The age of teenagers generally consists of those ages from 10 to 20. This is basically the interval for adolescence to evolve from childhood to adulthood. The mental and physical of a teenager will keep on growing. The adolescent is going to experience a fast growth of sexual maturation as well.
Parents should have knowledge of changes that occur during adolescence period so that they can understand the complex nature of teenage children and handle them better.
Adolescence is the period of transition from a child to a man/woman. It is a critical period not only for the kids but also for the parents. They can typically be divided into 3 different stages:
- Early adolescence (10 to 14 years)
- Middle adolescence (14 to 17 years)
- Late adolescence (17 to 19 years)
Regular development during adolescence includes sexual maturation and an increase in body size. The physical energy of a teenager is at its highest during this period. The activity of endocrine glands is the cause of the changes. This period when sexual maturation occurs is termed ‘puberty’.
It is the brain (Hypothalamus) that decides when to order the release of hormones in an individual teenager. Different hormones cause different changes. The ‘puberty’ changes result in the stimulation of testicles and ovaries via the pituitary bodily hormones.
The brain tells (through signals) the pituitary gland to begin releasing gonadotropins, which stimulate the testicles in boys and the ovaries in girls. Growing reproductive organs, (testicles and ovaries) secrete sex hormones such as testosterone (boys) and estrogen (girls).
These hormones cause the development of sexual characteristics, including public and auxiliary hair in both sexes, facial hair and muscle mass in boys and breast growth in girls, and also the sexual desire (libido). All internal organs and external limbs etc get longer and larger. The body experiences an all-round growth surge, which last for about 2 – 3 years.
This is the ‘turbulent’ period for the teen agas and the period of anxiety for the parents. Parents may observe mood changes, change in sleeping patterns; during this period the teenagers need maximum support from the parents.
Sequences of puberty
- Age range: 9 to 12 – Growth of scrotum and testes. Male hormones start to get active.
- Age range: 11 to 14 – Growth spurt at its peak. Pubic hair growth begins. Reproductive organ increases in size & length.
- Age range: 11 to 16 – Underarm hair develops. There is a change in voice. Voice gets deeper. Facial hair grows.
- Age range – 14 to 18 – Physical growth reaches almost to adult range. Facial hair and chest hair increase. Some may have to start shaving.
- Age range 9 to 11 – Hormone activity starts. Breast budding may start. Ovaries enlarge.
- Age range 9 to 14 – Growth of soft, thin, pubic hair begins. Breast growth is manifest. Growth spur gets to the peak. Height & weight increase considerably.
- Age range – 9 to 15 – Breast growth continues. Pubic hair becomes coarser and darker. The girl may get first menstruation in the latter part of the stage.
- Age range 10 to 16 – Underarm hair begins to grow. Pubic hair continues to grow.
- Age range 12 – 19 – This is the final stage of becoming an adult. Breasts reach adult size. Full height is attained. The menstruation cycle gets established ovulation occurs monthly.
Adolescence is a period of emotional growth. Teenagers question established ethical values and traditions, much to the annoyance and despair of the parents. Their ‘sensitivity’ is highest during this period. They seek and develop friends and develop a rebellious attitude.
Boys try to prove that they are ‘cool’ adults; what they can not stand is taunts from their friends and also hate to the labeled as a ‘sissy’ – lesser man. Friends seem more important than parents. Parents need to understand that hormonal changes to push the kids into adulthood is the reason for the belligerent behavior of their teenagers.
Parents must treat the teenagers not only with sympathy but also with empathy! It is not that teenagers do not revere their parents. They want or try to be independent.
Problems in adolescents
• In today’s permissive society, getting off the moral track is an ever-present temptation for teenagers. In the early adolescence stage, increasing curiosity and interest in sexual anatomy and pubertal changes develop. Adolescents may start exploring sexual activities. Masturbation among boys is nearly universal and is perhaps less common among girls. In the later stage of adolescence, sexuality shifts from the exploratory stage to actual sex acts.
Appropriate sexual education may be necessary. As teenagers like our cinema heroes believe in ‘intimate’ life long friends, homo-sexuality may become their first sexual experience. This induces guilt feeling and as we know, this guilt feeling may lead to depression. Girls also run the risk of becoming pregnant and teen mothers.
• School/college problems: school or college constitute a large part of an adolescent’s existence. Here is where most problems of the teenagers manifest. Fear of going to school/college, dropping out, quarrels with teachers, academic underachievement. Exam stress. Peer pressure etc contribute to college problems.
