During parenting you experience many things while watching your kids grow. Infant (0 to 1 years old), toddler (1 to 3 years old), early childhood (4 to 8 years old), middle childhood (9 to 11 years old) and adolescence (12 to 18 years old), as each stage passes you observe some mental and physical development in your child. During the first three stages (Infant, toddler and early childhood) kids generally go through many natural physical changes of growth. These first 8 years of kids are extremely important for their healthy development and lifelong learnings. Cognitive, social, emotional, language and physical development during this time plays an important role in their life. At every stage a child needs you to understand the learnings and changes that they are experiencing around them. As they enter the puberty phase it becomes more important to be with them. This is the time for some major physical and hormonal changes, which may pop up some questions, which have to be answered properly, But the main question is what puberty is and at what age puberty starts?
What is Puberty? At what age puberty starts?
Puberty is the time when a boy or girl goes through a series of biological and physical transformations. Everyone has experienced this phase in life. It is a transition from childhood to adolescence. Teens go through some changes in their body and hormone levels during this phase. Puberty often begins early in girls as it falls between the ages of 8 to 13 in them. Although every girl has her own unique journey and puberty timing differs in each girl, it definitely brings some hormonal, physical and emotional changes in girls which are absolutely normal. 8 years of age sounds really young for seeing any physical changes. So, it is a little bit awkward to discuss puberty stages and the female reproductive system with your young girls, but it is important to start educating them on these topics before changes happen to best prepare them. It will make them much more comfortable to understand and accept the changes.
Sings of puberty among girls
Breast development: It is the first visible sign of puberty among most of the girls. One can notice “breast buds”, little bumps under the nipples. It is normal for the left and right breast to grow at different speeds. Its also normal for breast buds to be tender or sore, usually it improves with time. A sports bra can be a good choice to wear at this stage.
Body hair: In about 15-20% girls public hairs may be the first sign of puberty. These hairs begin to grow under the arms, around genital areas and on the legs. It is another sign of puberty among girls.
Vaginal discharge: This is a sign of growing numbers of estrogen hormones in the body. Girls experience a small amount of clear or white vaginal discharge that starts about 6-12 months before their first periods. It is considered as a sign of puberty among girls.
Periods: Girls usually get their first periods within 1-2 years after the development of breast buds. It is important to be aware that periods are a normal natural process of growing up. It can be irregular during the first few months as the body is adapting to some fast physical changes. Normal menstrual cycle can be from 21 days to 35 day. (Which foods can help during menstruation?)) Cramps and pains are normal with periods. There is nothing to worry about. But if menstrual cramps are severe and affecting school and normal day to day activities, talk to gynecologists.
Some other changes during puberty phase
Girls obviously face fast changes during puberty phase and thus their brain needs time to adjust. (Top 10 foods to boost kids brain power) It affects their behavior and social skills. You may observe some sort of clumsiness in their activities.
If girls hit puberty at an older age they may have lower bone density and can face bone issues further in life. so, it is the ideal time to invest in bone health. Including calcium and vitamin D rich foods in their diet can help them to get strong bones for lifetime. (How vitamin D can help to absorb calcium?)
There might be an increase in weight. (How to manage weight issues?) During puberty the brain instructs the ovaries to make female hormones estrogen. This hormone is responsible for the change in size and shape of a girl’s body. Fat can be seen around the upper arms, thighs and backs. Hips tend to become wider and curvy. Their organs like stomach, intestine also increase in size during this phase. More healthy and nutritious foods with protein, minerals calcium and iron should be included in their diet at this point of time.
Girls may grow taller during puberty. While entering into puberty girls can see an increase in height by 7-8 cm per year. Peak growth in girls’ height can be seen 6-12 months before the onset of their periods.
During puberty or you can say teenage there is a pattern developed in kids of staying up late at night and sleeping longer in morning. (Which foods can help to get better sleep naturally?) This happens because their body takes time to produce melatonin, a sleep promoting hormone. Sleep research suggests that a teenager should get at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep. But most of them get only 6-7 hours.
