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What’s a Mom to Do? Preventing Early Puberty and Hormone Problems in Our Daughters – Here’s the Why and How

As a mom of 3 daughters, and now a tiny granddaughter, I am concerned about our girls’ reproductive health. And I’d like to share why.

For years scientists have disagreed whether early puberty was really an emerging phenomenon. Now there’s no doubt. Girls are getting their periods earlier. Many about a year earlier, according to a 2007 article in the Journal of Adolescent Health. But a study published in Pediatrics in 2011 found that in the United States, 15% of American girls begin puberty by age 7. Their breasts are starting to grow at a younger age, too. Black and Latinas girls are the most affected, but it is happening in all populations.

“Some girls get their period as young as 8,” begins a section for mothers on the Kotex U Brand website. Kotex initially spent over $23 million in research and development to target their new young consumer group.

Some doctors are calling this the “new normal,” according to Science News. But there is nothing normal about it and many physicians and scientists are quite alarmed. And even if your daughter isn’t showing signs of early puberty, she may still be exposed to the factors that cause it – so please read on…

It’s not just that having your period in second grade, or your breasts develop in kindergarten really sucks for all of the obvious social and emotional reasons. It’s also a sign that something is seriously wrong in our daughters’ endocrine (hormonal) systems. They are getting “hormonally hot-housed.” Endocrine disruption can increase our daughters’ risk of developing hormonally related cancers later in life. It also increases a girl’s risk of sexual harassment and abuse, early sexual involvement, and risk-taking behaviors. She might be seen as, and potentially act, more sexually mature than she actually is psychologically and emotionally.

Our daughters (and our sons, too) are unwittingly the canaries in our social and ecologic coal mine.

There is little mystery underlying this increased rate of early puberty. Medical problems that cause it such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, disorders of the gonads (ovaries in girls, testes in boys) or adrenal glands, McCune-Albright syndrome, or hormone-secreting tumors are exceptionally rare.

The 3 biggest contributors to early puberty are:

1. Obesity: About 20% or more of US kids are now obese. This rate has tripled in the past 30 years, and this trend corresponds to earlier puberty.

2. Exposure to environmental toxins that act as estrogen in the body: Many substances used in flame retardant fabrics, cosmetics, plastics, pesticides, detergents and other common household and industrial products can mimic the effect of estrogen in our bodies. The CDC has linked a solvent used in some mothballs and solid blocks of toilet bowl deodorizers and air fresheners to earlier menstruation – they also found it in the bodies of nearly all the people tested in the U.S.! It doesn’t take much exposure to cause health effects, which may include increased risk of early puberty, diabetes, and cancer. These environmental chemicals accumulate over time and because they accumulate and are stored in fat cells, may be even more of a problem for overweight girls.

3. Stress: Stress can wreak havoc on the endocrine system. And most of us suffer from stress starting at any earlier age than ever. Inadequate sleep, school pressures, stress at home, peer pressure and bullying are just a few of the major stressors to which our girls are regularly exposed. Stress can also make us fatter; more fat means more estrogen and this can lead to earlier puberty.

While government, food companies, and industry also need to tackle these issues on a global scale, the factors leading to early puberty and endocrine disruption in our daughters can be prevented or mitigated through the diet and lifestyle choices we make and teach them.

Here are steps you can take: 

Prevent/Reduce Obesity

  • Cut out the soda and juice completely! (Water is the best beverage)
  • Cut portion sizes in half
  • Do your best to eliminate bread, pasta, potatoes and white rice from the diet: emphasize good quality proteins and vegetables as the mainstay of their diets
  • Cut the amount of TV watching in half (and adding exercise will make this even better!)
  • Make sure you are doing all of these things yourself!

Prevent Exposure to “Environmental Estrogens”

  • Avoid flame retardant products (see my blog)
  • Encourage your girls to avoid cosmetics, and if they are going to use them, go natural. It’s more expensive in the short run, but the health price tag is much lower over time!
  • Get your daughter a glass water bottle and teach her not to drink out of plastic bottles
  • Avoid plastic wrapped foods and plastic food containers for reheating and storing hot foods as much as possible.
  • Eat organic whenever possible, especially dairy products, which accumulate environmental contaminants, and foods in the “dirty dozen”.

Stress-Proof Your Daughter

  • Teach your daughter to get help from a teacher and to come to you if there are peer stressors at school or bullying
  • Encourage your daughter to join a school or after school sport, dance class, or other physical activity which is enjoyable for her
  • Reduce exposure to TV violence
  • Teach simple meditation or relaxation skills to be done before bedtime, exams, or in a stressful situation. Simply breathing in and saying, “I am” on the inhale, and “At peace” on the exhale 4 times in a row, or “counting to 10” with deep breathing can make a difference!

Teach Your Daughters Well

If your daughter has a medical condition or other reasons that she’s already gone through puberty, it’s absolutely important to help her feel comfortable in her body and not add to her stigma. But for all of our daughters’ sakes, obese should not be the new norm, nor should early puberty. We can teach our daughters the healthiest possible habits from their earliest years and give them a lifetime of health.

 

Do you have questions, concerns? Do you have ideas on supporting our daughters’ hormonal health? Please share in the comments below. 

 

References

Bell, L. Early Arrival: Premature puberty among girls poses scientific puzzle. Science News. December 1, 2012; Vol.182 #11.

Konkel L. Early puberty? Girls exposed to household chemical menstruate earlier, CDC study finds. August 2012.

Newman, AA. A Younger Group for Feminine Products. New York Times Advertising Section. April 14, 2011.

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Comments

  1. Dear Aviva,

    Thanks so much for this great post. I couldn’t agree more. You tackled a thorny problem and did a great job of explaining it clearly. I’ll be sharing this.

    Elizabeth Allemann, MD
    Family Physician, Missouri, USA

  2. My daughter Angelica started her menstruation a week before her 10th birthday as did I when I was 10. I tried to prevent it with herbs and diet but I guess it was inevitable. She is blessed with confidence and very active. however it does make me a little sad that she is a little girl in a woman’s body. She is also mature beyond her years mentally

    • Time and youth are precious and sometimes I feel like nature has rushed her into adolescents too quickly and I have to discuss subjects I wasn’t prepared for but I am thankful she is handling it well.

