What is Puberty?
Puberty is a significant physiologic event in human growth and biologic maturation. It is the process of physical change by which a child’s body develops into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. This is a milestone in a child’s life where maturity usually occurs in pre-teen to adolescent girls and boys with a four to five year physiological variation in age at puberty onset due to genetics, ethnicity, nutritional conditions, and secular trends.
Girls and boys are affected differently by the physical changes. Breast development is normally the first sign of puberty in girls followed by hair growth in the armpits and pubic areas with menstruation thereafter. In boys, puberty begins when the testicles and penis getting bigger followed by hair growth in the armpits and pubic area, muscle growth, deepened voice, facial hair, and ejaculation.
Most parents feel their children grow too quickly, but studies are showing that the age of biological adulthood in American children is plunging. Precocious puberty is occurring in both girls and boys as early as age two. Unfortunately, this is caused by common endocrine disruptors.
What is the Average Age of Puberty?
The average age of puberty is different for girls and boys. Girls normally enter puberty around the age of 10 to 11 years and end around 15 to 17 years. Boys enter around the age of 11 to 12 and end around 16 to 17.
However, the average age of puberty onset has been plummeting for nearly 160 years. With each passing decade, the age of onset has decreased by four to five months. Following is a list of years with ages of puberty onset for girls. Similar sets of figures have been reported for boys with a delay of one year.
- 1860 – 16.6 years
- 1920 – 14.6 years
- 1950 – 13.1 years
- 1980 – 12.5 years
- 2010 – 10.5 years
What Age is Precocious or Early Puberty?
Precocious puberty is puberty that takes place at an unusually early age. It can occur in girls before the age of 8 and boys before the age of 9. Girls and African American children are apt to early development.
Shockingly, girls as young as two years old have been reported with early puberty. Following is a list of the ages of girls who have entered early puberty with case percentages from studies.
- Less than 3 years old = 2%
- 3-7 years old – 38%
- 7-8 years old – 60%
Studies have also shown that precocious puberty is positively linked with obesity. Studies have found that 14 to 29 percent of girls and 26 to 39 percent of boys are considered obese.
Why are Children Entering Precocious or Early Puberty?
Over the last few decades, there has been a growing concern over the adverse effects in humans from exposure to chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system. The system of the body secretes hormones in the body for regulation, and the effects of disruptors include the following.
- Developmental abnormalities
- Reproduction interference
- Disrupted nervous system function
- Failed immunity
- Higher cancer risk
What are Some Common Endocrine Disruptors?
Unfortunately, early puberty is occurring at an alarming rate due to these chemicals. Following are some common endocrine disruptors.
BPA (found in plastics, food packaging, and the lining of food/beverage containers)
BHA & BHT (found in foods and gum as a preservative)
Dioxins (found in meat products)
Flame retardants (found in plastics, paint, furniture, electronics, food)
Heavy metals (found in foods, water, and mercury dental fillings)
Organohalogens (found in fluoride, chlorine, bromine which is found in public water systems)
Parabens (found in deodorants and polyester fabrics)
Perchlorate (found in pharmaceutical drugs)
Perfluorinated chemicals (found in some food packaging and non-stick cookware)
Pesticides (found in non-certified organic foods, soil, and water)
Phthalates (found in plastics, food packaging, cosmetics, and cleaning agents)
Phytoestrogens (found in soy products such as baby formula)
Triclosan (found in personal care and anti-microbial products)
UV filters (found in sunscreen and cosmetics)
Help Your Children Avoid Precocious Puberty
The best thing you can do to help your children avoid precocious or early puberty is to keep them away from endocrine disrupting chemicals. Following are some tips to help you support them.
Diet. Feed them a diet that is filled with certified organic and non-GMO foods. Include grass-fed meats, certified organic chicken and turkey, pasture-raised eggs, and wild-caught fish and seafood. Vegetables are very important as they are filled with nutrients – especially antioxidants that will fight the negative effects of harmful chemicals. Also, include healthy fats such as egg yolk, aged cheese, as well as nuts and seeds. Avoid pre-packaged, processed, and refined foods. Studies have also shown that sugar, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and salt disrupt the endocrine system of children; therefore, it’s best to limit these.
Water. If your tap water comes from public systems, be sure to use a high quality filter such as a reverse osmosis system.
Gum. Don’t let them chew gum. Most contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, and aspartame which is a harmful chemical.
Food Containers. Avoid plastic containers to store or heat your foods. Use only glassware.
Dental. Never allow your dentist to fill their cavities with mercury fillings. Opt for resin only. Also, buy a natural toothpaste without the fluoride and other chemicals for them to use.
Exercise & Sun. Take them outside to play for at least 30 minutes each day as exercise and the sun is healthy for proper development and immunity. Also, don’t use any sunscreen unless it is zinc oxide. Other sunscreens are filled with chemicals that alter hormones.
Stress-Free Zone. Let them be children, and take any pessimistic emotions out of their zone. Negative stress is not good for their development.