What You Should Know About Precocious Puberty

 

Remember puberty – that awkward, sometimes uncomfortable phase of childhood that somehow meant you were turning into a young woman? Do you remember how old you were when it hit or when you first got your period? Well if you have a daughter, chances are she has or will be experiencing puberty much, much younger than you did. It’s called “precocious puberty” – the appearance of secondary sex characteristics like pubic hair or breast growth before age 8, or the onset of menarche before age 9 – and impacts at least 1 in 5,000 U.S. children, and the rate is on the rise.

Currently the average age of the onset of menstruation is 12. But even before the first period, changes start to happen to girls’ bodies – signs of development, such as breast “budding” and growth of pubic hair. And these developments have become so common amongst 7, 8 and 9 year olds that doctors have simply deemed it the new “normal”. But are our girls ready for these changes and puberty at such a young age? What negative consequences might there be? Unfortunately, many. Early puberty can set the stage for emotional and behavioral problems, and is linked to lower self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, alcohol use, earlier loss of virginity, more sexual partners and increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. There is also evidence that suggests these girls are at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, as well as cancer, later in life.

Why the change in onset? There are several theories out there with the biggest being that environmental chemicals are playing a role. We’re surrounded by chemicals in products everyday and some of these chemicals contain estrogen-mimicking, “gender-bending” chemicals – chemicals that disrupt hormones. For example, Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial petrochemical that acts as a synthetic estrogen, is found in our plastics and our tin can linings, in dental sealants and on cash-register receipts. In tests done by the Environmental Working Group, 90% of of newborns tested had BPA in their umbilical cord blood. Scary, huh? Other chemicals include phthalates, a group of industrial chemicals used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible and resilient. They’re also one of the most pervasive of the endocrine disrupters, found in everything from processed food packaging and shower curtains to detergents, toys and beauty products like nail polish, hair spray, shampoo, deodorants, and fragrances. There’s also PCBs and DDE which may also be associated with early sexual development in girls. And on top of all that, these chemicals can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Another possible factor in early puberty is a deficiency in Vitamin D. In one study, upon measuring vitamin D levels in 242 girls aged 5-12, researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that those who were deficient were twice as likely to start menstruation during the study period as those with higher levels. Vitamin D deficiency is also a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease and many other diseases. Entering puberty early also puts one at more risk for certain cancers such as breast cancer because one is exposed to estrogen for a longer period of time. So it could be that some of the increased risks that come from early puberty are linked to low vitamin D levels.

And finally, obesity and stress have both been linked to precocious puberty. Obesity exposes girls to more estrogen because estrogen is both stored and produced in fat tissue. The main theory about stress seems to be: “Evolutionary psychology offers a theory,” the New York Times reports. “A stressful childhood inclines a body toward early reproduction; if life is hard, best to mature young. But such theories are tough to prove.”

So what can you do? Looking at the above, you can try to avoid environmental chemicals as much as possible. You can make sure your daughter is getting plenty of sun exposure (while wearing plenty of sunscreen!) and taking a Vitamin D supplement. And regular exercise appears to be one of the best known ways to help prevent early puberty. Other things to keep in mind though are that because of precocious puberty, you may need to start broaching some tricky subjects with your child a bit earlier than you’d planned. Make sure your child knows their body will be changing and that it’s normal for everyone to change at different rates. Younger children are often far more receptive to talking about body issues and puberty. And there’s a possibility that the “birds and the bees” talk might need to happen earlier as hormones are hitting earlier. Most important of all though? Our daughters need us to model loving their bodies and appreciating what those amazing bodies can do rather than criticizing it or wishing for something different.

Could You Be B12 Deficient?

 

Did you know your ability to absorb Vitamin B12 gradually decreases with age? In fact, B12 deficiency is a silent epidemic with serious consequences to your health. Reports from the USDA show B12 deficiency may be more widespread than thought, with at least 40% of the population being severely deficient. Okay, yeah, so? Why do we even need B12? What does it do? Vitamin B12 is a powerhouse that helps make DNA, nerve and blood cells, and is crucial for a healthy brain and immune system. Plus your metabolism wouldn’t run smoothly without it. So, it’s pretty important. Add advancing age, certain prescription meds (such as heartburn medications), and a lack of meat in one’s diet (looking at you, vegetarians & vegans!) and you could find yourself severely lacking in vitamin B12.

So how do you know if you’re deficient? The following symptoms are signals of a possible deficiency!

  • Fatigue – The fatigue we’re talking about here isn’t the kind you get after a long day of work and chasing the kiddos around, on only 5 hours of sleep. Nope, this fatigue is constant and is around no matter how much sleep you get. Researchers from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found those who felt zapped of energy even though they get plenty of zzzzz’s may be struggling with low B12 levels. Why? Because your body relies on B12 to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your organs, and without enough oxygen in your cells, you’ll feel tired no matter how long you sleep.
  • Weakness – If they’re not getting enough oxygen from red blood cells, your muscles will feel like mush. This can equal weakness and sluggishness.
  • Dizziness – Been feeling a bit off-kilter? Frequent bouts of dizziness or vertigo often signal B12 stores are low. (ie experiencing a feeling of swaying when you get up too fast from a sitting position) One Turkish study compared the vitamin B12 levels of patients who sought treatment in the ER for dizziness with those of 100 healthy volunteers. The result? Those dizzy patients had 40% less B12 than the volunteers.
  • Vision IssuesNo, there isn’t something in your eye causing the spotting, blurred and double vision. Low B12 stores can lead to vision changes and actually damage vision, so you may experience light sensitivity, blurred or double vision, and tracers or shadows.
  • Pins & Needles – You know the numbness (and then tingling) you get when you leg goes to sleep after you have it tucked under you for too long? Well, if you experience that numbness/tingly sensation without something having fallen asleep, you might have a B12 problem. Remember the whole “poor red blood cell production from the lack of B12” thing? Yeah…that can result in nerve damage (and trust us, you do NOT want to go to there!).
  • Smooth Tongue – Smooth tongue? What? About half of people with a severe B12 deficiency lose the papillae—those little bumps—on their tongues, especially around the edges. Patients also complain of burning and soreness, particularly on the back of the tongue. And since most of those papillae contain taste buds, if you lose a lot of them even your favorite foods are going to taste blah.
  • Forgetfulness – Forgetting where you put the keys every once in awhile is one thing; chronic forgetfulness is quite another. It very well could be a vitamin B12 deficiency! Symptoms of a B12 deficiency often mimic those of dementia, such as memory loss, disorientation, and difficulty thinking and reasoning. It can be hard distinguishing deficiency from dementia, especially since older folks are at risk for both. And the two conditions often overlap; 75% to 90% of B12 deficient people also have neurological complications such as dementia. If you or a loved one is having issues with this one, you DEFINITELY want to get tested!

Feeling concerned about your vitamin B12 levels? We’ve got you covered! Integrative Wellness Advisors, working with nutraMetrix, offers a fabulous B-complex in isotonic form for maximum impact. You can find all the deets HERE and you can call or email us with any questions about B12 or any other health questions you may have! Let’s have a healthy & happy new year!