    • And of course, for a subset of girls, this is perfectly normal. So please don’t beat yourself up that you did anything wrong! That is definitely not the point of this article! :)

    • My daughter was 11 going on 12 when she got her period and had been menstruating every 3 weeks at one stage, and also developed a strong odour under her arms. After finding Carolyn Dean’s website I have her taking 2 Magnesium Choride tablets each weekday morning with a teaspoon of Chlorophyll in a glass of water. Both are good at removing toxins from the body and purifying the blood. We also eat really well through the week with night meals being meat and salad or veges, but I don’t deprive her of some treats on the weekend. Since starting the above routine, her body odour has gone and her periods have stopped at the moment. So I am happy about that as I was 15 when I got my periods.

      • Denielle,
        that’s wonderful that you were able to stall puberty until a later date. I wish you’ll read this and give a little more information, it’ll be greatly appreciated.

        How’d you come up with this combo? I can’t find any specific info on Mg Cl and chlorophyll for precocious puberty on Dr Dean’s site.
        What brand of Mg Cl are you using? how many mgs per tablet?
        which brand of chlorophyll?
        Did you build the dose up slowly?
        Have you seen any other benefits? were there any adjustment side effects? (changes in stools/sleep/ etc?
        How long have you been giving these?
        Thanks so much for sharing this.

        • My daughter is just 8 and start her breast growing please home can I have that prescription ? Did she answer you? I really need

      • My daughter is just 8 and start her breast growing please home can I have that prescription ? Thank you to share

  3. Good Morning,

    This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I have 3 daughters, ages 21, 17, and 9. Last year all 3 of them developed endocrine issues, so I focused my life on supporting them and getting them healthier. My oldest developed a huge ovarian tumor that required surgery and she lost an ovary and tube. The docs initially thought it was cancer, but we got lucky. My 17 year old developed thyroid issues, and my cute little, then -8 year old started to develop breasts, even though she is tall and skinny.

    I instantly changed our diet over to about 95% organic. We had been mostly organic, but I let a lot of areas slide… We also live in an area of extremely high pesticide use, and while we couldn’t afford to sell our home and move, it does worry me a lot. I switched to natural cleaners, and got rid of anything made with lavender, as that is also known to mimic hormones. We then cut all soy out of our food sources, which isn’t too hard when you are making everything from scratch, but the use of soy is insidious. It’s hard to even find organic chocolate without soy in it!

    It was a lot of time to cook completely homemade, but with planning ahead and doing a lot of baking on the weekends, I survived and learned how to make really tasty things at home like granola bars and bagels.

    After 6 months of this strictness, I took the 8 year old back to the endocrinologist and she was shocked and surprised that the breast changes my daughter had had, were actually reversed! I really believe the soy was the biggest culprit, (as well as the environmental influences that couldn’t be changed). I have always been very focused on nutrition and buying in bulk from a co-op to make all our bread, etc.,so the soy was the biggest change. It’s really scary how much garbage is snuck into our food that is unhealthy!

    Thanks for bringing this topic to attention. Every time I see a little girl who is starting puberty, I just want to grab the Mom and help her stop that now with diet and reducing environmental influences. It’s sad that many don’t blink an eye at the craziness of these little children developing adult bodies at such a young age.

    • Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience.

    • Fantastic, Keene, I am so glad you had such good insight and results Yay for you and your daughter who is lucky to have a smartie mom!

    • Hi Keene

      I am very interested in your comments and would love to ask you some more questions about your experiences. My daughter is 8 and showing signs of puberty already which has greatly alarmed me. We have had quite a lot of soy in our diet over the years as she does not get on well with dairy products and as I read more have begun to become more aware of the negative impact this can have. Please let me know how I can get in touch directly. thanks

    • Hi Keene, we have a 9 year Daughter, she start to develop breast, we have been organic for 4
      years now, have never consume soy. We raise our own meat and eggs & grind our flower from spelt berries. what did you do to reverse breast develop in your daughter? I think we will go to an naturopath, any suggestion will be appreciated.

      may the Lord bless you.
      thank you

      • hi judith,
        i’d see if there are any underlying causes first or whether she is just naturally an early bloomer….reversing it is usually a matter of decreasing systemic estrogen and any exposures (ie BPA in plastics). best wishes! aviva

    • HI
      My 9 year old daughter is showing some changes. THanks you for your comments on soy. SHe has been tested and found to have a herbicide affecting her that we have started homeopathic medicine to remove. Cross fingers it will helpp
      Also she was affected by the radiation from the neighbour;’s cordless landline and wifi so we asked them to remove them

    • Thanks Keene..my daughter is 8 yrs old and started having pubic hair..really worried.
      Dr. said cant help as its natural..but I dont want to giveup…thanks for sharing ur experience…it boosts me..nw will take care of her diet..

  4. Thank you for this post. I have an 8 year old daughter who, thankfully, is still childlike. But it’s scary to know that puberty is coming early to our girls. I appreciate the helpful tips you offer to help those who may be dealing with this and not just fear-mongering as I have seen on other websites. Looking forward to your pediatric course in the future.

  5. The problem of obesity also stems from the amount of processing in our foods. Eating healthy, homegrown foods, I believe, helps cut down on the antibiotics/hormones/etc. that’s added to processed foods, which directly affects our bodies.

  6. Thank you for posting this, Aviva! This past year, our daughter (age 6), began developing breast buds. It was alarming and unsettling to us and confusing for her. Thankfully, they reverted back to normal, but both we and her doctors are still left scratching our heads as to what caused it. After several tests, her endocrinologist could only conclude that she was exposed to something environmentally that eventually resolved itself, although we never determined what it was. We live a natural and organic lifestyle, yet, something she was exposed to still caused it temporarily, which is so scary. If we are being so careful and this still happened, it scares me to think what is happening across the board with young girls who are getting exposed daily to environmental estrogens. Thank you for all that you do to support us parents, Aviva! I value your insight and always enjoy reading your posts! :)

    • Yes, there has even been some question about whether some of our uber natural products that are loaded with lavender oils can cause this with longterm exposure, because the essential oils are mildly estrogenic. I wrote a letter to the New England Journal which was published some years ago, discrediting the case reports they published which led to numerous articles on the dangers of lavender oil, but it is something to keep in mind.

