Words by Dr Cris Beer The teenage years are a challenge not just for parents by for the teens themselves. With all those hormones surging in their bodies at record amounts there can be some significant disruption to the physical and emotional wellbeing of your developing teenager. But this time does not have to be one to dread but can be eased if you understand which hormones have been switched on in puberty and which natural supplements can provide some support and alleviation of the hormonal surges. The primary hormones that kick in in puberty are the sex hormones and include:
- Testosterone in boys – testosterone surges in boys cause a rapid deepening in their voice, growth of facial, underarm, and pubic hair, and development of a masculine physique. Accompanying a physical change in a boy’s appearance will be a newfound desire to test their independence and aggression. This too is part of the testosterone surge and not to be confused with rebellion. Sexual desire grows in accordance with testosterone levels and can be an awkward time for boys. Following on from all of these changes will be a boy’s final growth spurt somewhere around the age of 17 to 19. The later a boy develops oftentimes the taller he will eventually be.
Naturally supplements which can help your boy transition through puberty include vitamin B6 for mood changes, a good quality fish or cod liver oil as well as a zinc supplement to assist with growth, calcium for skeletal development, magnesium to assist with sporting activities, and plenty of good quality protein to help with muscle development. Steer your teen boy away from processed foods which are high in refined sugars and artificial colours and flavours which can spark hyperactivity and other behavioural changes in many boys.
- Oestrogen (and later progesterone) in girls – oestrogen causes girls to start to develop firstly breasts, then pubic and underarm hair, and finally menstrual periods. Girls can start developing as young as seven or eight and can have their first menstrual period anywhere from the ages of nine to sixteen. A girl’s final growth spurt will be just before she starts menstruating so oftentimes, just like boys, the later she develops the taller she will be when she finishes growing. Throughout this time oestrogen surges can cause breast tenderness, moodiness, oily skin and hormonal acne. Many girls will also not like their newfound curves and may notice the development of stretch marks due to rapid changes in breasts and hips.
Supplements that can help your girl with these issues include vitamin B6 for hormonal irritability, evening primrose oil for breast tenderness, iron for anaemia and fatigue, and zinc for stretch marks and acne. If your daughter is having difficulties with her menstrual periods a natural supplement called chasteberry (vitex agnus-castus) can help. Steer your girl away too from foods that contain high amounts of oestrogenic hormones including hormone-fed chicken and soy milks and other soy-based foods. Hopefully the above natural strategies will allow your family to sail through the changes that come with the teenage years and help calm those raging teenage hormones. If you feel that your teen needs extra support or there is anything else you are concerned about consider seeking advice from a nutritionally medicine trained practitioner who can provide that next level of advice.