• Most teenagers tend to engage in risk-taking adventures such as fast driving, sexual experimentation, etc. Another serious risk in addiction to alcohol and drugs. Some teenagers take to illegal activities. In India, many have witnessed several incidents of rich, teenagers, driving fast luxury cars with breakneck speed and killing several ‘platform’ dwellers. Teenagers involved are from hyper-rich families who can afford BMW/Benz cars.
• There are other mental health problems that may crop up. These are depression, anxiety, psychosis, suicidal tendency, eating disorders, etc.
1. Delayed puberty (medically called ‘Amenorrhoea) and Irregular periods. The first onset of menstruation in girls is called Menarche. In some girls, puberty is delayed.
2. Puberty is the time at which the onset of sexual maturity occurs and reproductive organs become functional. Puberty usually starts between the age of 10 to 16. Every girl is different, so do not worry about when you start – your body will decide when it feels right. As said earlier, puberty is started and regulated by hormones produced by pituitary glands.
3. Physical changes that occur during puberty are regulated by changes in the levels of hormones produced by the pituitary gland. This gland produces luteinizing hormone (a hormone that stimulates ovulation) and follicle-stimulating hormone (a hormone that stimulates the ripening of the follicles in the ovary). The increased levels of these sex hormones result in physical change – growth & maturation of breasts, ovaries, uterus, and vagina.
Cause for delayed puberty are:
- Birth defect in which the Uterus and Fallopian tubes do not develop normally or by chromosomal disorder like Turner syndrome.
- Anemia or general ill-health.
- Serious illnesses like T.B. Bright’s disease or malaria of prolonged nature.
- Disorders of the hypothalamus (a part of the brain)
- Deficiency in the secretions of ovarian, Thyroid, and Pituitary hormones.
- Mental disorders, depression.
- Thin women, with Anorexia Nervosa.
- Excessive stress, exercises, eating too little.
Picture credited to Wikipedia
4. (A) Home Remedies – Puberty
• For physically underdeveloped thin girls, ‘laddoos’ made with gingelly and jaggery are given daily at lunchtime. This brings about puberty and also can regularise the menstrual flow. Gingelly decoction is also used, to bring about quick puberty. Gingelly – jaggery rolls can be given to young girls for menstrual regulation but NOT to a pregnant woman – it may cause abortion.
• A pinch of saffron, well crushed in a tablespoon of milk is another recipe for underdeveloped girls.
• Chutney made with coriander leaves, curry leaves, mint, or Fenugreek leaves helps in the full growth of the adolescent girls. Mint is a good uterine tonic. These greens help in checking anemia.
Ayurveda considers teenagers as that governed by pitta dosha which is associated with transformation, heat and metabolism. To balance pitta, teenagers should eat a cooling nourishing diet.
4(B) Other menstruation problems
Dysmenorrhea is painful menstruation of which there are two forms. Primary (spasmodic) dysmenorrhea is characterized by lower abdominal pains starting just before or with the menstrual flow and continuing during menstruation.
It is often associated with nausea, vomiting, headache, faintness, constipation, and diarrhea. The specific cause is not known but could be due to excessive prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) have many functions, one of which is to cause contraction of the Uterus. Primary dysmenorrhea may become less with age and after pregnancy.
Secondary dysmenorrhea usually affects older patients causing congested ache with lower abdominal cramps, pelvic pain, etc. The pain may start from a few days to up 2 weeks before menstruation.
Common causes for secondary dysmenorrhea are pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, fibroids, adenomyosis, In some cases, the pain results from the passage of menstrual blood through a narrow cervix.
Per menstrual irritability, nervousness, depression and abdominal bloating may persist during part or all of the menstrual period.
Menorragia and Metrorrhagia
Menorrhagia means abnormally heavy bleeding at menstruation which may or may not be associated with abnormally long periods of Hormonal imbalances, inflammation or fibroids in the pelvic cavity, anemia and some other conditions may be the causes.
Metrorrhagia is bleeding from Uterus other than the normal menstrual period. It may indicate serious disease and should always be investigated.
According to Ayurveda, these conditions are due to an imbalance of hormones, caused by the aggravation of pitta in the body. Abnormal growths in the Uterus may also produce profuse bleeding. Heavy bleeding may cause giddiness, headache, pain in the calves, and restlessness.
Mint chutney or mint decoction decreases menstrual pain & cramps.
1. Ladies Fingers – A decoction is made with boiling 100 grams of Ladies Finger in 1/2 liter of water for 20 minutes and then filtered. This decoction, sweetened, and given in doses of 60 to 90 ml frequently is beneficial.
2. Douches using fenugreek seeds, Guava leaves walnut leaves or even just warm water could reduce purulent discharge and clean the area. But douches may be used in consultation with a doctor.