  7. Thank you so much for this information! Although I was a “late bloomer” myself and my daughters have been closer to the average for their menarch, I found lots of helpful information here and more that I can do to support them.

  8. Thank you for this post, Aviva!!! I agree 100% with your take on this problem, and I’m concerned about this issue for both my sons and my daughters!

    Something else to consider, I think, is the problem of hormones (specifically estrogen) in the tap water as a result of the high usage of artificial birth control. These hormones are not bioidentical and are designed not to biodegrade, and they aren’t eliminated by our water treatment plants. It’s been documented that these hormones are causing reproductive mutations in fish and reptiles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also linked to hormonal issues in humans as well. This kind of pollution should be a cause for public action…but I don’t hear the outcry!

    By all means, drink water, but make sure it’s pure – get a high-powered filtration system or opt for spring water (not city water that’s been purified).

  9. Hi Aviva,
    I have three sons and one daughter. My daughter is almost 5. I am very concerned that she might start puberty early since this seems to be the trend. I won’t know if I am doing the right things until she has already entered puberty. I started menses when I was 11, the summer before 6th grade and that was somewhat early for someone born in 1975. My family’s diet was a typical American diet back in those days, not too many fresh fruits and vegetables. I drank soda and my favorite food was Doritos. Obviously my ways have changed or I wouldn’t be reading your blog (reading breastfeeding books after my 1st son was born started the journey). I first found you through your pregnancy book (at the end of my 1st pregnancy) which was a great help to me, particularly in my last two pregnancies, my first two were c-sections and my last two were homebirths. I used your advice regarding mothers with gestational diabetes to grow normal sized babies for my body(never diagnosed with GD, passed all those tests)…my first two were 9, 2 and 10, 7. My last two babies were 7, 14 and 7, 7. I wish you would talk more in depth about optimal nutrition for families and how to provide this on a practical, day to day basis. I loved your nutritional advice and recipes in the postpartum book and would love to see something like that specific to families and children. I do have your children’s health book but as much as I like it, the nutritional part seems a bit vague. Growing up as I did (little value placed on the experience of eating food and its importance to health), sometimes I need the basics spelled out. Also, I would really like to hear your thoughts about the role of dairy in the diet. My children do consume grass-fed, organic milk (with cereal and in baked goods) and cheese (not always organic). I am worried that even organic dairy may be contributing to the early onset of puberty in girls but I won’t know if this is a concern for my daughter and her genetics until it is too late. I have read lots of pro-vegan books in the last 2 or 3 years (started with The Kind Diet and went from there, didn’t know what I was getting into with that book) and this is where my concern started.

    • Hi Jennifer
      Thank you so much for your kind words!

      I hear your concern– it’s hard to know what to do with the dairy question. We actually did not give our kids much dairy when they were growing up other than organic yogurt. We didn’t restrict it, but it wasn’t part of our diet at home. We never gave them milk with the exception of my son, who, when he hit his double digits, started asking for it. So I trusted his body and gave it to him. The girls never asked for it. My son, btw, is 6’3″ — I’m 5’3 and my husband, his dad, is only 5’6 so he clearly had the tall gene AND knew what he needed for that extra growth. If you do give your kids dairy, organic is really essential and it’s where I’d say paying the extra food price is worth it. I definitely do not recommend milk as a beverage for any kids. Warmly, Aviva

  10. What about the effect on boys? I imagine the signs of puberty are more obvious in girls but it must be happening to all children?

  11. Thank you, Aviva. Another great blog post. I think everyone should also know that they can check cosmetics and many other personal products such as lotions and sunscreens on this site http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?list=type&type=34 and that there are also plenty of alternatives.

  12. I love this blog; I have a seven year old great-granddaughter that looks like a thirteen year old and a ten year old great-granddaughter that started her period. I make natural skin care products and try to tell the two mothers that they should use and to eat more natural organic products.

  13. I work with a large cosmetics company and have been frustrated with generalized comments about “natural” products because often times claims are made without facts to back them up. When facts are presented and researched I find them highly misleading or vague. I would love if you have specifics accompanied by research that I can look into because we are a Chiropractic family and are very conscientious about what we put into our bodies. Thank you for your research and work!

  14. My husband and I are pretty concerned about this topic. Our 6.5 year old daughter has excessive hair on her arms and a bit more than I think is usual for girls on her back and legs. Our diet is vegan and almost completely organic. We have an appointment soon with a pediatric endocrinologist in hopes to find out if there are any underlying health issues, or if our daughter simply has more hair than most other girls because her father is pretty hairy for a man. Needless to say, whatever the cause, the potential social and emotional effects on my daughter is a big deal. Aviva, might you have any suggestions or specific questions that you would recommend I be sure to ask the endocrinologist at the appointment? I appreciate your work and efforts to share your research, experience, and encouragement with all of us.

    • Hi Jenny
      Hopefully it’s just hereditary and then you can work on ways to help manage the social/emotional issues for her. And also maybe find some smartie pants momma ways to help with the hair. As a doc I see kids get brought for appointments for being too short — but the mom and dad are both short too! So these things do happen. Thanks dad! :)

      It sounds like you’ve got a good handle on it. So the only thing I’d recommend it just making sure the doc is kind and doesn’t say anything stigmatizing in front of your daughter (communication etiquette is not something every doctor picks up real well in medical training!) and also make sure any tests ordered are necessary — just ask the doc — IS that really necessary and what are you testing for? You can be nice about it so his/her back doesn’t go up that your challenging him/her. And then if there IS a diagnosis of a condition (which hopefully and likely there won’t be!) then do your homework and/or get an extra opinion if any hormone treatments are recommended. Hope this helps and best wishes!

      • Thanks, Aviva, for your feedback. My daughter had her appointment this past Thursday and the doctor was as kind as we could hope for (it may have helped that I’d written her a small note to be read before hand letting her know that this is an embarrassing issue for my child and gently requested her sensitivity and discretion). After asking several pertinent questions, the doctor did a visual check of various parts of my daughter’s body and with all of that, felt – as you’d expressed it likely would be – that her excess hair is hereditary (thanks a lot, dad, indeed!). A few blood tests were ordered just to rule out for sure any hormonal stuff and we’ll get the results from those soon. Needless to say, we all feel encouraged by the doctor’s “general” diagnosis and we’ll see what becomes of those blood tests. Thank you again for your recommendations, Aviva.

