Puberty: A better start for our girls
Puberty ahh! I still remember the day I got my first period. Waking up in the morning with blood where blood had never been before and realising I had become a women! I wasn’t excited about it, let me tell you that much; being a kid was far better. But for every girl this ‘right of passage’ will occur if we like it or not and it’s our role as mothers, sisters, aunties and friends to support our next generation of women.
Let’s face it Sex Ed really failed us when it came to understanding our cycle, periods and hormones. That sad thing is a lot of women still don’t know how their menstrual cycle works, and the thing that hurts the most is if we don’t know who will teach our girls? There is a huge shift occurring, women are wanting to understand their bodies better, to take charge of their health and be in the driving seat of their hormone health. This shift is so important to empower the next generation of women to embrace, understand and respect their bodies.
Periods are not to be feared and it’s time to open up that conversation with our girls.
Embrace Puberty: How to guide your girl
We all want the best for our daughters and getting through the awkwardness of puberty is no different. My number 1 suggestion is to know your body! Get clued up on how your hormones work, the menstrual cycle and the phases involved. Did you know there are 4 phases of the menstrual cycle? You don’t need a uni degree but if you know the basic 101 of menstrual cycles you will be prepared and confident to open up and initiate period talks with your daughter. Embrace your body, don’t be afraid to talk about periods and hormones with your girls and your girlfriends. Actions speak louder than words! This encourages girls to open up, to ask questions and to see that YES it is ok to talk about periods. Need to brush up on your hormone knowledge? I’ve listed a few gems below and best thing of all they are easy read for teenagers too.
We as women need to be comfortable with talking about our periods with younger girls, to open up the conversation and encourage them to be curious, to ask questions and to learn and embrace their bodies. Periods are not to be feared. Let’s make puberty a celebration!
When the First Periods Aren’t a Dream.
Why do we fear puberty? Is it the thought of period pain, acne, heavy bleeding, mood swings etc? I was asked recently if hormonal imbalances like period pain is treated the same way in teenage girls as mature women? In short NO.
Getting the first period is only a step in a series of changes that occur during puberty. It takes about 3 years after the first period for the body (particularly the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovary axis) to fully mature in its regulation of periods and hormones. Therefor any synthetic hormones or herbs with hormonal actions during this time will impact on the development and maturation and can impact lifelong hormone regulation. Therefore, treating hormonal issues in young girls takes a slightly different approach.
Let’s Get it Right from the Start
Healthy hormones start with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Encouraging girls to eat a hormone friendly diet, sleep well, exercise often, avoid toxins and minimise stress is the cornerstone of healthy periods and a smooth puberty. I’ve made it super easy for you in my ebook Happier, Healthier Hormones.
Just because something is common doesn’t make it normal.
Don’t let your girls fear their periods if they are struggling with hormonal issues there is help. Naturally we can do a lot. Below I troubleshoot the most common issues experienced in puberty, common yes but not normal! Speak to your naturopath in regards to dosing as the dose will be different for a 11 year old girl vs a 15 year old girl. But this will give you a good start on where to look.
Driven by all these new hormones (particularly oestrogen and testosterone) that the body all of a sudden has to deal with. Testosterone is a particular issue here and is why teenage boys tend to have more severe acne than girls – they produce more testosterone. The hormones are fluctuating and the liver, who has never had to deal with them before, is now having to quickly learn how to manage the new workload. The focus of teenage acne treatment is providing nutrients for the skin and supporting liver function:
Diet – Avoid sugar and dairy as they will aggravate acne, focus on good gut health – coconut yoghurt, kombucha and sauerkraut. Eat more oily fish, ginger, turmeric, leafy greens, beetroot, berries and celery. Smoothies are a great tasty way to add these extras into the diet.
Skin Health – zinc and fish oil supplements are very important at reducing the redness and swelling, preventing scaring but also boosting the immune system to kill the acne causing bacteria.
Liver Support – herbs like nettle, calendula, St Mary’s thistle, burdock, echinacea, dandelion.
