This week, I want to dive into a topic that has been increasingly gaining attention in the medical community and could have significant implications for our children: Early Periods, the trend of girls experiencing their first menstrual period earlier than previous generations. Factors like improved nutrition, higher body mass, and environmental influences contribute to this shift. Early onset of menstruation can impact physical and mental health. To support your child’s well-being, focus on a balanced diet, regular exercise, and fostering awareness about bodily changes.

The Shift in Puberty Timing

Recent findings published in JAMA Network Open reveal that girls in the U.S. are now getting their first menstrual period approximately six months earlier on average than they did in the 1950s and ’60s. This study, involving over 71,000 women who shared their experiences via the Apple Research App, highlights that the average age for the onset of menstruation has decreased from 12.5 years to 11.9 years between 2000 and 2005. Even more striking is the increase in very early menstruation, with more girls starting their periods before the age of 9.
Dr. Shruthi Mahalingaiah from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health emphasizes the need for parents and caregivers to be informed about this trend. “The younger you are when you get your first period, the more confusing it can be. There’s still a lot of stigma and silence around it,” she points out.

Understanding the Causes

So, what’s driving this change? Researchers suggest multiple factors are at play, including:

  • Obesity: There’s a strong link between higher body weight and earlier puberty. With childhood obesity rates rising, this could be a significant contributing factor.
  • Stress: Elevated stress levels increase cortisol and androgen hormones (testosterone), which fat tissue converts into estrogen, signaling the body to start puberty.
  • Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Substances like phthalates, found in many personal care products, and certain pollutants can interfere with hormone function.

Why should we be concerned about early Periods?

Dr. Lauren Houghton from Columbia University explains that the age of first menstruation is a vital sign of overall health. Early menstruation is linked to several adverse health outcomes, including:

  • Increased Risk of Breast Cancer: Girls experiencing Early Periods, beginning menstruation before age 12, face a 20% higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Cardiovascular Disease and Obesity: Early puberty is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular issues and obesity.
  • Reproductive Health Issues: Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are more common with irregular menstrual cycles.

Dr. Frank Biro from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital warns that these trends could lead to a rise in breast cancer cases over the next few decades.

What Can You Do?

As parents and caregivers, there are several proactive steps we can take to support our children:

  • Promote a Healthy Diet: Encourage a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, while minimizing processed and sugary foods.
  • Exercise: Physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces stress levels.
  • Prioritize Sleep: Establish consistent sleep routines to ensure your child gets adequate rest, as sleep patterns are linked to puberty timing.

Practical Tips for Supporting Your Child

  • Educate Yourself: Stay informed about the signs of early puberty and potential contributing factors.
  • Create a Supportive Environment: Make sure your child feels comfortable discussing their experiences and concerns with you.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: If you have concerns about your child’s development, consult a healthcare professional for advice and support.

Understanding the trend towards earlier puberty and its health implications is crucial for ensuring our children’s well-being. I know from personal experience how challenging it can be to try to get our kids to live the healthiest of lifestyles. My number one strategy is simple, straightforward education. I have been educating my kids on the benefits of what I consider to be a healthy lifestyle their entire lives. They definitely haven’t always followed my suggestions but because they were kind of “brainwashed” with this education they have adopted healthy habits over time. I didn’t force it, I waited for them to realize it was time to work on their own health.
Want some help with strategies to get your home to be healthy? Reach out and let’s talk.

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Yours in health,

Dr. Jason Piken DC, CNS, PAK

Dr. Jason Piken

Dr. Jason Piken is a Chiropractor, Certified Nutrition Specialist and Health Coach who offers a unique holistic and whole body approach to nutrition and wellness.

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