Acne, Mood Swings, PMS, Period Cramps May be Optional for Your Tween/Teen: Simple Naturopathic Pre-Puberty Strategies that Can Make All the Difference

I have a 10 and 13 year old as I write this. I love these ages and with puberty coming have been giving it some thought on how to support them naturopathically. 

It is rare that parents come to me for support their children pre-puberty but I'm realizing its actually a great time to pause and do a full systems check to see where the key body systems/organs/glands that impact their hormonal health - digestive system, detoxification system, adrenal glands are at.

Prevention is seriously worth a pound of cure - there seems to be a little more space and groundedness at this time in their life age-wise to get a cleanse or whatever is needed in without a lot of pushback. A little well-planned support at this time can make a huge difference in how your child navigates puberty and can give them a stronger, healthier foundation to thrive from.

The protocol I work with is based on a protocol I use when teenagers come to me with acne, PMS and painful periods.

Primarily we look preventatively at and address as needed the digestive and detoxification systems and their ability to deal with stress. Food sensitivity tests can be very helpful in many cases.

Stress.  It's not so commonly known but stress has a huge effect on skin and hormonal health and making sure your teenager has some healthy outlets/habits during this time helps. Yoga nidra is easy to do for anyone - teens included - and actually from a yogic perspective it not only works on providing deep restorative relaxation for their growing body, but it also is involved in balancing the systems in the body (ida and pingdala) that get thrown off during puberty. Doing a nidra together with your tween/teen is a way some families are getting in some R & R and parent-child co-regulation at the same time.

Ted Grossbart, a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and in private practice in Boston, works with the mind-body connection in skin diseases. He is co-author of Skin Deep: A Mind/Body Program for Healthy Skin (Health Press, 1992).

Grossbart points out that the skin is intimately connected with the nervous system. With acne, emotional issues can trigger an outbreak or make it worse, even when there’s a clear physical cause.

In addition to working with teen-age acne patients, he is seeing patients between 20 and 40 years old with very difficult acne problems. He has found that each of these patients is dealing with adolescent issues, i.e. sexual or professional identity, separation from parents, and anger. As he works with these adults on their teen issues, their skin clears up.

So why does emotional stress trigger and exacerbate acne? Stress and/or sleep disturbance can induce higher levels of hormones and adrenaline, which increases sebum production, leading to clogged pores.

Severe acne outbreaks have been reported after prolonged sleep deprivation.

Skin cells are nourished during sleep so it’s important to educate and encourage teens to go to bed early and get their “beauty sleep”.

Regular exercise is also important in regards to skin health to helping to increase blood circulation and bring more oxygen to the skin.

In addition to plenty of sleep and exercise, it’s important for teens to find a good relaxation technique that works well for them. Relaxation includes breathing exercises, yoga, self-hypnosis, meditation, or listening to relaxing music.

Whatever they choose, they must do it every day to be effective, not just when they are stressed. We know as adults self care can be the first to go when we feel overwhelmed!

When acne is severe, it can be very traumatic to a teen-ager, leaving life-long physical and emotional scars and impact the way teen-agers view themselves. Effects can include social withdrawal, low self-esteem and self-confidence, embarrassment, depression, poor body image, anger and discouragement. Unless it is treated in a holistic way, severe acne will most likely not disappear when entering adulthood. It is a sign that there is something happening within the teen that needs to be addressed on a physical as well as an emotional level."

This age range is a great time to pause and give your child's system a reset so they can navigate puberty with the underlying systems that impact hormonal health in better form.

In my practice I use the REBA testing device to see what your tween/teen needs to start the process of rebalancing. We look at liver, nutrients (Vit A, probiotics and Zinc are commonly needed) and/or digestive remedies. It doesn’t need to be complicated and I find the REBA helps narrow down what is best.

Whatever you do to support will help and be better than nothing … (-:

On the island of Kitavan, acne is nil so researchers have looked at diet to see what they can learn.

1. The consumption of coffee, tea, and alcohol is close to nil.

2. Kitavans follow a low GI diet. Sample foods they eat are sweet potatoes and yams.
These are low on the Glycemic Index (GI). Foods that have a low GI rating help prevent rapid spikes in blood glucose and insulin levels. Avoiding excess insulin in the bloodstream is important for anyone battling with acne as large amounts of insulin can lead to sharp increases in the levels of circulating androgen. Androgen is a male hormone that is associated with acne in both men and women as well as with PCOS in women.

3. They take in a high consumption of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.

Fatty fish and especially fish eggs are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids which decrease IGF-1 levels and prevent hyperkeratinization of sebaceous follicles, thereby fighting acne. Several studies conducted to date around the world have shown a direct link between a high consumption of fish or omega-3 fats and a low incidence of acne.

Essential Fatty Acids are key. Not just skin and hormone wise but with all that restructuring in the brain happening as well the body benefits greatly by having primo materials to work with. Essential Fatty Acids are excellent foundations for health all life long!

4. Kitavans eat hardly any dairy. Dairy (except for yoghurt) is known to induce or worsen acne symptoms in some individuals. According to researchers the apparent acne-causing properties of dairy may be linked to the hormones contained in milk. These hormones include IGF-1, 5a-reduced steroids, and a-lactalbumin which may cause acne by affecting the pores.

The fat content of milk does not appear to play a role as observational studies show that also skimmed milk was consistently associated with acne.

5. Eat an abundance of fresh veggies and greens. I think having a greens supplement to add to the diet is an easy way to increase the nutrition. There are many superfoods that would work to keep the body more alkaline and less inflammatory. Such a simple potent way to get the recommended veg and fruit in for the day. Studies show that the habits we have in the a.m. are easiest to maintain so getting some green superfoods in is simple but potent. If you need help finding a good one ask me at our visit. (-:

So, it was a longer article than I planned but if you’ve made it to here you’ll have a good idea of how naturopathic medicine could work to support your child at this time of immense, amazing change. And know that I am here to help you streamline/customize it to your child. It can be surprisingly simple but with large impact. (-: xo