Periods should not be painful! Period pain is driven by the body producing too many prostaglandins (cause pain and inflammation) which are often driven by poor diet and or too much oestrogen. The key to fixing period pain is opting for a hormone friendly diet and lifestyle but also supporting liver function to clear oestrogen and symptomatic treatment if the pain is too severe.
Diet and Lifestyle – a hormone friendly diet (I talk all about all this here). Daily exercise. Avoid sugar and dairy and eat more ginger, turmeric, broccoli and oily fish.
Liver Support – calendula, St Mary’s thistle, dandelion, broccoli sprouts.
Reduce Pain and Inflammation – turmeric, calcium, magnesium and fish oil supplements.
Not only does hormone production ramp up during puberty but the hormones are fluctuating on a daily basis and the levels fluctuate more so than that of a mature woman. No wonder their moods are all over the place. With time the body get’s control of the hormones and therefor mood swings lessen but it can be a really difficult period for the girl and those around her. Biggest tip: Learn the phases of the menstrual cycle. By understanding and knowing what phase of the menstrual cycle they are in it will help them understand why they are feeling how they feel. E.g. during our period we a reserved, quieter, want to be alone while at ovulation we feel like superwomen. Knowledge is power!
Diet and Lifestyle – Eat regular meals i.e. 3-5 times per day and ensure there is protein at every meal. Skip the sugar and ensure daily exercise.
Mental Health – fish oil is very important for brain development and healthy moods in teenagers, also consider magnesium and B vitamins.
Are both common and normal (I rarely say that) for girls starting their period to have irregular cycles or even miss a few cycles. The brain and the ovaries (hypothalamus – pituitary - ovary axis) are still trying to work out their flow and this can take time. If, however it has been 4 months and no period then it is worth having a chat to a health care practitioner to ensure PCOS or other hormonal issues aren’t at play here.
There are so many natural treatments available to help make puberty easier and symptom free for young girls. Although it is important not to rush in with strong hormonal herbs until girls are at least 16 years of age treatment is available so speak with your natural health care practitioner and lets help our girls love their periods!
It’s time to start the conversation and empower our girls to embrace puberty and not to fear their periods.
My top reads to get you and your girls clued up on all things hormones and puberty are below. It’s never to early or too late to learn about your hormones.
Before I leave you, who wants a bit of puberty trivia?
Puberty is used to define the whole process of going from a child to an adult, where getting your period is just one step in that process.
95% of females will achieve their first period between 11 and 15 years of age.
The first few menstrual cycles are often anovulatory (no egg is ovulated).
The age of the first period has steadily decreased by 3 months per decade over the last century.
Girls need a certain amount of fat in order to menstruate so overweight girls hit puberty sooner than skinner girls. Also, poor nutrition will delay menses.
Light-dark cycles impact puberty so the more light we are exposed to the less melatonin we produce and the sooner puberty is achieved. Children in warmer climates (more exposure to day light) tend to reach puberty sooner.
Stress delays puberty.
Chemicals in plastics, environment, pesticides on foods, personal care products act like oestrogen within the body and will bring on earlier puberty in girls and delay puberty in boys.
Altitude effects puberty; for every 100m increase in altitude puberty is delayed by 3 months.
Age of the first period is closely linked to the age your mother went through puberty.
My top picks to help you and your daughter get clued up on hormones! You’ll love them, I promise!
Beautiful You by Nat Kringoudis - Nat Kringoudis’s most recent release is a bible for mothers and daughters teaching you everything you and your daughter need to know about managing your hormones, fertility and sexual health. Everything our daughters need to know about their bodies rolled into one gorgeous book.
The Bright Girl Guide by Demi Spaccavento - For teenage girls this is GOLD. It is so easy to read and understand and a must have for every young girl!
The Pill: Are you sure it’s for you? by Jane Bennett and Alexandra Pope - A wonderful and informative book to help educate and inform about the truths around hormonal contraception.