By Cassi Cowlam, BHSc(Nat) Naturopath, The Medical Sanctuary
The title of the book “Puberty Blues” can sum up perfectly that time in a child’s life when they are rapidly transitioning – no longer a child, but not yet an adult – and this period in their life can be fraught with mood changes among other things, hence the teenage mantra “You just don’t understand me!”
This time can be really tough on them – their body is experiencing major biological changes which they may not fully understand as the hormones start to kick in, their skin can begin to break out, expectations from school have hit a whole new benchmark, and mix this in with added peer pressure and the strong desire to “fit in”, which can increase their exposure to “risky behaviour” such as drinking and smoking, their self-esteem can get a hammering too.
What is really important to understand is that all these processes indicate a profound growth period in your child’s life, and their need of certain nutrients is actually amplified. If they are missing out on essential nutrients, it may not only physically hinder their growth, but you may also witness negative changes in their behaviour, hormones and mental functioning too.
For example, a growing teenager actually requires more protein per body weight than an adult, and if they are involved in regular physical activity, this requirement increases further. An easy calculation is for every kg of body weight, they need approximately 1g of protein (that means 1g of actual protein, for example a 95g can of tuna in springwater has 17.5g of actual protein). A slice of ham only has 4g to give you a comparison (a common school sandwich ingredient). Protein is not only essential for growth and repair, but building hormones, all body tissue, brain neurotransmitters and enzymes for all our metabolic processes. Protein is just one of the many essential nutrients needed.
The teenage years are a perfect time to shape and consolidate healthy eating and lifestyle behaviours, thereby preventing or postponing the onset of nutrition-related chronic diseases later on. It is so important to encourage body awareness, because when the body is out of balance, signs and symptoms will present themselves.
Common conditions that teens can be prone to are not just acne, but eating disorders, recurrent infections, anxiety, substance abuse, depression, menstrual problems, learning difficulties, obesity, gut dysfunction and severe nutritional deficiencies. All of these reflect that their body is out of balance, and if you have noticed negative changes in your teen’s health, then it may be necessary to get a health check to see if all their nutritional needs are being met.
Saying that, I have yet to find a remedy for eye rolling and taking excessive “selfies” …
About the author
Cassi is the Naturopath at The Medical Sanctuary in Benowa and trained in Live Blood Analysis which she conducts at this clinic. A graduate of the Australian College of Natural Medicine as well as the London College of Nutritional Medicine, Cassi has also been lecturing in natural medicine for the past 6 years at the Endeavour College of Natural Health.