  15. Thanks for the timely information. I have 5 daughters (ages 10, 8, 6, 4, and 2) and this has been a concern of mine. Your tips are so simple and easy to implement! My girls all have a normal BMI, and we’ve made a drastic cut in the amount of animal protein we consume. I’ve heard that soy products can also cause problems with the endocrine system. Dr. Romm, in your opinion is this something to be concerned about? My 2 year old drinks soy milk daily. I also have a 12 month old son (who currently consumes no soy), and I’ve heard that soy can cause problems with boys. What is your opinion? Thanks for all you do!

    • Hi Sarah,
      I totally hear your concern. A lot of folks share this one. Enough so that I actually did an article about 10 years ago on soy for kids. I am in the process of gathering current data on soy safety for a blog which I will post sometime in the next few weeks (there’s a lot to re- research!). OVerall it’s definitely not something I recommend for daily consumption other than for some women in menopause who need the benefit of the estrogen, and I recommend only traditional use : miso, tempeh, tofu on occasion. More to come to address your concerns so stay tuned!

      • Thanks. I’m eagerly awaiting your post regarding soy. I also just read your most recent post with 10 tips for health and loved it – thanks!

        • Workin’ on that soy piece. There’s a lot to review! :)

          • Deb McDonnell says:

            Looking forward to your thoughts on soy. I must admit to drinking a lot of it since cutting out milk. I’m peri-menopausal at the advanced age of 55! Ridiculous, I know. I do stick to the organic soy only.

  16. Curious about soy=estrogen being a contributor?

    • More to come on that in a soon-blog! In brief, it can go either way. Yes, it does bind with our own estrogen receptors, but it does so weakly so can be of benefit by competing with more toxic, stronger environmental and endogenous (the ones our bodies produces) estrogens so this can LOWER the load. Interesting eh? But soy is not the healthiest for everyone and it HAS TO BE organic….commercial soy is heavily pesticided.

      • feathercurls says:

        Yep, and it has to be organic also because a lot of soy now is GMO. And GMO’s are a whole other conversation….

  17. Thank you for writing this informative post about early puberty. This is such an important topic.

  18. Hello everyone,

    It is very important to note that research has clearly pointed that precocious puberty is linked to our dietary choices. Animal protein consumption in the form of dairy, meat eggs etc is the main reason for obesity and the hormonal upheaval at all ages. But our nutrition syllabus continues to fool us whether it is at kindergarten level or later. I went to a regular school and graduated in Nutrition about twenty years ago and came out learning that milk is a complete food. It is no different today – only that advertisement industry is richer and stronger than ever before and dictates what we learn and teach.
    Here are some links to research, please check them out:
    http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2012nl/apr/abuse.htm
    http://www.drmcdougall.com/newsletter/nov_dec97.html

    Dr.Colin Campbell’s The China Study is an eye opener. I was raised as an ovo lacto vegetarian and was deeply conditioned to believing that it was the best diet – both by my family and professional colleagues and training. Time came to sort my own biases and look at the Scientific evidence on hand to give up on all animal foods once and for all, about four years ago.

    • Clarification:

      When I say milk being complete food – mother’s milk IS the most complete food for a baby. But what what we learn at school is all about the milk of other species being good for humans. Which does not make much sense.

      Thanks!

      • I think some of it has more to do with processed food and how animals are raised that are consumed. While I agree that we need to eat a lot more plants than animal products, there’s also research supporting the essential nature of some of those products. I’m thinking along the lines of Weston A. Price etc. Traditionally prepared foods are much better for our systems (fermenting, soaking, sprouting etc.). When we’re healing from the Standard American Diet, it makes sense to cleanse, to detox (which is often to avoid animal products, grains etc. due to gluten/digestive issues) but then later (if possible) to add back in some of those foods when they’re properly prepared.

        • Well said J. Marie. All of these studies are based on CAFO products, which are not healthy in any form. I was a soy milk baby, vegan for 10 years and ovo-lacto for another 10 and I was as unhealthy as I could get- constantly sick, constantly on asthma and allergy drugs, plus antibiotics, etc. The day I started following WAPF protocol, I had health for the first time in my life. Now I need to detox off of all the heavy metals I ingested through the meds & figure out how to help my 2 daughters who I swear are suffering for all those years of soy based diets. I was 12 and still hadn’t begun puberty. My 8 year old developed breast buds last week. I am scared to think of what my poor “health & ethical” choices have done to my daughter and their daughters also, now knowing that my dietary choices effect 3 generations.

    • Good points. Keep in mind that environmental toxins also have their own pathways for causing obesity. Here’s one article on the subject
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/detox-tips_b_1289488.html

    • Lynn Murdock says:

      The second link from Dr. McDougall gives a recipe for coconut cake which for a beginner could be very misleading. Cornstarch, soymilk and fresh papaya are almost always GMO foods unless certified organic which he doesn’t specify.
      Soymilk is not a healthy food, it is highly processed besides being a GMO food. We were always told that Japanese women had less cancer because they ate soy foods, but the truth is that they ate fermented soy foods like miso, tempeh and tamari which are the healthy foods.
      Soymilk especially for young girls is not a healthy choice, soy contains plant estrogens which still acts like estrogen in the body which probably does more harm than if they drank organic goat milk.
      I agree with the Weston Price theory and the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon which I live by.

  19. Britt Johnson says:

    Has anyone thought that girls aren’t going through puberty earlier, or that it isn’t a bad thing? With improved nutrition, maybe it is natural for girls to go through puberty earlier than they did in the 19th and 20th centuries. Maybe it is natural for girls to go through puberty as young as 7 years old.

