Puberty is a natural and inevitable process that every child will experience at some point in their life. However, in recent years, there has been a growing trend of early puberty, with children reaching this milestone at increasingly younger ages. Early puberty in children can have significant impacts on a child’s physical and emotional development, as well as their overall well-being.

In this blog, we will explore the various factors that can contribute to early puberty, including environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors. We will also discuss the potential consequences of early puberty and provide tips and strategies to help parents and guardians support their children through this challenging time.

Early signs of puberty

Puberty is a gradual process, but there are several early signs that indicate the onset of this stage of development in both boys and girls. Here are some common early signs of puberty:

  • Breast development in girls: Breast buds, small raised bumps under the nipples, are usually the first sign of puberty in girls. The buds can be tender and can appear on one or both breasts.
  • Testicular and penis growth in boys: The testicles and penis will begin to grow and become larger during the early stages of puberty in boys.
  • Pubic hair growth: Pubic hair begins to grow in both boys and girls during puberty. It starts as fine, downy hair and becomes coarser and thicker over time.
  • Body odour: As sweat glands become more active during puberty, body odour can become more noticeable.
  • Acne: The surge in hormone levels during puberty can cause acne breakouts on the face, chest, and back.
  • Growth spurts: Rapid growth in height can occur during puberty, with boys typically experiencing this growth spurt later than girls.

What is early puberty in children?

Early puberty in children, also known as precocious puberty, refers to the onset of puberty before the age of 8 in girls and 9 in boys. Puberty is the period of sexual maturation during which the body undergoes physical and hormonal changes that lead to reproductive maturity.

During puberty, children typically experience a growth spurt, the development of secondary sexual characteristics such as breast development in girls and testicular growth in boys, the onset of menstruation in girls and the ability to ejaculate in boys.

In cases of early puberty, these changes occur earlier than expected, which can lead to physical and emotional challenges for the child. Early puberty can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic factors, certain medical conditions, and exposure to environmental toxins. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider if you suspect that your child may be experiencing early puberty.

Reasons for early puberty in children 

A diet full of junk food

Studies suggest that consuming an unhealthy diet high in junk food is linked to early puberty in children. Junk food, which is often high in sugar, fat, and processed ingredients, can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance, which can affect hormone levels and disrupt the normal timing of puberty. Additionally, some chemicals in junk food, packaging and processing may also interfere with the endocrine systems contributing to early puberty. 

Early puberty can lead to a range of health and social problems, including increased risk of certain cancers, mental health issues, and shorter adult height. Therefore, it is important to encourage children to adopt healthy eating habits and limit their consumption of junk food.

Social media 

The early start of puberty in youngsters is partly a result of society and the media. Too much adult content exposure affects their brain in general but particularly the pituitary gland. As the gland is stimulated, it releases hormones that, in turn, stimulate the testicles or the ovaries to generate the sex hormones, testosterone and oestrogen, respectively. This process prepares youngsters for early puberty.

Protein shakes

Hormones are a common element in protein shakes, and they can have unfavourable consequences on teenagers. For both men and women, these consequences could include the growth of facial hair. Synthetic probes in packed juices, protein drinks, and other nutritional supplements have an impact on hormones.

Overweight or obesity is a reason for early puberty in children

A higher amount of body fat accelerates the onset of puberty by increasing insulin and oestrogen levels. Encourage kids to participate more in outdoor activities and indulge in them at least three times a week for 45 minutes if not more to combat the obesity pandemic. Engage them in a sport that will help them burn more calories.

BPA (bisphenol A)

BPA is a chemical that is present in plastic boxes, food can linings, water bottles, lunch boxes, and other food storage containers. It may contaminate food and disturb the function of the body. One of the primary causes of early puberty in females is BPA exposure. Start using BPA-free, steel, glass, or other materials for storage in schools. BPA has been linked to abnormalities such as PCOS, PCOD, and irregular menstrual cycles.

Final thoughts 

In conclusion, early puberty in children is a complex and multifaceted issue that can have significant physical, emotional, and social impacts on both the child and their family. While the exact causes of early puberty are still being researched, factors such as genetics, environmental toxins, and lifestyle habits may play a role. It is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the signs of early puberty and seek medical advice if they suspect their child may be experiencing it. Treatment options, such as hormone therapy, may be available to help manage the symptoms and alleviate any potential long-term effects. Ultimately, creating a supportive and understanding environment for children going through early puberty can help them navigate this challenging time with confidence and resilience.

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Written by: Anjali Sharma