Leucorrhea refers to whitish or yellowish discharge of mucus from the vaginal opening. It may occur normally at all times, the quantity increasing before or after menstruation. An abnormally large discharge may indicate an infection of the lower reproductive tract by the protozoan “Trichomonas vaginalis”.
Ayurveda considers that the cause for leucorrhea is vitiation of ‘Kapha’. It affects weak, emaciated and anemic women more. Inflammation of womb following childbirth, displacement of Uterus, or venereal diseases. Unhygienic conditions also maybe some of the causes.
In addition to whitish discharge, there may be a pain in the lumbar region, calves. Other symptoms are constipation, frequent headaches, and intense itching.
Home Remedies for Gynecological Disorders
For menstrual problems
1. Apiece of fresh ginger should be pounded and boiled in a cup of water for a few minutes. This infusion sweetened with sugar should be used thrice daily after meals.
2. Banana flowers. The use of banana flowers in cases of excessive menstruation is well known and effective. One banana flower should be cooked and eaten with one cup of curd. The quantity of progesterone is increased, reducing the bleeding.
3. Sesame seeds. Half a teaspoon of the powder of sesame seeds taken with hot water twice daily reduces spasmodic pain during menstruation in young, virgin anemic girls. A warm hip bath containing a handful of crushed sesame seeds should be simultaneously taken along with this recipe.
4. Coriander seeds are also beneficial in treating excessive menstruation. Six grams of coriander seeds boiled in half a liter of water. The decoction should be taken off the fire when only half of the water remains. Sugar candy should be added to it and the patient should drink when it is still warm.
5. seven tender leaves of the pomegranate tree and seven grains of rice ground into a paste and given to a patient for a month twice daily, act both as curative as well as preventive medicine in cases of excessive/irregular menstruation.
Importance of Certain Ayurvedic Herbs
1. Saraca Indica – Strong Astringent, used in Uterine affectations and in Menorrhagia. Uterine sedative Direct action on Uterus. Stimulates endometrium & Ovarian tissue.
2. Symplocos racemosacooling, Astringent, Useful in Menorrhagia, bowel complaints, eye diseases, and Ulcers. Arrests uterine hemorrhage.
3. Side cordifolia:- Aphrodisiac, treats micturition, and leucorrhoea.
4. Tribulus terrestis:- Cooling, diuretic, aphrodisiac, used in painful micturition. Takes care of pains, during PMS.
5. Asparagus race mosus – Refrigerant, demulcent, diuretic Aphrodisiac.
6. Vitis Vinifera – For skin diseases, Astringent, Cooling, Sweet, laxative, stomachic, useful in Thirst, the heat of the body.
7. Boerhavia repens – D i – uretic, laxative, expectorant, in asthma stomachic, in edema, anemia, anasarca, scanty urine and internal inflammation.
8. Viburnam – Used in menorrhagia and in post partumhaemorrage.
9. Embelica officinalis – Acrid, Cooling, refrigerant, diuretic, aperient, Useful in hemorrhage in combination with iron for anemia
10. Aloe vera – Emmenagogue, in menstrual suppressions, purgative, cooling induces ovulation.
11. Nigella sativa Emmanagogue, stimulant, carminative, diuretic galactagogue, skincare.
12. Cissusquadrangularis – For irregular menstruation, Asthma, for digestive troubles.
13. Sessamumindicum – Emmenagogue, tonic, lactagogue emmolient, for Urinary complaints.
14. Acacia arabica – Astringent, tonic, demulcent, used to treat vaginal discharge.
15. Bombax pentandrum – Tonic, alternative, Astringent, and Laxative.
16. Berberis aristata – Astringent & Tonic Arrests internal bleeding.
17. Bryonia laciniosa – Uterine tonic.
18. Ricinus communis – Takes care of problems like water retention and low backache in PMS Other Useful Herbs are:- Hemide smus indicus, Bryonia laciniosa, Brassica juncea, Cedrus deodara, etc.
Acne and Pimples
Acnes and pimples herald the arrival of puberty. Teenage girls dread acne and obsessively, try to get rid of them. Acne is a common skin condition associated with adolescence and produces pimples on the face & upper for so. The word Acne itself is associated with youth. Its root word in ‘acne’ meaning ‘start of a happy life’. There is no preventive method. Teenage is the period of pimples and in many cases, it is temporary and disappears when adolescence ends. There are 3 reasons why acne occurs.
1. Secretions of sex hormones.
2. Excessive secretion of sebaceous glands that secrete sebum, the oil that helps skin and hair.
3. Bacterial infection.
There is no medicine available or needed for the first cause. The other two causes can be managed with medicines. Because Teenage triggers excessive sebum production, acne occurs exclusively in adolescence. Exit to the sebaceous gland (in the hair follicle) gets blocked, resulting in blackheads and pimples.