    • Hi Britt, It’s definitely a bad thing no matter how you look at it. And it’s not natural. In communities where folks live naturally healthy lives it just doesn’t happen. It has to do with being OVERFED not well nourished. We do not, as a society, have improved nutrition. IN fact, this same generation of kids having earlier puberty is the first generation of kids in modern history with a life expectancy LOWER than their parents. Obesity is the biggest culprit. These kid will have more of it, more heart disease, and more cancer throughout their lives than any people in history. Not only diet, but the actual chemicals we’re exposed to can also cause diabetes. And earlier puberty = earlier estrogen exposure and this is definitely associated with increased breast and other cancers. Sorry for the bad news — but it’s what we are facing. Think about menses meant to be kicking in when girls are ready to be reproductive. That’s what biologically intended. Childbearing is fatal for 7 year olds!

  20. Thank you for this article. We have three young daughters and a son and this is very timely for our family. God bless you!

  21. Lucy Towbin, IBCLC says:

    It is also lack of breastfeeding. Breastfed children overall go through puberty later.

    • Thanks Lucy. Can you send some data on that? And how is it different if the baby is fed via bottle even if breastmilk?

      • I’m an IBCLC but don’t have current access to medical journals. I read an article some years back about this. For one thing, there are lower rates of obesity among people who were breastfeed. But they think there is more than that at play. An academic google search pulls up a lot of articles but I can only get to abstracts currently.

  22. Thank you for posting this and for the timely information… This is such an important topic.Thanks for all you do!

  23. Claire Vaidyanathan says:

    What about the affect of hormonal contraceptives? Surely parental and societal use of IUDs, the Pill and vast amounts of hormonal contraceptive byproducts in the drinking water have some role to play in this.

    • So true. I got an article from a medical journal in my inbox recently. The subject line read OCPs cause prostate cancer. First I thought well, silly men, if they’re taking a birth control pill what do they expect. Then I thought maybe it was a mistake. Then I realized it’s from the hormones women are peeing out getting into the water and ending right back in our drinking water. Super gross on so many levels when you think about it. Had all that in my longer version of this article but alas, try not to make the blogs TOO long! Will write more on it though! It’s been clearly associated with birth defects in male genitalia. Super sad. But we can fix that. IUDS, BTW, are available in 2 styles. One of them is hormone free!

      • Deb McDonnell says:

        Yes, shocking. Also, hormones are not always readily excreted. They can circulate thru the hepatic circulation a number of times before being processed out of our systems. Thus, their unwanted effects can be prolonged.

  24. Hello Aviva!!!

    Thank you for this interesting blog – it is very timely for me. And, thank you for being a part of our family life! Your books have helped me with raising my two children. I am so grateful for that!!!

    These three comments struck a cord with me: “Endocrine disruption can increase our daughters’ risk of developing hormonally related cancers later in life. It also increases a girl’s risk of sexual harassment and abuse, early sexual involvement, and risk-taking behaviors. She might be seen as, and potentially act, more sexually mature than she actually is psychologically and emotionally.”

    My daughter breastfed until almost 3 yrs of age. Had a very clean diet – as organic as possible, follows her own food choices, has no weight issues, has been very healthy, we did not vaccinate like most folks and our water has always been filtered. That said we are still relaxed about food when we go to places other than our home. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that plastics have an impact on our hormones. That bit of information really concerned me.

    At 9 yrs she started growing breasts, at 12 yrs she is a B cup, average height, very sensitive and emotionally immature, yet physically acts sexually mature. She’s not aware of the signals she is giving out with regards to how she moves her body, wants to fix her hair and with regard to the way she wants to dress. We have always homeschooled – radically unschooled if you will. With respectful parenting being our approach to our child-rearing.

    However, she wants to dress in ways and she acts in ways that are inappropriate for her age. She wants to dress in ways that make her feel god about herself and is completely uninterested in sex at this point. My worry is that the kind of attention she will draw to herself (has drawn to herself), because of her appearance and manner, is dangerous. She is not aware of how she is being perceived by the opposite sex because she is not yet interested. She is interested in looking stylish, looking pretty and feeling good in her clothes. Yet her idea of stylish is sexy. Not what what she is ready for or what she is interested in.

    Your comment above fits her to a T! “She might be seen as, and potentially act, more sexually mature than she actually is psychologically and emotionally.”

    Now, how can I support her wanting to feel good in what she wears, yet keep her safe? This concerns me on more than one level. I want her to be safe and I want to respect her desire to feel good in her clothes. Yet she can’t even understand my concern. She’s just not “there” in her thinking yet.

    Any insights?

  25. beth neary, md says:

    Great post—I share your passion as I too now have a grandchild. Also, I have noticed so many of my patients with nail polish on their children–even as young as 6 months. When I tell parents that nail polish has phthalates in them and that when their children chew on their fingers, they are ingesting endocrine disruptors, they are shocked….it did not cross their mind. I also had a male pre-pubertal patient who developed breast buds—when we looked at products that were being used–he was using a shampoo (marketed to prevent lice infestation) that contained both lavender and tea tree oil–identified as endocrine disruptors in a NEJM study. We really need to get the word out to our patients.

    • hi beth
      take a look at the nejm comments on that piece by my, kathi kemper, and paula gardiner. it’s interesting, because it could be related for sure, but those particular case studies were not convincing for the reasons we demonstrated. isn’t the grandma thing the best? just y-day i was nursing and homeschooling and making meals for my own kids and SNAP they grow up! but the little one… oh so fun! :)

  26. Aviva, you mention to use glass water bottles in your article. I tend to use glass most of the time for food storage, but also have stainless steel and BPA free water bottles and containers. What is your take on the safety of stainless steel and BPA free materials? Are any plastics safe?

  27. Having read this I believed it was really enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this
    information together. I once again find myself personally spending a
    lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so
    what, it was still worth it!

  28. My daughter is 8 1/2 yo and is showing growth signs like breast development and pubic hair. She was on soy formula from month 5 to month 14 when she was a baby. She was never obese and is ok now with 65lbs and 50 inches.
    She was eating veggie burgers too often lately. After I saw the signs, we stopped eating outside and also stopped giving her energy bars. Is there anything I can do now to reduce the growth and delay the puberty. I am thinking of trying nutri blast for her. Do you think it would help?

