Teenage is characterized by a period of spurt in growth that occurs along with a number of changes in the mental make-up and physical appearance of an adolescent kid. This metamorphosis from a girl to woman or the boy to a man is brought about by a myriad chemical substances each bestowed with a particular duty and called by a blanket name of ‘hormones’.
Some of the hormones are grouped as sex hormones namely the oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These hormones produced by the ovaries in female and testes in male control the function of sexual maturity and reproduction. These are triggered by the follicle stimulating hormone and the luteinizing hormone.
The other hormones playing an important role during the teenage are the thyroid hormone (also called the growth hormone), insulin the hormone that controls the blood sugar levels and produced by the pancreas, and cortisol also called as the stress hormone is produced by the adrenal glands. This is associated with obesity and depression.
Several factors cause an imbalance in these hormone levels in the body.
Imbalance leads to:
- Irritability and mood swings
- Early development
- Painful and irregular periods
- Insomnia and disturbed sleep
- Difficulty to focus
- Unnatural weight gain
The main factors contributing to the imbalance are:
High sugar intake and fatty food causes insulin resistance and increased fat deposition in the liver leading to the liver slowdown. This can lead to early puberty and high hormone levels in the blood (as the liver slows down, the hormones that usually gets metabolised in the liver gets recirculated).
Thyroid and Insulin secretions can become imbalanced in case there is a strong genetic factor that is playing due to a parent suffering a related condition. This may not always lead to an imbalance but can be taken as a sufficient warning for the future.
Sedentary lifestyle, technological advances had led to increased screen time, computer games and limited outdoor activities. Loss of sleep, stress and decreased calorie burning is the reason for many of the cases of teenage obesity, insulin resistance, behaviour issues, loss of concentration and depression.
Overall pollution, environmental toxins like pesticides ( residue in cereals, vegetables, fruits), cigarettes, hormone injected meat, phthalates and bisphenols from lower grade plastics are collectively called ‘xenohormones’ or man- made chemical compounds that disrupt the normal functioning of the hormones.
Ways to deal with hormone imbalance:
- Balanced diet
- Good complex carbohydrates to provide energy ( prefer whole grains and millets to refined flour)
- At least 1cup of assorted fruits and 2 cups of vegetables per day ( potato is not counted as a vegetable) to provide vitamins and minerals
- 40 to 60 gms of complete protein (dairy, egg, chicken, fish, legumes, pulses) as per body weight and sports activity to provide muscle development, growth and satiety.
- Healthy fats ( olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, mustard oil, ghee) to help absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E,K
- Foods rich in Calcium and Vitamin D (Dairy, sesame seeds, greens, finger millet) to help build up a healthy bone mass.
- Limit high sugar foods to avoid insulin resitance.
- Limit high fat foods to maintain liver health.
- More of fermented foods (curd, idlis) to maintain gut health as good gut bacteria helps in better nutrient absorption.
- Atleast 2 litres of water intake per day.
- Good sleep
- The hormone melatonin maintain the circadian rhythms in the body. Any disruption causes imbalance in hormones. So good sleep of atleast 7-8 hours during natural sleep hours is necessary.
- Taking precautions if there is genetic predisposition
- It is prudent to be forewarned if genetic predisposition for diabetes and hypothyroidism is there and follow strict diet rules to prevent any hormonal disturbances in the future.
- Active lifestyle
- Active lifestyle should be adopted. Screen time and use of gadgets should be limited.
- Organic choices
- To beat the environmental factors healthy choices like going for organic food ingredients, switching to hormone free milk, meat can be adopted. As far as possible plastic (especially the ones below pp5 grade) can be replaced by metal or glass containers.
6. Countering the imbalance with ‘happy’ hormones
- The body secretes certain hormones which seem to counter the ill-effects of the hormonal imbalance. Creating situations conducive for the secretion of these hormones will help to alleviate the imbalance.
- Seratonin: Secreted when one gets a sense of satisfaction after doing some good deed, some small help for others or any fine gesture towards others.
- Endorphins: This ‘feel-good’ hormone is secreted after a good workout or a good run or after playing a good game.
- Dopamine: Secreted when a person is happy with himself or with the dress he is wearing, satisfied with a drawing he/she has made or dish he has cooked or after biting into his/her favourite chocolate.
- Oxytocin: Secreted when a person is in good company laughing away with friends or family, sharing anecdotes with parents or during a light hearted sibling chat.
Adolescent age is the right time to set things in the right direction for a healthy and fulfilling life. Well informed is well-armed. It is in the hands of the to-be teens and their parents to make the healthy choices.