Skin and hairs
During puberty phase oil glands become more active. Due to this girls face acne issues. (How to treat my kids acne?) Sometimes it’s just an occasional pimple that occurs right before each menstrual cycle. But for some teens it can be a chronic condition which is known as acne. Mostly oily skin and acne issues go hand in hand. Many teen girls also face excessive sweat on the palm, soles of feet, under the arms, and in the scalp. Some teenage girls experience hair fall as they enter puberty. (What is the root cause of hair fall in kids?) Though it is curable and can be managed by following a healthy diet.
PCOS IN TEENS
PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome. It has become a common condition in teenage girls nowadays. Women make a female hormone that is entrogen. But she also makes male hormone testosterone in small amounts. The girls with PCOS make little extra of these male hormones. Though it is not clear what exactly causes PCOS, it is said that the genes you inherit from your family is the main cause for this hormone imbalance. If a mother has PCOS, daughters are at high risk of having it. The signs and symptoms include:- Irregular menstrual periods, very heavy and pain full periods, facial hair growth, acne and weight problems. If your girl has any of these issues, consult your gynecologist. PCOS is treatable and can be cured by making some changes in lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise.
Nutrients that can help during puberty
Girls need a balanced meal with adequate amounts of protein during puberty. It helps in growth and repair of muscles and tissues. It also generates enzymes and hormones. Protein rich diets help them to feel energetic throughout the day. (How can I provide needed protein to my kids?)
Many girls lead to iron deficiency and anemia. (How to overcome from iron deficiency?) This happens due to lack of iron because of an unbalanced diet. As per RDA (Recommended dietary allowances) guidelines 2020, the iron need for a girl ranges from 28-30mg/d. A girl needs more iron during puberty to restore their menstrual loss. It helps in muscle growth and increases blood volume too.
Girls need at least 800-1000mg of calcium per day. (How calcium helps in building strong bones?) They need it to build strong bones which can help them later in life. Deficiency of calcium can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis (Condition in which bones become weak and can easily break). Consumption of vitamin D is equally important as it helps in absorption of calcium.
The RDA for zinc is highest for teen girls ranging from 9- 12mg/day. Deficiency of zinc can lead to growth retardation in girls. It also promotes bone mineralization during puberty and helps to increase bone density.
This is the most essential nutrient to include in a girl’s diet. It helps in strengthening the uterus during puberty phase. Besides this it promotes healthy skin and optimum growth. It repairs tissue and helps in vision too.(How can we absorb vitamin A from foods?)
Ayurvedic herbs are well known for their healing and treating properties since ages. Manjishtha is one of the herb known for its blood purifying properties. Apart from that it is well known for treating pimples, enhancing moods, develops smooth blood flow during thus reduces the menstrual pain and helps in regulating periods and treating PCOS.
Neem is incredibly effective in treating acne issues. As girls enter into teenage their oil glands become more active and causes acne. The anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of neem have a positive impact on any kind of pimples, black or white heads. It control the harmful effects of acne causing bacteria. It also has antioxidants and medicinal properties which helps to purifies blood and promotes regular periods. Consuming neem leaves can help to fix period pain as it is an excellent pain reliever. (Why do we need antioxidants?)
Turmeric (Haldi) has medicinal benefits which helps to treat many medical conditions. It helps in balancing hormones and regulating menstrual cycle in girls. Turmeric is also rich in vitamin A, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2) and vitamin C and works as a perfect immunity booster food for teenage girls. Curcumin stimulates the production of bile in gallbladder it is used by liver to eliminate toxins and purify blood which helps to cure PCOS. (Immunity powder for kids)
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with protein, antioxidants, fiber and vitamins and minerals. They also include healthy fats which have anti-inflammatory effects and provide healthy structure to body cells. All of these nutrients are essential and beneficial for balancing hormones. Eating flax seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Almonds and Hazelnuts on regular basis can help to reduce the symptoms of PCOS.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb. It is an excellent stress reliever and can be immensely helpful for teenage girls. Researchers suggest that its root has sleep inducing compounds which can help to get better sleep naturally. It also induce raising the level of acetylcholine, the most important neurotransmitter associated with boosting brain power. (Health benefits of ashwagandha for kids)
Recipe: Wheat Berry cookies with hidden herbs and nuts
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