    • Usually I would add a lot of leafy greens and 2 tbs flax seeds daily to the diet to help get rid of excess estrogen which is most likely the culprit. There is a formula called Breast Health by Pure Encapsulations that also helps with excess estrogen and I use in adults – have not tried with a little one but I would consider if I were treating…

  29. Dr Sejal Shah says:

    Hello Aviva.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. .My daughter is 9 years old. And has started showing signs of puberty as in pubic and armpit hair. .I am so worried. .We are a very health conscious family. .I have breastfed my kids till about 2yrs.We are lacto vegetarian..avoid all junk outside food completely,minimum use of plastics,don’t use any cosmetics .My daughter is lean and tall and physically active. .In spite of all this I find she is reaching puberty early..don’t know what is going wrong. .The only culprit in our case can be milk and dairy products like ghee..(in India we use lots of clarified butter or ghee.traditionally it is supposed to be good for growing children. But I guess with all the adulteration of milk. .don’t know if its good for them now) .Can you suggestions any thing else for my case as to how I can prevent early puberty in my daughter??Thanks

    • Hello Dr Shah,
      Some girls do mature earlier. so this may just be the case. It sounds like you are doing a great job raising a healthy daughter! Milk and dairy can lead to earlier puberty so cutting back might be wise. But this may also be just her body. I’d check with her pediatrician to see if there is any other reason for concern medically… WArm regards, Aviva

      • Dr Sejal Shah says:

        Thanks a lot for your prompt reply. Appreciate it.I am glad I found your site. Looking forwards to reading your insight into many more issues. .Thanks

  30. Are there any herbal teas or supplements that you think would help in slowing down the progression of early puberty? Is it better to stick with dietary solutions such as leafy greens and flax seed?

    • Yes, dietary methods are best. Supplementing daily fresh ground flax seeds and perhaps DIM or indole-3-carbinol from broccoli sprouts which help clear excess estrogen. Aviva

  31. This is a nice post. Thanks for posting it. I don’t know if Obesity is the main cause of early puberty. My daughter started showing early growth symptoms when she was 8.5 yo. Doctors said it is normal. She is not obese, not even fat. I give her organic diary. She is vegetarian. She is very active. But still her growth is early for her age. I am thinking it might be the toxins from air. So, I want to go on the nutriblast diet with her to detox her body(I don’t know if I am using the right term) but I am not sure what her pediatrician is going to say about it.

    • hi Aviva, I was reading the questions posted by others and you suggested cutting down Milk. I do try to give more milk to my daughter, fat free milk.. at least two servings a day (1 serving is 10 oz of milk) + yogurt + occassional cheese. The reason I give her more milk is my mother in law, my husband’s sister have severe osteoperosis. My m-i-l was bed ridden for more than 20 years as her bones were like paper. (that is what the doctor told) So, should I cut down on her milk? How else can I get Calcium into her body? Another thing, my daughter takes multi vitamins with floride in it. Should I stop that?

      • hi there! interestingly, the countries with the highest intake of milk products have the highest rates of osteoporosis! sounds like more going on in the family than just lack of dairy intake. i’d find out WHY they have this osteoporosis – an absorption issues? a genetic issue? and i’d work with your daughter’s pediatrician to make sure she gets what she needs. as for fluoride, supplementation is only recommended when there is no fluoride in the water supply.
        Best aviva,

        • I have read the latest research regarding the anti estrogen effects of flaxseed and the reductions of estrogen based breast cancer. I thought it may be possible to use for slowing down puberty. My dd is similar to hose mentioned in other posts. My question is do you think the flaxseed oil would work as well?

          • hi laurie, no not as well because the fiber is very important for it’s estrogen modulating action….
            ~aviva

  32. my daughter celebrated her 6th birthday in august.she weighs 25kgs.just a week ago i was shocked to find a few pubic hair while giving her a shower.im shocked.asked her ped .she told its normal but still im worried.plzzzzzzzzz help.what should i do?

    • hi devi
      if you are concerned, you could always get a second opinion or see an endocrinologist, but likely your pediatrician has a good pulse on things. just keep an eye out for further development and if you see that , i’d definitely get further evaluation.
      best wishes!
      aviva

  33. This research says the opposite : that Stress DELAYS puberty in the experimental animals
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/06/010605072234.htm

    This seems more likely that the body would take stress as a signal to postpone reproductive years. stress could mean this is not a good time to have babies, there could be famine,
    increased thread from predators, excess population -all reasons to keep the herd small.

    Do yo have any sources for the opposite view that you have posted ?

    • The stress response may work both ways, depending on the type of stress involved.

      The pineal gland is an often forgotten part of the endocrine system. Different kinds of stress appears to impact the pineal in opposite ways, and this gland has a direct effect on one’s estrogen levels and estrogen receptors, and thus effects the onset of puberty.

      Some study (this was done a few years ago, I think–can’t seem to find it at the moment) done on mice showed an increase of pineal function in “nothing you can do about it” or “no win” situational stress. (They simulated this by holding the mice down immobile, with nothing they could do to free themselves.) Other types of stress seemed to reduce pineal action, on the contrary.

      The pineal is thought to inhibit sexual maturity until puberty. Babies start producing a significant amount of melatonin (a pineal hormone) around month 3 (hense better sleep at that age), and all during childhood it is high. At puberty, the level drops markedly, to allow for sexual maturity. Studies show that high melatonin inhibits the production of estrogen and (perhaps an even bigger impact) reduces estrogen receptors so that even the estrogen that is circulating in the body has less of an impact. (Here’s a study: http://www.jbc.org/content/279/37/38294.long )

      Lowered estrogen (or lowered estrogen action) does have a tendency to delay puberty in girls.

  34. thnx for the post im so much concerned abt my daughter cos she just got 8, i have lots of questions hope ypu wont mind. what are other ways or food to clear access estrogen, to eliminate juice, is it the store brought juice or even the fresh one from home? which food has good quality proteins?what kind of diet plan should i follow as going organic totally is out of reach as i cant from where i live but i do buy organic as much as i can. about shampoos n makeup what do you suggest?
    appreciate your help,
    thnx :)

  35. Hi. Thanks so much for this eye-opener! Is any of this related to bad body odor? And how does a parent know if it is early puberty or normal? My dd is 10 and has breasts and pubic hair but no period yet. I was 10 when I got mine. Also, have you done a post on boys?
    Thanks again..

