Teenage Health: The Growing Years

By Emma Wisbey

The adolescent years bring the more serious side of health issues. This is where our healthy habits can form the foundations for adult life. Balance is the key and if we can instil a sense of balance in our teens, then it is easy for them to identify times when this balance becomes disrupted. They can then instigate a call to action to help themselves regain balance and overall health.

There are 3 key aspects to our health requiring balance, which are: physical, mental and emotional. However, if you ask most teenagers about health, they will identify their physical wellbeing with how healthy they are, often forgetting about the mental and emotional aspects. But these two areas often need the most care during this time as they will certainly control how one feels physically.

As parents we nag and sometimes even dictate “what” we want our kids to do, forgetting to give them the reasoning behind this. I’m hoping that by giving you the “why” behind adopting some healthy habits, will make all the difference in motivating you to create a balanced teenage life.

Diet:

As mentioned in my recent Facebook post, you are craving sugar and junk food because the demands on your body are enormous at the moment. Your brain is clever and knows that a binge on sugar will spike your insulin which gives you a temporary boost of energy. Not to mention the rush of dopamine in your brain that makes you feel pretty good too. These are only temporary fixes and will have you feeling pretty average in an hour or so; once these chemicals wear off. The best way to avoid this is to eat clean fresh healthy food at regular intervals. Protein, in particular, is great at stabilising your energy and the amino acids it contains are important as building blocks during the growing years.

Rest:

“Get off the phone/iPad/computer” is only too often yelled at you from those whom care. What you need to understand is that the blue light emitted from electronic devices inhibits melatonin; and melatonin is what helps you to sleep. It’s inevitable that you need to use all of these things in the course of a day. But, if you can switch off at least an hour before bed you will have a much more rested sleep and feel better for it the next day.

Relaxation:

This is not about how many hours sleep you get at night, it’s about time out just for you. You may not be a kid anymore but it truly is ok to “play”. What do you love doing? Dancing, hanging out with friends, reading a good book? Find what makes you happy and indulge yourself. It is important to learn this simple, yet difficult, task as early in life as possible.

Exercise:

Yes, it keeps us fit. Yes, it can be a love/hate relationship. It also helps to down regulate stress hormones. In fact it increases your endorphins or “feel good” hormones, which in turn allows you to keep emotionally fit. At this time in life, emotional health is paramount.

Hormones:

We all know that hormones are high in the teen years but many don’t understand the connection of these hormones to how we feel, how sick we get or various other physical symptoms (acne, poor metabolism etc.) Contrary to popular belief, female hormones don’t get “balanced” by being prescribed the Pill. You can’t change the amount of hormones that your body is producing, but did you know that the better your liver and bowel are functioning, the better clearance you will have of nasty hormone metabolites. Eat lots of fibrous green leafy veggies (eg. broccoli, kale, spinach etc) as these help cleanse the liver and move the bowels. Most parents will tell you to “eat your greens” but many won’t realise that this is one of the reasons why.

Medication:

As you approach adulthood you may find yourself at the doctor more often. And this brings with it the potential for prescription medication. I see many teens that have been prescribed contraceptives, acne medication, anti-depressants… the list goes on. For some this is helpful, for others, not so much. I recently saw an excellent little clip by Dr Phil, urging people to ask more questions of their doctor. In his words “don’t be a passive patient”. You’ve spent your childhood asking mum and dad “why”. You need to know that it’s ok to ask your doctor why too.

Stress:

High stress can lead to ill health, weight gain/loss, blood sugar abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, insomnia and more. It’s inevitable that many things in your day or week will stimulate a stress response, but, how you adapt to the stress will determine its ongoing affects. A simple strategy might be creating a list of all the things that are stressing you out and beside each one, brain storm some ideas of how best to deal with this. When you get to the end, any that have no strategy can easily be shared with a friend, parent or a teacher to help get some suggestions as to what you can do next. Your little to-do list will then become your antidote for these things causing unnecessary discomfort.

Emotional imbalance:

Firstly, let me tell you it is absolutely normal to feel anxious, depressed or emotional. Did you know that in Australia the current statistic is that 7% of young Australians (aged 12-17) suffer with an anxiety disorder? It can leave both you and your parent feeling helpless; however, there are many avenues of support to investigate. Clinical nutrition is an excellent place to start from dietary improvements to the prescription of supplements, there are lots that can be done in clinic to help you feel better and much of this is supported by evidence based research. From an emotional perspective there are many support services and groups that might be utilised too. Either way, the best starting point is to talk to someone, a parent, relative, or family friend. You will be shocked how therapeutic simply acknowledging these feelings can be.

I love assisting teens to better health in the clinic because they are so willing to learn and adapt to the better health choices suggested. Being a mum myself (of a teen and an almost-teen) I know only too well the deaf ears that parental advice falls on. So enlisting the help of a naturopath can be a positive experience for you both.

Please join us for the first talk in our series A Life Well Lived where I will be presenting: The Growing Years. This will be an introduction to supporting wellness from childhood, and our teens, into our early 20s. If you are a parent or a young adult, and want to hear how good life can be once you master the balancing act, simply call 5221 8220 to reserve a spot.

Hope to see you there!

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