Monday, September 17, 2012

What is Causing Early Onset Puberty?

A friend recently sent me a message on Facebook, asking if I knew why girls were starting their periods so early these days. I remember some talk about this when I was a kid. Most of my friends began menstruating around age 11 or 12. Our parents talked in hushed voices about how young we were to be going through this.

A quick Google search left me with my mouth hanging open...apparently it's becoming quite common for girls to start going through puberty at age 7 or 8 now! This is only, at the most, 20 years since my coming of age. What in the world is going on?

Several factors are thought to be contributing to this disturbing trend.

    A cow with Mastitis
  • Hormones in dairy products and meat. In order to increase profits, dairy farmers inject cows with a synthetic hormone that makes them produce more milk. This leads to painful swelling and bacterial infections in the cows udders. They give them antibiotics to combat the infections. Guess what that means? The hormones, the antibiotics, and the pus from the infected udders all end up in your milk. Yum. Back in the 1950's, dairy cows produced 5300 pounds of milk in one year. Now, they produce 18,000 pounds a year. The same is true for animals raised for meat. The farmers want them to grow as quickly as possible so they can send them off to slaughter and get paid. The hormones end up in our bodies and make us grow more and grow faster as well. They are also suspected of causing cancer. It's interesting to note that the European Union has banned the use of these hormones and even banned imports of beef from the United States because of the hormone use here. Organic dairy and meat do not use any synthetic hormones. However, as a former vegan, you will never hear me suggesting that you eat meat. As for dairy, I now feel that a little bit is okay, especially for babies and children, but if you really think about it...cow's milk is meant for baby cows, not adult humans. Try other types of milk instead...rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, hempseed milk, etc. (Notice I didn't say soymilk! Keep reading.)
Normal chicken on the left, chicken hopped up on growth hormones on the right, from the fabulous movie "Food Inc."

  • Soy products. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that naturally occurs in our bodies. However, high levels of estrogen have been linked to breast cancer and are suspected of causing girls to mature faster. Soy is a cheap form of oil and it is in almost every processed food on the market. There is much debate about whether soy is a health food or a hazard, and whether fermented is better than non-fermented. I will be writing an in depth post about this in the future. For now I will say avoid non-organic soy at all costs. It is almost always genetically modified. Limit your soy intake. 
  • BPA and other endocrine disrupting chemicals. BPA stands for Bisphenol A, which is a chemical widely used in the plastics industry. Up until a few years ago, baby bottles, sippy cups, teethers, and toys contained this chemical. Public outcry has led to removal from most baby products, but it's still surrounds us in everything from store receipts to the lining that coats the inside of canned food. BPA is not the only offender. These hormone disrupting chemicals are everywhere and it's nearly impossible to avoid them. Flame retardants in furniture and children's pajamas, chemicals in shampoos and makeup, even air fresheners and fragrances...think twice before taking a big whiff of that smell good stuff. It could make you very sick. The worst part is that no safety testing is required before the chemicals are put into consumer products. Reduce your exposure by avoiding plastics as much as possible. Don't EVER microwave food in plastic or put plastic through the dishwasher, even if it says you can on the package. High temps allow the chemicals to leech out into your food. (Just don't ever microwave food for that matter!) We reuse glass jars for food storage (even though the lids do have coating with BPA). We reheat food using the stove or oven. I threw our microwave in the trash years ago. Also, avoid canned food when you can due to the BPA in the lining coating.


This article from MSNBC talks about a girl who began going through puberty at age 7. Her parents and her doctors decided to take drastic measures to slow her maturation. According to the article, "She now has an implant placed under the skin of her upper arm that doles out regular doses of a drug that blocks the spiking hormones that were taking her into early sexual maturity." The thought of a nation of seven year old girls walking around with implants in their arms sends chills down my spine. We have to prevent this from happening to our children.

This is truly a topic big enough to write a book on. I hope I've given you a thorough overview and I encourage you to do your own research. Here are a few websites that contain great information. I know it's easy to get overwhelmed and stick your head in the sand. Just take it one step at a time and keep reminding yourself why you are making these changes.

Plastic-free Living Guide- This is an amazing resource and blog by an inspiring woman who pledged to cut plastic out of her life. We can all learn a lot from her!

Slow Death By Rubber Duck- This is a very informative hour long radio show interview. Here is the description from the station website: In their new book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things, Canadian environmentalists Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie write that "we're all marinating in chemicals every day." Smith and Lourie spent a week exposing themselves to the common household chemicals found in furniture, shampoos, paint, electronics, cookware, and canned foods. They slathered themselves with shaving gels, ate from microwaved plastic containers, cooked in Teflon pans, plugged in air fresheners, and slept on flame-retardant laced furniture — then they tested their blood for levels of chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), mercury and phthalates. This hour, Lourie and Smith discuss their findings and the health risks posed by everyday products.

Dr. Oz- I'm not a Dr. Oz freak. This is actually the first one of his shows I've seen, but it's a good one. It's three segments, divided so you have to watch commercials between each one. Annoying, yes, but still worth it. All 3 segments only add up to about 15 minutes, so this is a quick watch.

Take Action- Last but not least, go here to use all that outrage you just mustered up to sign some petitions and make your voice heard. Change will not happen unless we demand it.