there are things we can do to help adults, then there have to be things that we can do to help kids too, right? Absolutely. Here are four easy things that can be done to support and promote hormonal health in kids.
- Support their little livers
- Feed them the good stuff!
- Remooo-ve conventional dairy products
- Promote active lifestyle/stress management
Our livers do so much for us. Not only do they filter out the bad gunky stuff like chemicals, it filters out hormones that are no longer needed. If our liver is working over time, it won’t be able to do its best job. While reducing exposure to plastics and chemicals will help, using nutritional support like dandelions, nettles, and beets are other ways to help a liver out. Soluble fiber, like in beans, acts like a vessel to help carry garbage out of the liver and out of the body. Foods like hummus and falafel can make it easy to get a serving of beans in.
The standard American diet is lacking in nutrition. Our overly processed food is full of empty carbs. This leads to kids that are fed, but show signs of being malnourished. The best way to combat this problem is with real food! Kids’ taste buds are still developing as they grow, so offering a variety of foods early and often is a great way to get them to expand their palate, ideally organic and unprocessed for optimized nutrition.
Veggies can come in some fun colors (purple carrots anyone?!?) and there are some pretty silly looking fruits to try too (ah-hem, I’m talking about you, dragon fruit). Trying new foods can be a game, seeing if you can eat each color from the rainbow. For the super picky eaters, there are great ways to supplement their diet with food based nutritional support.
Unfortunately, conventional dairy can really mess with our bodies. It can be inflammatory and the added hormones and antibiotics aren’t doing us any favors, either. For those whose bodies don’t show signs of dairy intolerance (signs of intolerance can be something like tummy problems or skin issues like eczema or acne) try organic, hormone/antibiotic free, raw or as unprocessed as possible, dairy.
Obesity is a major contributing factor to early puberty. So on top of eating healthy, staying active is crucial. There are so many organized sports options for kids these days. From baseball, basketball, to mountain biking or rock climbing, there’s an activity for everyone. Maybe organized activities aren’t your jam – there are always things like biking, walking, and old-fashioned playing at the park that can never go wrong.
It breaks my heart to talk about how stressed out our boys and girls have been the past two years, but it’s the truth. Teaching our kids early on to practice mindfulness, meditational, and emotional intelligence will greatly help reduce their stress levels. This leads to happier, more resilient kids. Happier kids reduce the work their little adrenals have to do, resulting in happier hormones. Happy kids are healthy kids.
When Your Child Starts Puberty Too Soon
What if your daughter has started developing breasts at an early age? Or has body odor, pubic hair, or has started menstruating? Any signs of early puberty and your daughter should have a visit with a doctor. Conventional medical doctors might prescribe medications to slow down the advancement of puberty without addressing the root cause. A holistic doctor, integrative medicine doctor, or functional medicine doctor will have a whole body approach to helping get your daughter back on track. They should not only evaluate her hormonal symptoms, but will check out her thyroid, adrenals, and check for tumors.
We live in a world where we have to work harder to be healthy, but it’s worth it for ourselves, our kids, and our grandkids. We have to take our health and our family’s health into our own hands. Don’t listen to modern medicine when they say “they can’t figure out” early puberty. Don’t listen if they tell you to do nothing, there are so many simple things we can do to influence our kids’ health for the better. Starting with natural health can be safe, effective, and easy.