Puberty can be an awkward, uncomfortable time even when it’s happening at the right phase of your life. Some children deal with precocious puberty, which the NIH defines as:
The symptoms of precocious puberty are similar to the signs of normal puberty but they manifest earlier—before the age of 8 in girls and before age 9 in boys.
The NIH elsewhere says:
Many more girls are affected than boys.
Eight or nine. Children should still be playing on swings or having tea parties at eight and nine. They should be digging in the dirt and playing superheroes. No child should have to go through as big a transition as puberty that young.
What Causes Precocious Puberty?
During puberty, the body is changing in many ways. These changes are sparked by a change in the body’s hormones and the way it reacts chemically. The main hormones sparking this change are estrogens. The only difference between a child and a young woman, for instance, is the amount of estrogens in her body. Because the female body uses estrogens in more ways than the male body, this has more of an effect on women and girls. This is why girls are more likely to go through precocious puberty than boys.
The human body doesn’t start producing as many estrogens as spark puberty when we’re young, so where do these estrogens come from?
There are some substances that, while they’re not estrogens, mimic estrogens within the human body. This means that, even if a young child doesn’t have an overabundance of estrogens, he or she may be dealing with the effects of them. These mimics are xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens, and metalloestrogens.
Xenoestrogens: Chemical Mimics
Women In Balance defines xenoestrogens as follows.
Xenoestrogens are a sub-category of the endocrine disruptor group that specifically have estrogen-like effects. Estrogen is a natural hormone in humans that is important for bone growth, blood clotting, and reproduction in men and women. The body regulates the amount needed through intricate biochemical pathways. When xenoestrogens enter the body they increase the total amount of estrogen resulting in a phenomenon called, estrogen dominance. Xenoestrogens are not biodegradable so, they are stored in our fat cells. Build up of xenoestrogens have been indicated in many conditions including: breast, prostate and testicular cancer, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, early onset puberty, miscarriages and diabetes.
BPA, phthalates, and parabens are common xenoestrogens. Look for cleaner cleaning products, other options for dryer sheets, cast iron or stainless steel cookware, and cleaner beauty products. Switch from plastic storage to glass. Stay away from the dirty dozen, eat organic foods.
The Center for Health Journalism recounts a story about why being careful with where you get your food is important in avoiding these estrogen mimics.
Nearly 40 years ago, due to human error, cattle feed was mixed with the flame retardant chemical called PBB instead of being mixed with a nutritional supplement. The feed was then fed for approximately two years to cattle, pigs and chickens all over the state before animal illnesses and birth defects triggered an investigation. After researchers confirmed that the animal feed was tainted, more than 30,000 cows, 1.5 million chickens and thousands of pigs were rounded up and killed. Unfortunately, by then approximately 90 percent of Michigan residents had consumed contaminated dairy or meat. … Tracking a representative sample of farm families, they found a disproportionate increase in breast cancer and thyroid disease as well as infertility in women and early puberty in girls.”
Phytoestrogens: Plant Mimics
The NIH addresses phytoestrogens as follows.
Phytoestrogen is an estrogenic compound that occurs naturally in plants. The most common sources of phytoestrogen are soybean products, which contain high levels of isoflavones. This compound, which has structural similarity with estrogen, can act as an estrogen receptor agonist or antagonist. Animal studies provide evidence of the significant effects of phytoestrogen on sexual development, including altered pubertal timing, impaired estrous cycling and ovarian function, and altered hypothalamus and pituitary functions. Although human studies examining the effects of phytoestrogen on sexual development are extremely limited, the results of some studies agree with those of the animal studies.
Metalloestrogens: Metal Mimics
The Free Dictionary’s medical dictionary defines metalloestrogens as:
A class of inorganic xenoestrogens that can activate oestrogen receptor-alpha and affect gene expression.
Oestrogen is simply the British spelling of estrogen. The NIH records a study that shows metalloestrogens have the potential to “add to the oestrogenic burden of the human breast”.
