Puberty In Girls – How To Support Your Daughter Naturally

Puberty can be a difficult time to navigate for any child. But when it comes to puberty in girls, the hormonal changes can lead to a variety of unpleasant and even embarrassing symptoms.

Because these hormonal changes are normal, they aren’t something we can really ‘fix’. But there are still ways you can support your daughter to ease the transition and keep her as healthy as possible.

Watch the video below or keep reading to learn about puberty in girls, and the steps you can take to support them through the process.

Understanding puberty in girls

Puberty occurs earlier for girls than it does for boys. The average onset for puberty is between 8-13 years old. Many of the changes start early on, well before menstruation begins.

When it comes to puberty in girls, the earliest sign is typically the development of breast buds. In some, pubic hair growth may also be an early sign. You will often notice a change in their body odour around the onset of puberty. This is because the hormonal changes increase the rate of sweat and the activity of sweat glands.

Girls also experience a growth spurt during puberty. The fastest rate of growth in girls occurs around the time of breast bud development, up until 6 months before the onset of their period. It’s common for girls to gain weight during this growth spurt, particularly around the hips and breasts. This is due to the increase in the hormone oestrogen.

On average, the onset of a girl’s menstrual cycle will occur 2-3 years after breast buds appear.

Puberty in girls is easier to spot because the physical changes occur early on. It’s important to have open conversations with your daughter about these changes – the earlier, the better. She needs to know that she can come to you with questions if she is feeling worried or embarrassed.

If your daughter is quite shy, it might be worth buying some books that she can seek advice from, or even sharing your own experiences of early puberty.

The hormonal changes of puberty

A lot of hormonal changes occur during puberty in girls. The first two changes are an increase in luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These two hormones increase early on in puberty, so you may not notice their impact.

LH and FSH stimulate the production of sex hormones – for girls, that means oestrogen and progesterone. Oestrogen is responsible for most of the physical changes for girls during puberty.

The balance between oestrogen and progesterone is needed for the onset of healthy periods and mood regulation. However, it takes the body a little while to establish that balance.

It is very common for girls to have irregular periods for the first 1-2 years as the hormones balance out. They may also experience heavy periods during the first year or two. If irregular or heavy periods continue after this initial stage, you may want to seek professional advice.

Mood swings are also common during puberty, which are caused by hormonal shifts. Your daughter can’t help how she reacts or how her moods change during this time! Emotions become more intense, and moods can change instantly. Your daughter will probably be more sensitive, particularly once you think about other factors such as social pressure, transitioning to high school and body image issues.

Hormonal changes can also exacerbate or cause anxiety in teens. This is often due to an imbalance of the hormones. Progesterone is an anti-anxiety hormone, so low progesterone and/or high oestrogen can trigger anxiety.

How to support your daughter throughout puberty

As the hormonal shifts that occur during puberty are natural, we don’t want to stop them from happening. But what we do want to do is support our daughters through the transition, so that they feel as balanced and happy as possible.

With that in mind, here are some tips for how we can support girls through puberty.

Understand what is normal for girls in puberty

It is normal to have irregular cycles, and it is normal to feel more moody, anxious, or even a little down in the dumps. So we don’t need to rush to find a solution if our daughters experience this.

Our teens don’t need us to solve their problems – they need us to listen. Although it can be hard to not feel frustrated, it’s important to be patient and keep the conversation open with your daughter.  So if she is complaining or having a moody moment, the best thing to do is repeat how she is feeling.

For example, you might say, ‘It seems like you’re feeling angry at your brother – but you still need to clean your room by the end of today!’ That way, you are keeping boundaries, but being empathetic to her situation.

Support her liver and gut health

When hormones are shifting during puberty, there is often an excess. The body needs to detoxify and eliminate the excess hormones via the liver and the gut. The detox pathways in the liver metabolise the hormones, and then they are shunted into the gut to be eliminated.

However, if your daughter has an overloaded liver or an imbalance in the gut, this could lead to a build-up of excess sex hormones.

The gut flora plays a particularly important role in the process. When the metabolised hormones arrive in the gut, the bacteria decides whether to eliminate them or reabsorb them. A healthy balanced gut will eliminate them, but an unhappy gut will reabsorb. This leads to a greater load on the liver, which worsens the problem!

