Protecting Your Little Princess from Early Puberty

I was sitting down with some fellow mothers the other day talking about all things children and the topic of early periods came up. Now mind you, the majority of us were mothers of children entering kindergarten with only a few of us having children around the ages of eight and nine. At first I thought that it was really early to even be thinking about talking to our young children about menstruation, but actually it became apparent very quickly that little girls are getting their periods earlier than my generation did and that it is not at all uncommon for a girl of nine or ten years old to reach puberty.

When I think back to when I got my first period at 12 years old, I was absolutely horrified. At the time, I couldn’t believe that this sometimes painful, often awkward, always disgusting thing was going to be happening to me on a monthly basis. I really couldn’t wrap my mind around it and that was at 12 years old! What does blood signify to most people, an injury, pain, or something that has gone terribly wrong? I can’t image what a 9 year old would be thinking if this happened to her. For a girl of this age, who is probably just starting to learn about privacy and how to take care of her personal hygiene independently, I could only imagine that getting your period at this age would be nothing short of scary.

Why is the onset of menstruation happening earlier in young girls, than older generations? Are nine year old girls really ready for this major milestone, so early in life? Is there a reason to worry about this new phenomenon and is their a way to prevent early periods if we want to help our girls hold on to their youth a little bit longer? Many studies are exploring these questions and the answers that are being found are quite alarming.

I found this great article on called, “Early Puberty: Causes, Dangers and Prevention.” This article did a really good job of outlining the issues surrounding this new trend. The first surprising fact that I learned was that in addition to the emotional aspects of early puberty, there are actually some serious health risks that are also associated with maturing early. From gastrointestinal and anxiety disorders, to type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, even respiratory disorders, girls who experienced puberty at early ages were more likely to suffer from a variety of serious health risks and diseases, than their later blooming peers. They were more likely to have factors that were naturally affecting their hormone levels, and not just estrogen levels but a variety of hormones that play a role in a child’s overall health.

So what can we do to preserve our daughter’s health and wellbeing. Well, it turns out that there are a number of lifestyle factors that contribute to early puberty that are completely within our control. Here what I’ve learned.

1. Help Her to Stress Less

Stress affects hormone levels. Don’t think your child has stress? Think again. Girls can often suffer from low self esteem, which can cause stress. They may be having difficulty making and keeping friends. And of course there are more obvious stressful situations in a young girls life such as bullying or a tense home environment. These are just a few of the scenarios that may cause hormonal disruptions and an increased likelihood of early puberty.

So what can we do to help our daughters manage their stress better? Be a good listener. Make it a priority to teach your daughter that you are a safe person for her to share her feelings, thoughts and stresses with. Teach your daughter how to problem solve. Teach her that if you search hard enough there is a solution to every problem. Teach her to listen to her body. A common stressor of today’s children is that they are overbooked with too many activities, they don’t have enough down time. Practice having your daughter tune into herself and realize when it is time to take a break. Prioritize sleep. It relieves stress and rejuvenates the body. These are the skills that will improve your daughters’ overall level of well being and reduce stress.

2. Teach Her the Importance of Diet and Exercise

As we know obesity is strongly linked to a variety of negative health outcomes. Well, it turns out that obesity is also linked to hormonal disruptions and early puberty. Obesity alters hormones such as insulin and leptin, as well as, the aromatase enzyme all of which affect the overall hormonal system in your daughter’s body which can lead to early puberty. Inactivity which is also associated with obesity can also lead to low melatonin levels which can lead to early puberty. Even a diet that is high in animal proteins may be of concern because of the synthetic and natural hormones that are used in our milk, dairy products, meat and poultry.

I believe the most important way to protect our girls from the consequences of obesity is by encouraging them to eat a nutrient rich diet without ever focusing on weight. Focusing on body size rather than physical wellness can lead to feeling of hopelessness and self hatred. We don’t want our girls obsessing about numbers on a scale. We just want them to feel energetic, strong and confident. Encouraging a healthy diet and regular exercise will go a long way in decreasing the chances that she will mature before her natural time.

3. Give your Home a Clean Sweep

I think, that by far, the most surprising and interesting risk factor for early puberty is the hormone disrupting toxins that are hidden in our homes. From the bisphenol A (BPA) in our plastic containers, to the pesticides and herbicides used on our produce, to the dangerous dioxins that accumulate during manufacturing processes such as chlorine bleaching coffee filters, these toxins are everywhere unless we learn how to avoid them. Our growing children are most susceptible to the risk of damage to their hormonal systems, immune systems and organs in their bodies.

Be vigilant. Learn what your household products are made of and try to avoid chemicals that are known to be harmful to the body, such as chlorine bleach. You can start to make your own natural products. It is more simple than you may think. A lot of the time, all you need is some vinegar and water. Also, try to decrease the amount of animal products that you eat. Toxins are often stored in the fatty tissues of animals, as well as, in dairy products. Try to eat organic whenever possible to avoid the hormone disrupting synthetic pesticides and herbicides that are used in your food. Also important is to switch from bleached products like coffee filters, napkin and paper towels to their equally efficient and much less harmful unbleached counterparts.

So, what are you thinking? This information can be taken one of two ways. You may feel overwhelmed like there are too many risk factors to deal with at one time or you may feel like it is too late in your daughter’s life to make any changes that will make a substantial difference. But what if you start to make small changes. Instead, you may feel empowered. There are so many things that we can do to improve our daughter’s health and quality of life, primarily by doing things that will make sure her body is functioning the way it is supposed to, rather than being sabotaged by completely preventable risk factors. Even if your daughter has already reached puberty, any of the changes suggested above will still contribute to her good health. So why not start today? Eating well, exercising, managing stress and ridding your home of toxins is guaranteed to have a positive effect on your entire family and may even save your daughter’s childhood.

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