Preventing Precocious Puberty
Precocious puberty is the abnormally early onset of puberty. The age of puberty has gradually been declining over the years, as many girls (and boys!) are experiencing puberty at the age of 7 or even younger. Typically, a young girl should experience puberty between 9-12 years of age, but due to various factors, many are entering the puberty transition much younger than expected. Early onset of puberty can cause a variety of long-term health concerns, including metabolic syndrome, obesity, fertility issues, and breast cancer. Young girls who develop earlier than most may also experience psychological issues, such as depression or unhealthy habits with alcohol, drugs, and sex. Since young girls are 10x as likely to have precocious puberty as boys, it is important to identify potential causes and to work to prevent early onset.
Some signs that a young girl may be going through puberty early include breast development, pubic or underarm hair growth, rapid height growth, early menstruation, acne, and body odor.
The following are recommendations using herbal, supplemental, nutritional, and lifestyle practices that will balance hormones and promote detoxification to prevent precocious puberty.
LIMIT EXPOSURE TO ENDOCRINE-DISRUPTING CHEMICALS - (EDCs) cause a significant health concern because they are hormonally active synthetic chemicals that either mimic or hinder the action of natural hormones. Although EDCs are thought to pose a threat to adults as well, children’s bodies are more sensitive to exposure, and long-term exposure can contribute to early onset of puberty. To reduce overall exposure to these synthetic chemicals, focus on the consumption of whole, organic foods to reduce the ingestion of chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones. Avoid BPA containers (this includes plastic water bottles) and use glass whenever possible. Stick to all natural beauty and skincare products as often as possible, as most popular products on the market contain phthalates and other chemicals that wreak havoc on our hormones.
MODERATE EXERCISE is essential to balance hormones. Moderate exercise 3-4x/week is a great start. Games and sports can be a fun way to integrate this healthy habit. In addition to boosting circulation and metabolism, exercise enhances immunity and endurance. Yoga asanas are ideal because they not only tone the muscles but stimulate the functioning of internal organs. Yoga, sports, at home workouts, and daily walks are all fantastic ways to increase physical activity.
SLEEP WELL. Decreased or interrupted sleeping patterns can create hormonal imbalance and a rise in cortisol, further stressing the body. School and social life can often take away from the 8-9 hours of deep sleep that is an essential component to staying healthy as a teenager. Developing a routine and setting a curfew for electronic use and homework can help support an uninterrupted night sleep. It’s also incredibly important to sleep in a completely dark room or use an eye mask to block out the light.
HYDRATE THE BODY. Aim to consume half your weight in oz. throughout the day to stay adequately hydrated. Staying hydrated will provide an array of benefits, including detoxifying the body and regulating hormones. Drink water from a glass bottle and look into investing in a water filtration system if you have not already! Also, add Himalayan salt with lemon for electrolyte balance. You can also drink herbal teas and diluted fresh juices.
BALANCE YOUR PROTEIN INTAKE. Higher intake of animal protein is connected to the early development of puberty. Animal protein such as red meat and dairy are directly linked to elevated levels of IGF-1 which promotes growth, accelerating the onset of puberty. Meat and dairy consumption in young girls can also be a cause for concern due to the high endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have accumulated in the animal’s tissues. Typically, try to consume 0.7g of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example, a young girl weighing 110lbs should roughly be consuming around 77g of good quality protein.
It’s also crucial that protein sources are organic, as conventional animal products often contain hormones or hormone-disrupting antibiotics.
Healthy sources include: organic pasture eggs, organic chicken, wild-caught salmon or cod, nuts and seeds + hemp, flax & chia seeds, and beans such as lentils and mung beans. Incorporate some of these into each meal of the day.
EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS. Young girls (and boys!) are in dire need of nutrients, as puberty is the time when our bodies are going through the most growth. Young people with lower nutrient diets tend to enter puberty at an earlier rate. A diet high in processed foods, dairy, meat, and take-out is disruptive to healthy development and can contribute to the onset of early puberty.
Whole, unprocessed foods are foods that have been the least invaded or treated. Whole foods include organic, local produce, nuts & seeds, legumes, and grains such as quinoa and brown rice. Healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nut butters and full-fat organic yogurt. Creating a meal with 50% vegetables, 25% good quality protein and 25% healthy fats is an excellent way to find balance.
Drink pure water, high levels of fluoride in tap water wreak havoc on hormones in developing bodies
CONTROL SALT. High salt intake often stimulates early puberty in girls. This is because high levels of salt release hormones that trigger ovulation and reproductive changes. Controlling salt intake by reducing processed, canned, freezer, and fast foods will minimize consumption tremendously. Use fresh meat and poultry instead of packaged, and, if buying packaged food, remember to read the label & watch for sodium content.