    • hi there. ten can be a very normal age for puberty for many girls. periods usually start within 2 years of the other signs being established. nope, haven’t done one on boys…

      • hi, Aviva. You mentioned that daily supplement with flaxseed and green leaf vegetable can help get rid of estrogen. Will it give kids longer time to grow in height? my daughter is 8 and she is developing her breast. I am worry about her final height.

        • hi sharon
          I don’t know of any data that proves this to be so, but theoretically, if it slows down puberty, one might see this. i’d definitely talk with her pediatrician or family doc and see about getting bone growth measurements so you can check her status.
          warmly, aviva

  36. Hi, I am also a concerned mother because my daughter has some pubic hair when she was almost 4 yr old, and now is almost 5 yr old she has that same amount but more bigger and body odor during the summer. She is overweight, but always was from 3 or 4 months, now she is 25 kg and about 2 months she will be 5 years old. We have done her blood analysis and her hormones are Ok, note to mention we live in country where we do not have organic foods. I read above comments about flax seed and I have question (pardon my ignorance) are flax seeds lignans, and as I know Lignans are one of the major classes of phytoestrogens . Does phytoestrogens plays as body’s estrogen.

    • Hi Ania
      This definitely requites that she see her pediatrician — and an endocrinologist. Very early puberty like this can lead to problems with bone development and may indicate other underlying issues. The phytoestrogens can help reduce the impact of the body’s natural estrogens, as well as environmental exposures — but this does not substitute for a proper medical workup for your daughter. Best wishes! Aviva

  37. Thank you for this information. Just tonight my 8 year old complained of sore nipples & said “they’re boney!” – it was like a grey cloud came over me! I got my first period days before my 11 birthday. My Mum was Lebanese & she had started hers at 9 and most of my cousins were aged between. 9-11. I hoped with my hubby’s Anglo background that my girls would start puberty later. We eat mostly organic foods & have a wholesome diet, minimise TV & exposure to adult themes, exercise, no microwave etc. My little girl is lean, healthy, active & happy & has absolutely no idea about puberty, sexual development etc. as someone who went through these changes early I would never wish it upon a young girl & the only comfort is that these days she won’t be alone! Thank you for teaching me about lavender oil and reminding me about the dangers of plastics (that have reappeared back in my cupboards in recent years) & household chemicals – a bit of a purge happening tomorrow!

  38. The primary cause of early menarche is much simpler. Women ovulate with the light of the moon (full moon), and the use of night lights in girls rooms trick their bodies into thinking there have been more moons, and it’s time to start menarche.

    Girls and women sleeping in total darkness is the answer to many hormonal issues.

    Green Blessings!

  39. I feel very fortunate that my girls started their periods at 14 and 16.
    We lived a very natural lifestyle but so do lots of people whose girls start earlier.
    One of my sisters started at age 10 and I know how that can be.
    Now I have a grand daughter and I hope for the best for her and all of the young girls in the world. And for all of us:)

  40. As a mom of 6 daughters (and now a granddaughter) I’ve been concerned for years about the hormonal disruption I think that’s happening in our society. For us, it seems that the less animal products our girls have consumed the later their menstruation began. We’ve always tried to eat predominantly organic but that doesn’t always happen. I think by avoiding the growth hormones (natural and added) from particularly cows has helped. The earliest any of our 4 menstruating dd has started was 10 (when we ate a less-cleaner diet) and the others were 11, 15 and 14 (in that order).

  41. As someone who started her period later than most of my friends (I was 13, they started at 10 or 11 generally) I am curious about this subject but more so from the perspective of just how much external factors play into it and is there hard evidence that years ago (say 2k?) menstrual cycles always began later than they are now. I’m 30 now, and growing up did everything “wrong” – loads of hormone-laden milk at dinner every night, diet replete with HFCS, MSG etc, microwaved food in melting plastic, nothing natural at all from shampoos to toothpaste. I lived next door to my best friend, who got taller faster and hit puberty 3 years before I did, with very similar environment. But 13 was the age my mom started, and I believe her mom started then, too. My friend’s mom had her period start at a younger age, like her daughter. Perhaps there is something we are missing? Also, I am very curious as to how endocrine-system disruption from plastics and other factors have been proven to affect boys. (I have two sons.)

  42. Aside from diet, pollution, stress, and obesity, there are other possible contributers to estrogen excess. Part of the problem may be caused by lowered pineal activity.

    Artificial lighting and nighttime computer-use (with blue lighting) may be contributers to this. (Light reduces pineal action.) There are also studies that link hours of TV watching to lowered melatonin (a pineal hormone). See: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6081-television-watching-may-hasten-puberty.html

    The pineal gland has a direct influence on production of estrogen, estrogen receptors, and onset of puberty. Basically, if there is high melatonin there will be lowered estrogen and estrogen receptors in girls (lowered testosterone in boys). High melatonin can delay puberty in both sexes, though that is a more likely factor in girls b/s females have 25% more melatonin than males. If melatonin is low, estrogen is high and estrogen receptors are in greater quantity (in boys, higher testosterone.)

    Electro Magnetic Fields (thanks to modern technology) also tends to affect the pineal. And, like all the other glands, emotional factors also effect the functioning of this gland.

    It is true that high estrogen is the more prominant problem in this era, but there are those who suffer from high melatonin / relatively low estrogen expression as well. It would be wise, before trying to reduce one’s estrogen, to be certain that that is the problem.

  43. Hi Aviva, Thankyou so much for your knowledge and compassion on this subject. I have been a very worried mom for my 15 yo daughter. Being a long time lover of herbal medicine, nature and nutrition my children have grown up in a very healthy environment. In the past couple years my daughter has been concerned with her enlarged labia….so much so that she wanted me to take her to a surgeon to get them reduced. I have not taken either of my children to a conventional doctor except for an emergency so I was at a lost of what to do. Yes, she did start puberty earlier than most and had breasts at a young age. She also has acne that we have been able to partially eliminate through her diet. Recently I had her go to the local doctor here and the report was that yes she is larger than normal but not off the charts. The doctor also informed us that it is a good idea that she gets the cervical cancer vaccine(I don’t agree with this but would like to know more about it). She also recommended she go on birth control. The doctor recommended a ob/gyn surgeon for us to talk to but what I really want to know is is there anything she can do to reduce the size of her labia naturally with diet and herbs? The doctor had mentioned that this enlarged size is due partially to genetics(mine is slightly oversized too) and to increased estrogen in her body. I have been reading and studying(I am taking two herbal courses including yours and have been a community herbalist for years) about what to do but am at a bit of a lost right now. It is not a subject that is talked about openly so is a little difficult for us to find support on this…another reason why I am so grateful for you!!

