Years ago, kids didn't hit puberty until they were in their teens. A century ago, many girls didn't start getting their periods until age 15, 16, or even 17.
Gradually, this age has declined. A 1997 study (see Pediatrics 1997; 99:505) showed the average age of puberty in girls to be approximately 9 years of age.
Because of studies such as this one, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been lowering the age that officially defines “precocious puberty.”
Regardless of what is technically considered early, the facts are that both boys and girls are reaching puberty at younger and younger ages, which raises their risk for health issues later in life including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome/ heart disease, fertility issues, breast cancer in women and testicular cancer in men.
Luckily, parents can use preventative measures to avoid the major culprits known to lead to early puberty. Lifestyle habits including diet and exercise as well as exposure to toxins and hormones have a big impact on healthy puberty ages for kids.
Seven steps to avoiding early puberty
#1 – Get fit
Encourage your children to eat healthy and exercise regularly by setting a good example, preparing food, and getting active with them.
Excess body fat causes the body to produce excess estrogen, and this can lead to early breast development in girls and hormone imbalance in boys.
#2 – Steer kids clear of hormones and pesticides
Serve only good quality meat and dairy products from pasture raised animals, and organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. The hormones and pesticides in non-organic animal food sources can mimic estrogen in the body.
#3 – Chuck the soy products
Even organic soy acts as a plant-estrogen that interferes with the body's natural hormones. If your family is vegetarian, eat soy only occasionally and find other sources of protein. Soy formula should absolutely be avoided for babies.
#4 – Avoid toxins
- Octyldimethyl – PABA (OD-PABA)
- Benzophenone-3 (BP-3)
- Bisphenol A
- Homo salate (HMS)
- Octyl – methoxycinnamate (OMC)
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC)
#5 – Use filtered water
Filtered drinking and cooking water helps to detoxify the body and avoids exposure to chemicals. BPA is a toxin that is present in plastic water bottles that is known to contribute to early puberty. Urban water should be tested regularly if you drink it unfiltered in your home. Where to find the right water filter for every need and budget
#6 – Chill Out
Last but not least, stress has proven to be a huge contributor to early puberty. Anthropological studies have tracked early menses in girls and higher domestic stress levels, seeming to prove that the female body knows that when a girl would begin menses (at least in old times), she would be married off–her biological ‘exit strategy' from a stressful home environment. In modern times, it's still wise to help your kids' to reduce stress.
Dealing with early puberty
If your child has started puberty early despite all your best efforts, don't be too alarmed.
For some children, puberty at a young age can be genetic or otherwise normal. Discuss the changes he or she may be experiencing from a place of openness and compassion.
Be sure to continue to follow the guidelines above, and by all means, embrace your child's transition into adolescence. A small celebration, a meaningful gift, or a thoughtful letter will help to make this rite of passage a special one at any age.
Have you taken steps to help your kids avoid known causes of precocious puberty?