‘Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ Prov 22:6
From birth, we are training our children to become flourishing adults - caring, confident, mature, and healthy. The seeds for these qualities are planted in childhood, and in the case of health, we may start seeing the fruit in puberty. Pimples, moodiness and painful periods are just some of the obstacles children face at this time of life. With good nutrition however, these conditions may be avoided or minimised. Try finding old photos of pimply youths in cultures with traditional diets – you won’t find any. It is only when the highly processed, high sugar, high human intervention diet is introduced that these maladies arise. If you have struggled with maintaining a healthy diet for your family, don’t give up now. Those pimples may be just the trigger needed to get the kids on board with a new Precious Puberty lifestyle!
Look at this brief guide as a lifestyle rather than a prescription. If I were to write an info sheet on breast cancer prevention or heart health, it would look very much like this one. The good news is that by adopting the suggestions here, we are not only helping our children now, we are reducing their risk of disease, and obesity, later in life. But this is not only a guide for your children. The whole family can benefit by adopting this approach.
‘Every good and perfect gift is from above.’ James 1:17
A diet high in fruit and vegetables, with some legumes, whole grains, protein and good fats is your key to health and vitality for you and your family. Additionally, eliminating needless exposure to nasty chemicals in your child’s diet and in your home reduces exposure to a major source of hormone disruption.
In a nutshell, we need to put the good stuff in and leave the bad stuff out. The good stuff means a rainbow of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Then add whole grains, good oils, plus plant and animal protein. Give your child a couple of pieces of fresh fruit every day, and at least two good serves of vegetables. Encourage snacking on vegetables such as a carrot with hummus, or celery filled with nut butter. Eat organic where possible to reduce exposure to pesticides, fungicides etc. Organic or grass fed meat and high quality dairy (small amounts) are equally important. Like humans, animals store toxins in their fat cells, so we want our butter and lamb to be full of nutrition not sprays and antibiotics.
In addition, we need plenty of clean water, fresh air, sunshine and toxin free cleaning and personal care products in the home.
Bad stuff means sugar, refined flours or processed foods, fruit juice concentrates, regular milk, standard cleaning and personal care products and excessive time in front of a screen.
‘First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.’ Mat 23:26
Pimples and acne occur when the tiny oil glands on the skin are blocked by sticky or viscous sebum. Once blocked, bacterial infection may occur which causes the red rash affect suffered by many teenagers. Your child could take antibiotics which would treat the secondary infection, or just apply a steroidal spot cream, however what we really want to do is reduce the stickiness of the sebum. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s), in particular Omega 3, are anti-inflammatory, and keep sebum in a non-sticky fluid state. They also help with those teenage mood swings as EFA’s contribute to the function of our nervous system.
Note that while we need our omega 3, 6 and 9 fats in our diet, we need to avoid trans fats. Trans fats are hydrogenated fats such as canola oil. They are often found in corn chips and pastries, and an overload of these fats is damaging.
The other key for cleaning the inside of the dish so to speak, is fibre. Dietary fibre or roughage refers to the fibre and bulk of foods and is vital for all stages of digestion, especially for absorption of nutrients and for elimination. A high fibre diet ensures our children have soft, regular stools (soft but formed like a sausage is the goal). Fibre has been found to reduce the risk of fibroids, endometriosis, breast cancer and a range of other conditions.
Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are high in fibre. Unfortunately, the fibrous husk of grains is discarded during milling, and fruit juice contains no fibre. We therefore require a diet of whole grains and fresh whole fruit for bowel health. Steer clear of refined flour products and processed foods, opting instead for whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and rolled oats. Apples and pears with their skin left on are great sources of fibre, as are vegetables such as carrots and broccoli. Legumes such as chickpeas and kidney beans, and seeds such as chia or flax are other simple ways of increasing the fibre in your diet. They also beans provide resistant starch that helps feed the good gut flora. Try some home made baked beans, or even adding lentils to soups or bolognaise sauce. My recipe book, It’s All Good, has heaps of ideas and family friendly recipes.
The goal is to have a healthy gut which means regular, easy elimination. If this is not the case for your child, make an appointment for a gentle liver or bowel detox. As a child’s liver is not fully developed, healthy bowel function is essential not only for absorption of vital nutrients, but also for processing hormones and toxins.
Puberty Foods and Nutrients
Add these super puberty foods to your child’s rainbow diet.
MAGNESIUM: mood stabiliser, relieves headaches and period cramps. Some types of magnesium help with regular bowel movements.
Food sources: dark leafy greens, cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, whole barley, buckwheat, brown rice, avocado, natural dried apricots, fish, legumes. Fuss free ways of increasing dark leafy greens include making a Spinach and Rice Pie (see It’ All Good for recipe), or adding a handful to a smoothie.
ZINC: Zinc is especially beneficial for boys. Zinc deficiency can cause an excess of a type of testosterone (DHT) that leads to acne, body odour… and possibly prostate enlargement and hair loss later in life.