Pimples are of 4 types – The first two types are not serious and could be used with creams containing vitamin ‘A’, Erythromycin, sulfur. For third and fourth type pimples, approach doctor. But now – a day the surging in towards herbal ayurvedic pimple cures. The ayurvedic cure is comprehensive, starts with diet regimen, and develops a skincare regimen.
• Do not pick, poke at acne. Do not squeeze the pimples, do not touch or prick them.
• Wash the affected areas, once or twice a day, gently with a mild soap. Do not go for antibacterial or abrasive soaps. Do not scrub frequently. Use a soft towel and pat way.
• Avoid food items high in oil, sugar & salt. Avoid bakery products. Stop ‘junk foods’. Include more fruits in your diet. Avoid condiments, pickles, soft drinks, etc.
• Face packs:- The following parts can be made & applied to face.
(i) 5 gm of Jeera paste or cloves paste
(ii) 5 gm of red sandalwood and turmeric, made into a paste with milk.
(iii) A paste of nutmeg.
(iv) One tablespoon Multani mitti, 5 ground cloves, a pinch of camphor and rose water, ground to a paste.
(v) 1 tsp of fresh coriander powder, a pinch of turmeric powder made into a paste. Apply their directly on pimples & leave it overnight. Similarly, the paste of curry leaves, fenugreek leaves can be used.
(vi) 1 tsp of cinnamon powder and 3 tablespoons of honey.
• Juice of Aloe vera or ripe tomato pulp or raw papaya can be applied on the affected areas.
• Apply fresh tender coconut water in the morning and before evening daily. Let it dry & then wash it away with water. This will remove the marks left by pimples.
• Make a juice of cucumber, dip cotion into the juice, dab all over the face. Remove after some time. You can use the juice of potatoes with honey, similarly. Apply this like a mask on the face, leave for 10 minutes, and wash. These methods will remove blackheads and masks left by pimples.
• Associated dandruff should be treated.
• Constipation, one of the reasons for acne, is to be treated. Take 1 spoonful of Isalagol daily before sleeping at night.
• Pimples disappear when rubbed with garlic several times a day.
• Vitamin therapy, specifically niacin, and vitamin A, has been used to treat acne. zinc taken in 50 mg doses, thrice a day in very beneficial in clearing Acne. Consult your doctor.
Ayurvedic generic medicines
1. Kumkumathi lepam – skin vitamin for pimples
2. Blood purifying herbal medicines – saribadyasava, Triphala churana
Health issues for male teenagers
Puberty does not seem to bother the boys as much as it does the girls. The start of production of sperms is called ‘spermarche: The symptoms of delayed spermarche in males are – lack of testicular enlargement by age 131/2, lack of pubic hair by age 15, or a time-lapse of more than 5 years from the start to the completion of genital enlargement. Boys mature later than girls. Boys do not experience and physical involuntary discharges like menstruation.
Treatment, it necessary, involves the use of supplementary sex hormones. There could be psychological problems due to ego, earlier push to independence, stronger restrictions of peers, negative attitude, etc. The parents should at this stage, treat the teenager as a friend.
In primary Amenorrhoea, the menstrual periods fail to appear at puberty. In secondary amenorrhea, the periods start at puberty and then stop. In some cases even after menarche, the girls do not experience regular cycles every month. The delayed puberty in girls is – lack of breast development by age 13, more than 5 years from the beginning of breast growth to the first menstrual period, lack of pubic hair by age 14, or failure to menstruate by age 16. A short height (short stature) may indicate delayed maturation in both boys and girls.
There are medicines like Ashokarishta, Drakkshadi churanam, etc. Consult an Ayurvedic Physician.
Advice to parents
• Handle teenagers gingerly with, a pair of silk gloves. Do not try ‘your generation’ methods. Teenagers prefer the approval of their friends than their parents. They will be anything to get that ‘manly’ image from their friends especially girlfriends.
Whatever method the parents adopt, they must not use harsh methods to control the adolescents. There is no single specific thumb rule to handle rebellious emotional teenagers – parents have to adapt methods appropriate to the situation. The influence of grandparents could work.
• Parents should be on guard to check whether their kids go astray, take drugs, and resort to sexual activities. This needs constant vigil. Watch surreptitiously activities of your boy/girl and his/her friends.
• Get your wards to engage more in outdoor activities – like swimming, games trekking, etc.
• Yoga is immensely beneficial to teenagers. So also meditation.
• Parents should ensure that teenagers get adequate, nutritious food.
• Stand by your kids in cares of emotional or physical crisis and help them to get over the feeling of insecurity common in adolescence.