We want to make sure that we’re supporting gut and liver health. For liver health, we need to reduce the load on the liver by reducing their intake of processed foods, sugar and refined carbohydrates. As they get older, alcohol is another load on the liver that can worsen hormonal issues.

If possible, you can also incorporate liver-friendly foods. Liver-friendly foods include

  • Bitter foods like green leafy veg and lemon juice
  • Cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower
  • Onion and garlic
  • Culinary herbs such as parsley
  • Apples
  • Beetroot

If you improve your daughter’s gut health, her liver will also be supported. As a bonus, a healthy gut can also mean a healthy mood! For simple and practical tips for supporting gut health, download our FREE Gut Health ebook here.

Make sure she gets the right nutrients

During puberty, there are a few specific nutrients that can be helpful to ease the transition. It is worth looking at the symptoms and processes that they support and whether increasing your daughter’s intake through a supplement may be worthwhile.

Magnesium

As magnesium is involved in over 300 processes in the body, it’s no surprise that it is helpful with balancing hormones! There are a few key processes that magnesium plays, including:

  • Calming the nervous system – reducing stress and anxiety
  • Normalising progesterone levels
  • Promoting oestrogen clearance through the liver
  • Reducing period pain

As many hormonal issues are causing by high oestrogen and low progesterone, a nutrient that brings them back into balance can make a big difference!

The exact dosage depends on your daughter’s age, size and needs. A good place to start would be between 150-300mg of magnesium. Look for a supplement with magnesium bisglycinate – this is an easily absorbed form.

Vitamin B6

Another nutrient that goes hand in hand with magnesium is vitamin B6. Some of the ways that B6 helps with puberty include:

  • Working with magnesium to produce progesterone
  • Helping to support brain chemical production – specifically serotonin (happy) and GABA (calming)
  • Supporting clearance of oestrogen in the liver

Again, dosage depends on your daughter’s age and size. 20-30mg is a good range to aim for. You don’t want to take more than 50mg, as there are side effects that occur with higher doses.

Zinc

Another healthy hormone nutrient is zinc. Like magnesium, zinc helps to support girls through the process of puberty in a variety of ways. Some of the ways that zinc can help include:

  • Promoting healthy ovulation – when girls first get periods, they don’t always ovulate, which is why their cycles are irregular. The quicker we establish regular ovulation, the quicker the hormones will balance out!
  • Helping to reduce inflammation – lower inflammation means less period pain
  • Blocking excess androgen, or male sex hormones – this can be a big factor in teenage acne!

Zinc can be tough to get good levels through food alone, especially if your daughter dislikes meat or is vegetarian. That’s why a supplement can be a game-changer for many teens.

When it comes to a supplement, zinc chelate is a well-absorbed form to look out for. Zinc is best absorbed when we are at rest, so it would be good for her to take it in the evening or after school. The dosage depends on the age and size, but a general rule is 10-20mg.

When it comes to supplementing these nutrients, you can start to give it at the first signs of puberty. At that point, even a few doses a week will help to build up her levels of these nutrients. You can ramp the dosage up to daily once her periods start to alleviate the menstrual symptoms.

Consider reducing or eliminating dairy

Heavy periods are common in girls who have just started their period, as their cycle works on finding a balance. Because they are not always ovulating, their progesterone levels are low, which causes heavy periods.

There’s not a lot you can do to avoid this happening for the first year or so. But if the heavy periods continue, issues can develop, including fatigue, iron deficiency, and potentially embarrassing issues for your daughter.

One of the solutions for this is removing dairy, or at least removing A1 dairy. We’re not sure why it helps, although the A1 protein can be inflammatory for some people. But removing dairy or restricting it to A2 dairy seems to lighten periods. You can learn more about the types of dairy proteins here.

However, if you do want to try this out, you need to ensure your daughter’s calcium and protein needs are still being met. That’s why it’s best to work with a practitioner who can help with foods to replace what dairy was supplying into her diet.

 

Is your daughter struggling with the changes of puberty?

We can offer personalised support and advice to help ease her transition. Click here to book an appointment.