Food sources: red meat, nuts, pumpkin seeds, whole grains and legumes.
SELENIUM: anti inflammatory, reduces risk of prostate and ovarian cancer
Food sources: brazil nuts. Eat two brazil nuts daily, raw, in a trail mix, or add to a smoothie.
IODINE: Iodine deficiency can lead to a host of reproductive issues later in life such as breast cancer and PCOS.
Food Sources: Seafood, sea vegetables, organic eggs. Be aware that Himalayan salt is low in iodine, so add kelp. Snack on seaweed crisps, add kelp to Himalayan salt, sprinkle roast seaweed on salads
AVOCADOS: Rich in beneficial fats, the most important of these for our kids are the plant sterols. Plant sterols reduce oestrogen absorptions. This is critical today for both boys and girls with the vast amount of oestrogen mimics or ‘gender bending chemicals’ in our environment. Avos also contain carotenoids for eye health, vit C, vit K, potassium, magnesium and B vitamins – all great for growing bodies and minds. And they are full of fibre – how good is that! Add generous slices to an organic corn thin; smash it up with lemon juice for a dip with veggie sticks or add to a green smoothie.
FLAXSEEDS: Full of micronutrients, fibre and essential fatty acids to aid clear skin and hormone balance. Add a dessertspoon of ground flaxseed to smoothies or sprinkle on your child’s breakfast, or add it to baking. Mix flaxseed oil with lemon juice for a salad dressing. Store oil and ground flax in the fridge. Also known as linseed.
FISH AND FISH OILS: Wild caught fresh fish especially salmon. Tinned sardines are the best of tinned fish as they contain the skin and bones, and being small are less likely to be contaminated with mercury. Sardines also contain vit A and EFA’s, selenium, calcium and magnesium.
WATER: Drink plenty of clean, filtered water. Chlorine destroys pathogens in our water supply, and it follows that chlorine will also destroy bacteria in our gut. So buy a filter or be a filter.
GOOD BUGS: The number one thing we can do to help keep the biome happy is to avoid sugar. Sugar leads to an overgrowth of ‘bad’ gut bacteria. Bad gut bacteria affects the metabolism of hormones leading to imbalance and increases inflammatory responses. This can lead to acne, and more serious bowel issues down the track. If your kids are hooked on juices or soft drink, try switching them to coconut water, kombucha or simply drink water. Another bowel healer is broth – make up chicken stock from organic chicken frames. Use this to make chicken soup, or to flavour rice or millet dishes. (see It’s All Good for stock recipe)
Note that acne may be a sign of inflammation resulting from a food sensitivity. If your child a food sensitivity, has problems with elimination, has been on antibiotics, or has serious sugar cravings, they certainly need dietary change, and may need a gentle bowel healing program. I recommend booking an appointment if this is the case.
OUTDOOR EXERCISE: We all understand the benefits of exercise. What is equally important is where we do it. Despite the negative press, sunshine is good for us. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin is essential for strong bones and a healthy immune system. A lack of vitamin D has been linked with early menstruation.
Your child may require targeted supplements in addition to a healthy diet.
Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to read the alarming, and empowering book ‘Mothers Prevent Your Daughters from Breast Cancer’, by Sherrill Sellman. This book highlighted the connection between early puberty and an increased risk of breast cancer. Dr Sellman blew the whistle on the hormone disrupting and potentially carcinogenic effects of the thousands of chemicals we use in our homes and on our bodies every day. We immediately took action and eliminated any avoidable chemicals from our home. I recommend you do the same.
Puberty is an age where the girls want to start wearing make up or hair spray, boys are using deodorant and styling gels. These chemicals are being inhaled and absorbed through their skin at a time when their bodies are especially vulnerable to hormone disruption. There are many ways you can reduce the toxic load, and my book ‘It’s All Good’ has a more comprehensive discussion on this topic. To begin with, ensure the following are toxin free:
- Make up- use minimal amounts of natural products
- Personal care items – choose brands that use essential oils for fragrance rather than damaging perfumes. Use aluminium free deodorant and avoid anti-perspirant. We use Modere products which I trust on our daughter’s skin, and love to use myself.
- Gentle cleansers – try Modere, Weleda or the Jojoba Company, or source a a natural fibre sponge
- Blemish cream – try Moo Goo or Jojoba Company
- Tampons and pads – organic cotton, or try a menstrual cup when your daughter is old enough to manage this
- Never use talc which is a known carcinogen
Ideally, switch all your cleaning products over to non-toxic brands. The most important is your laundry powder as your child is exposed to the chemicals 24/7. We use the Modere range of safe, effective cleaning products. ( See the Modere range at www.modere.com.au. Enter the promo code 689502 for a $10 voucher with your first order.)
Contact me to make an appointment for more personalised help for your family.