Precocious Puberty:: Why it Happens and What You Can Do about It

precocious pubertyIf I remember back to the 80s I was at a sleepover party at my friends house. Everyone was running around putting training bras over our PJs and stuffing them with marshmallows to give ourselves boobs….we were like 12! We had to pretend to look older and we had to pretend to be older. How life has changed since then.

I find myself looking at child A and child B and thinking to myself oh please stop growing, oh please I just bought the next set of leggings and you’ve outgrown them already, please just stop for a little second. I am finding it hard to keep up. 

If only growth spurts were my only concern.

I found myself at the girls’ yearly wellness check over the summer. It could not have gone any worse truth be told. Going in my thinking was my kids are just very tall and suddenly finding myself having to grapple with words like “precocious puberty” hormone imbalance, blood testing and hand x rays. You see, 7 is too early. My little B who still plays Barbies and has a love for still being a kid has to hide when getting dressed; her body is developing far faster than her maturity and it’s terrifying. For her. For me.

Research

I found myself doing much research and chatting with other moms, and I am finding that it is not as unheard of as one would think. Little girls are developing far faster than we did back in the 80’s. 20 Years ago puberty generally started around age 11, compared to age 8/9 in girls now. An interesting fact – A girl in 1860 got her first period around age 16, in 1920 around age 14 and today she’s likely to have her first period closer to 12.5 years.

Three forces at work

There are three suspected forces at work ::

Suspect One – Excess fat. The percentage of US children, including adolescents who are obese has almost tripled over the last 30 years. One fifth of children are obese. 

Suspect Two – Exposure to chemicals and antibiotics – Our foods are pumped with growth chemicals/antibiotics to speed up the growth process in animals etc. These act like endocrine – disrupting chemicals in humans.

Suspect Three – Childhood traumas and poor family dynamics. A child’s response to stress may effect pubertal timing.

No person really knows what starts puberty or what awakens it early in some kids and not others. The process can take 2 to 4 years or more from the start of breast development to a girl’s first period. What I do however know is how it effects one of my own. 

  • Body – image issues – this is a big one.

She certainly does not look like her peers, and suddenly we have mood swings, tears, feeling fat discussions, body odor, and at times facial bumps. This is besides all her body changes. Things no little girl needs to deal with. They get labeled as naughty or unreasonable which leads to issues at school. When in actual fact they are dealing with hormonal issues that they have no idea how to handle and frankly have no control over. 

  • In my older child who has just turned 9 we deal with feelings of self loathing, body loathing, worry, fear, abdominal pains, sleep disturbances and social withdrawal. 

Yes 9 I believe is the new 12, but on an emotional level surely not? I went out and bought books on your growing body and as I page through them and try share them with my girls, I find that they still represent the “old normal” as its aimed at kids that are emotionally older – teenagers. Included in all the books are discussions of sex, boys, fat issues and diets just to name a few.  All the words I am not ready to speak about and personally I don’t feel they are ready to hear. I find our kids are being catapulted into a life that they are not ready for yet. I find my youngest feels comfortable in older kids company, solely on the reason that they look like her in size. Emotionally she cannot keep up. How will this impact her at 14? I fear that she might be living way above her age readiness and it terrifies me.

Precocious puberty

If you think your child is going through precocious puberty or that there is cause for concern, take her to your doctor. They will have your child do a bone age x ray to determine if her bone age is older than her chronological age. The next step would usually be a blood test to determine hormone imbalance.

There are 3 types of puberty.

  1. Puberty from the pituitary gland. If this is the case your doctor will most likely organize an MRI to check for abnormalities such as a brain tumor. 95% of the time the finding is normal and discussions can proceed with regards to treatment and of course how early puberty started. 
  2. Puberty from the ovaries. If puberty is starting elsewhere in the body testing would take place to rule out ovarian cysts or tumors that may require surgery. Very rarely the cause could be genetic and could impact the growth development of the bones. In most cases they were found to be normal, but after considerations looking at height ratio vs age, doctors could have the child medicated. 
  3. Puberty from environment. This is the hardest to diagnose of course. This would be treated through lifestyle change, diet and possibly medication.

The question is, does one medicate? We are personally in the beginning of our journey but reading through the information given I believe the best way forward is treating with supplements to aid the body in what is needed to help it perform to its best ability and to be there on an emotional level for my child. Not all children are “sharers”. My oldest opens up to me about everything where as my youngest is extremely private. This makes it hard to approach discussions on what is happening to them and why they are different. 

Potential Precocious Puberty triggers in FOOD and beauty products

As parents we need to be aware of certain “on the self triggers” that could trigger precocious puberty.

Dirty fruits and vegetables – meaning they have had more exposure to chemical pesticides, so buy ORGANIC where possible.

  • Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, domestic blueberries, lettuce, kale, cherries, pears and plums.

Clean tested – having the least lowest tested pesticide effects. So if not able to purchase organic, these are the safest for your grocery cart.

  • Sweet corn, onions, pineapple, avocados, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwifruit, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.

Other tips::

  • Always buy 100% organic meat and in fish choose WILD as they have the lowest levels of toxins.
  • Buy organic milk.
  • Limit sugar as this is an aggressor fueling obesity in our children possibly triggering early puberty.
  • Antibacterial hand soaps, tea tree oil, lavender oil, nail products and nail polishes, Parfum and body spray. Try use phthalate – free care products.
  • Do not microwave food in plastic as they release nasty chemicals and do not store your food in plastic made from PVC. 
  • Ditch all your plastic water bottles and rather use food grade stainless steel or glass.

The Change

Our world is changing. Our children are having to grow up far faster than we did, they are exposed to far more than we were and they are consuming food that just is not the same. They are dealing with stressors of epic proportions on a daily basis. Perhaps with just a few changes we can help the change and make the transition smoother.

I am not ready for “teenager at tween-ager” but I read this earlier today “hormones don’t create emotions, they intensify existing emotions” which made me think – next time you see someone that is still little with BIG feelings, perhaps just perhaps they are dealing with far more than being naughty or just having a bad day.

Share your stories with us. Do you have any helpful tips for other families experiencing early onset puberty? Do you have helpful tips on clean eating? We would love to hear from you.


 

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