Dr. Greene’s take on early puberty:
My 8 yr old daughter is showing signs of premature onset of pubery; she has adult-grade underarm odor, blemishes, headaches, and a few hairs under her arms. I have researched out the possible reasons, ie: environmental(plastics & pollutiants) & dietary(hormones in meats & dairy, etc) causes, and am being/have been as cautious as possible. Now I am seeking intervention to stop/slow this process and save her childhood. It is not genetics, in her case(my side of family-puberty started around 15, her fathers side-around 13). Is there a way to slow this overabundance of estrogen!! Homeopathic, or safe medicine??? I am doing everything else. Please help. Thank you
Dr. Greene’s Answer:
I share your concerns, Sarah, about kids being exposed to too many estrogens from dietary and environmental sources – and in some cases (too many cases) from excess body fat.
You may be pleased, or not, to know that onset of puberty in an 8-year-old girl is now considered normal. Early puberty is usually defined as starting before the 8th birthday in girls.
The starting age for puberty has been falling in recent years, and in 1999 the Pediatric Endocrine Society lowered the age of concern even younger, suggesting intervening only when puberty starts before the 7th birthday in white girls or before the 6th birthday in black girls.
I do recommend that 8-year-olds in puberty have a careful evaluation by a doctor skilled in this area. There are medicines (and if there is abnormal hormone secreting tissue – surgery) that can slow or stop puberty until a better time.
Other than that, vigorous daily exercise is perhaps the safest and most effective way to slow puberty. In fact, young female athletes sometimes don’t start their periods until they decrease their training schedule, or increase their body fat to 16%.
Aiming for an ideal body weight can be helpful too, through getting a healthy amount of calories every day. I don’t recommend skipping meals, though, or restricting calories below what kids need to thrive.
Quercitin compounds, nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, leaves and whole grains (notably in green and black tea, citrus fruits, apples, red grapes, buckwheat, red onions, tomatoes, broccoli and leafy greens) are known to bind to estrogen receptors in the body and help correct effects from too much estrogen exposure.
The jury is out on whether quercitin supplements, in their isolated form, would help or hurt here.
But I am a big fan of making quercitin-rich foods a part of the diet every day. There’s enough variety in these foods that they could even be part of every meal and snack.
Some studies have found significantly higher quercitin levels in organic produce.
What you are already doing to avoid unecessary estrogens in meats, plastics, pesticides and personal care products is wise for any child, and especially with puberty starting at 8 years old. Your daughter is fortunate to have such an informed and pro-active mother. My best to you both.