CONSUME FRESH CILANTRO AND PARSLEY. Heavy metals in the body are one of the reasons some may experiencing puberty too soon. Detoxing the body is necessary to remove an excess of heavy metals. Consuming fresh cilantro and parsley juice is a fantastic way to cleanse and remove heavy metals such as lead and mercury from the system. You can also add these herbs to a variety of meals including soups, salads, rice dishes, and smoothies.
Dandelion root is a complete herbal remedy for early onset of puberty due to its detoxification and hormone balancing properties. This herb is classified as a bitter – meaning it not only will support detoxification by strengthening the liver, the organ responsible for clearing the body of excess hormones, but will also aid in digestion by increasing HCl production and good bacteria within the gut. Dandelion is generous in that every part of this plant can be used, including the flower, root, and leaves. *Do not use dandelion if on diuretic medication, as this herbal remedy is a natural diuretic. Dandelion is also a choleretic, meaning it can stimulate the gallbladder and should not be used with the presence of gallstones.
How to Use: Dandelion root can be consumed as an infusion or herbal tea. To make an infusion, use 3-4 tbsp of fresh dandelion root in a quart mason jar, cover with hot water and a lid. Consume 2-3 cups a day. Consume as needed to support detoxification.
Stinging nettle is packed with vital nutrients and minerals including vitamin C, B, K, magnesium, calcium, and choline. Due to its robust nutritional benefits, drinking stinging nettle will provide the body with an excellent nutritional base to help combat hormone fluctuation during puberty. Young girls are typically deficient in many nutrients, so using herbal remedies that have added nutritional benefits is helpful. Nettle is also useful in curing cases of anemia when taken on a daily basis over longer periods of time.
To Use: Stinging nettle root is best as an infusion. To make an infusion, use 3-4 tbsp of fresh stinging nettle with cold distilled water in a quart mason jar and cover with a lid. Shake to mix and let sit for 4-8 hours (overnight is perfect!). Consume 2-3 cups a day. You can buy stinging nettle root at your local health food store or through a reputable online retailer such as Mountain Rose Herbs.
Chaste tree berry (Vitex) is known to reset the pituitary and pineal glands and counter excess estrogen. It’s also often used to normalize the menstrual cycle. The cycle of a teenage girl can be irregular; chaste tree berry will help to restore balance. It can also help reduce acne often associated with puberty, as well as reduce premenstrual symptoms such as cramping and moodiness. This herb is an excellent remedy when dealing with any estrogen-dominant health issues. Though this herbal remedy does reap amazing benefits, be patient as the beneficial effects of chaste tree are often seen after a two month period.
To Use: Chaste tree is best taken in tincture form. 2-3x per day in a splash of water.
Milk thistle helps cleanse the liver and improve liver function, enhancing the liver’s ability to metabolize estrogen. Using this herbal remedy will help to balance out hormones and promote smoother menstrual flow. By regulating hormones, you will notice an abundance of positive change, including clearer skin (hormone imbalance often causes acne during your period!), increased mood and gentle flow.
To use: Milk thistle is best taken in tincture form. 1x per day in a splash of water before bed.
Evening primrose oil is essential for balancing out hormones during puberty and is an excellent supplement to consider in the case of precocious puberty. It contains high amounts of omega three fatty acids. When consumed, evening primrose oil will drive the body away from inflammation and balance any hormonal issues going on within the body. It can also help to regulate mood by improving the binding capacity of various hormones.
Dosage: 3-400mg/day in divided doses. You can purchase a good quality evening primrose supplement at your local health food store.
Fish oil High in omega three fatty acids, fish oil will be extremely beneficial for the body moving through puberty and any state of hormonal imbalance. EPA and DHA are critical for brain development, especially for growing adolescents. Fish oil will help to balance out estrogen levels, which in excess can contribute to early puberty as well as various other health issues like PMS.
Dosage: 500-1000mg/day. You can purchase a good quality fish oil supplement at your local health food store.
Magnesium is a natural chill pill, meaning it can lower excess stress hormones in the body. Boosting magnesium levels will help to naturally balance hormones and have amazing effects on the body, such as balancing estrogen, improved thyroid function and the reduction of cortisol. It also helps with growing pains.
Dosage: Best in capsule form - 400mg/day in divided doses. If you notice loose stool, reduce to 300mg/day. Magnesium flake baths are another option. Soak for 20-30 minutes.
Probiotics Estrogen is a natural compound that peaks in the bodies of both boys and girls during puberty. BPA is an artificial compound that mimics estrogen and can be found in plastics as well as various other items such as paper and consumer goods. Though it is relatively hard to remove all traces of BPA from a teen’s life, probiotics can reduce their effect on his or her development. Probiotics provide a healthy gut environment that bad bacteria are unable to thrive in and improve overall body function.
Dosage: 10 billion CFU’s/day with food.
Vitamin D is necessary for the proper secretion of all hormones within the body, so making sure to consume an adequate amount is essential. Since we get most of our vitamin D from the sunshine, people in colder climate regions will need to supplement.
Dosage: 1000 IU’s/day with food. Best in liquid form.