Puberty Blues – Is your Teen at Risk?
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, and expectations from school and family have hit a whole new benchmark. Mix these ingredients in with some added peer pressure and the strong desire to “fit in”, and this can equate to increased exposure to “risky behaviour” such as drinking and smoking, and 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. They are choosing more and more what they want to eat as their independence surges, but 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 to support their growth. If they are also involved in regular physical activity, this requirement increases further. An easy calculation to remember is that for every kg of their body weight, they need approximately 1g of protein to maintain their needs. 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. Add in Zinc, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Iron, Essential Fatty Acids, Magnesium …. (I can go on and on – the list is high) … and the risk of mood and behavioural disorders increases.
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 (not body self-consciousness), 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. We all want our kids to grow up healthy, happy and balanced.
Saying that, I have yet to find a remedy for eye rolling and taking excessive “selfies” …