  44. Hi Aviva,
    Very interesting timing on this article as I opened it yesterday and today had my 1 year old’s wellness check. I found out she has a labial adhesion (fully closed but her urethra is not blocked) and she was prescribed estrogen cream by our pediatrician. I started reading online about this condition and am hesitant to start the cream- especially after reading this post by you! Do you have any advice? I have read that flax oil can help. Thank you so much for sharing such important information!

    • It’s considered a generally safe treatment — but for sure, try the flax oil first because there’s no harm in waiting if there is no blockage of urine.

      Good luck! Aviva

  45. Thank you again Dr. Aviva for your time and thought on such an important topic! It saddens me to think that no matter what we do to keep our own families a little safer from these hormonal problems, this trend is not going away. Our children and their children will be dealing with the effects on their relationships and families unless we can change laws, put pressure on companies to make safer healthier products and food, and continue spreading the word like crazy to anyone who might care to listen. My oldest is a 7.5 yr old boy who seems very much like a ‘little’ boy still (socially, emotionally, physically) and then I see some of the little girls in his 2nd grade class looking AND acting like pre-teens! Starting to worry about how my son will fare with the pressures, topics of discussions, and decisions facing him in the coming years because of this deepening mismatch between same age boys and girls. If that makes sense.

    Whats also sad is that in an increasing number of urban neighborhoods, the poorest folks have no access to anything else but what’s offered at their local stores. In a neighborhood nearby me, an urban town has literally no grocery store. The closest thing to it is a trolley ride away to a shop n bag. Their choices are beyond limited. No wonder the black and latino populations of young girls are more at risk for early puberty.

    Lastly, I wanted to share this related link I saw today about a talk recently given at Harvard School of Public Health addressing chemicals in our personal care products, thought you’d like to read: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/harmful-chemicals-in-personal-care-products/

    Thanks again,
    Lori

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  47. My 10yd old daughter changed overnight from a sweet baby to a mood swinging pre-teen with boobs! She’s grown a foot, has public hair, terrible acne and body order, greasy hair and crying spells.Worst is, she’s disrespectful and distant from me when we’ve always been so close. This can’t be normal. I suspect high Testosterone. Are there safe herbs for detoxing that Mom’s can use with pre-menstruating girls??? I have limited her sugar, grains and processed foods but I’d like to safely, gently help out her liver.

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  49. Sandra landsman says:

    My daughter is 7, very active and slender. We eat mostly organic, use water filters, avoid plastic as much as we can and use natural products. My daughter developed breast buds and tests have revealed that she is in puberty and has the bones of an 11 year old. The scariest part of this for all of us is that without Lupron intervention, she will most likely stop growing in 2-3 years and barely reach 5 feet tall when her height potential is actually 5’10.” Most of the girls in her second grade class are showing signs of development and none of them are obese. I am alarmed about what is happening to our children.

  50. My daughter (former 25 weaker, surviving twin) is now 8. She suffered a stroke the day after birth, and I was recently told by my daughter’s neurologist that the type of brain injury she had may cause early puberty. We were at a routine appointment with the neurologist (she monitors my daughters epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and adhd), and I had mentioned that she was having strong underarm odor even when not being active. The other day I noticed my daughter’s skin was a little oily, and she had a pimple on her chin. She has a very cheerful and sweet disposition, yet has been quite moody and grumpy lately. Today she told me her “chi chi’s” were hurting. I’m afraid she is getting ready to start her period already. I haven’t had any of “the talks” with her as of yet, I guess I wasn’t thinking this would come anytime soon. I didn’t start my period until I was 17, and my mother was in high school as well. Is there anything I can do to prevent early puberty, if it’s caused by a physical condition? (Her cp and epilepsy are very minor, almost not noticeable). Thanks for this article, the info is so very helpful!!

    Stacie

    • hi stacie,
      wow, that’s a tough start to life to say the least. you must be a saint with all you’ve endured as a new momma — heart’s out to you. as for the early puberty, i suspect they think she may have suffered damage to the pituitary or hypothalamus — and if that is the case that may be quite hard to modify with lifestyle or diet — though the detox support might be quite helpful. seeing a functional medicine doc locally would probably be your best bet to get her the most personalized care possible. very best wishes. aviva

  51. Michele Smith says:

    Can hitting puberty at 9 in some girls cause a lot of female problems me an my 23 yr old daughter have had female problems since we hit puberty both of us had irregular periods going from going without one for months at a time or having spotting to excessive bleeding mine became regular after she was born but the trade off was i ended up with 5 in total cysts on my ovaries uterus an tubes the cysts had to be removed when i was 23 my periods stayed regular my daughters path has been the same as mine from puberty to now i was just wondering if all of it has been caused from us hitting puberty at 9 as i got older an had 3 more children my periods became heavier till my last one an i couldnt stop so i ended up with having to have a hysterectomy im just worried if our problems were caused because we hit puberty at 9 could the same happen to my 2 youngest daughters right now their just 2 an 3 yrs old is it possible thanks an god bless

  52. Hi Aviva.

    I have a concern my daughter is 7 and has signs already early puberty. I had my menstruation when 9 yrs old and her father been diagnosed with Adrenal Adenoma and Pituitary Adenoma..I am concern for my 8 yr old son has well..
    Any help you can give me I would I appreciate.

    Thank you,dee

  53. Priyanka says:

    Hello Aviva, thanks for this informative article. I would really like you to comment on my situation. My girl is going to be 7 in 2 months. She is an active girl, a little overweight (she’s 30 kgs), and very innocent and sweet. Around 6 months back, I noticed a little underarm hair on her, no body odour. Her breasts also seem a little budding, but that could be fat also. There is no tenderness in her buds, & no pubic hair. Do you think I have a reason for concern? Please reply, I am a very very worried mother. I started my periods when I was around 13, & 6 or 7 is a really really early age to start changes.. Worried!!

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