Another study the NIH records focuses on:
…exposure to highly toxic metals, (“metalloestrogens” or “endocrine disruptors”) that are used as the metallic foundation for nanoparticle production and are found in a variety of consumer products such as cosmetics, household items, and processed foods, etc. The linkage between well-understood metalloestrogens such as cadmium, the use of these metals in the production of nanoparticles, and the relationship between their potential estrogenic effects and the development of breast cancer will be explored.
Cadmium and aluminum are the most dangerous matalloestrogens.
To avoid metalloestrogens, don’t buy canned foods and avoid vaccines. If your child is already going through early puberty, don’t buy them deodorants made with aluminum. Check their fish intake to make sure they aren’t taking in mercury as part of their food.
WebMD reports that:
In an investigation by the Associated Press, drinking water supplies in 24 major metropolitan areas were found to include drugs.
According to the investigation, the drugs get into the drinking water supply through several routes: some people flush unneeded medication down toilets; other medicine gets into the water supply after people take medication, absorb some, and pass the rest out in urine or feces. Some pharmaceuticals remain even after wastewater treatments and cleansing by water treatment plants, the investigation showed.
They go on to report that, in an interview with experts, Sarah Janssen, MD, PHD, MPH says the following:
“Ever since the late 1990s, the science community has recognized that pharmaceuticals, especially oral contraceptives, are found in sewage water and are potentially contaminating drinking water. … It’s true that the levels [of the medications found in drinking water] are very low. But especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals that are synthetic hormones, there is concern, because hormones work at very low concentrations in the human body.”
Invest in a good water filter to keep everyone else’s synthetic hormones out of your little one and push off puberty and its stresses longer.
Unethically Sourced Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
Just like the food we eat can include estrogen mimics, they can also include true estrogens. Some farmers will give their animals hormones to force them to develop faster. These estrogens–and the other hormones–will pass into us when we eat them, and impact our own hormones. While our body makes these hormones on its own, the right balance of hormones in the body is important. If our bodies—especially a child’s body—have the incorrect levels at the incorrect times, the processes and organs they instruct are going to be out of homeostasis, making the Swiss watch not function properly.
To avoid these extra hormones, buy half of, or a whole cow from a local farmer that you know doesn’t give their animals hormones, and feeds them well. You can do the same with eggs and chicken. As for dairy? It may be better to just pass on that altogether.
The CDC reports the statistics of childhood obesity as follows:
- Percent of adolescents aged 12-19 years with obesity: 22.2% (2017-March 2020)
- Percent of children aged 6-11 years with obesity: 20.7% (2017-March 2020)
- Percent of children aged 2-5 years with obesity: 12.7% (2017-March 2020)
Estrogens are stored in excess fat. Those who have more fat to store estrogens, then, are at greater risk for early puberty. Look at potential causes for the extra weight that aren’t linked to how much food we eat to see if there’s a hidden reason for weight retention. Is your little one eating things they’re allergic to? Are they taking in toxins in the form of processed sugar, GMOs, dyes, the air around them, or the dirty dozen? And, of course, encourage your child to get outside and play. That’s what they’re supposed to be doing at this age, anyway—not prematurely becoming an adult.
Vitamin D deficiency
This is another reason to encourage your children to get outside. NIH records a study that reports:
Early menarche [the NIH defines menarche as “first menstrual period in a female adolescent,”] is a risk factor for cardiometabolic disease and cancer. Latitude, which influences sun exposure, is inversely related to age at menarche.
The results of the same study report that:
A total of 57% of girls in the vitamin D-deficient group reached menarche during follow-up compared with 23% of girls in the vitamin D-sufficient group.
Of course, getting outside and into the sun is the best way to get vitamin D. Even when it’s cold out and there’s less vitamin D to absorb, this is the best source, but there are other ways, if you need supplemental intake.
Childhood is precious, and none of us want to rush our children into puberty. Each stage of growing up has its own challenges and stresses; there’s no reason to mash them all together in such a young body. Take steps to hold puberty off for as long as is possible in your little one. In order to get your child’s allergies tested, check their exposure factors for harmful, hormone altering substances, or to help mitigate other concerns, contact a Wellness Way clinic, today!