Our Kids and Their Hormones: Things Every Parent Should Know

Apr 18, 2024

I’m not sure we give enough thought to our own hormones, let alone to our kids' hormones.  In our high school health classes, we were probably introduced to hormones as the body’s messengers, orchestrating a wide array of bodily functions, from growth and metabolism to mood and reproduction. As guardians of our biological equilibrium, our hormones do indeed have a profound influence over our health and well-being. In fact, to me, they seem to be significantly more than ‘messengers.’  In fact, it looks like they're running the show most of the time.  They definitely  don’t seem to be under the control of any higher level command centre.  On the contrary, they just seem to be running amok most of the time.

Yes, when our hormones get imbalanced, they can create havoc. Scarily enough, it seems that and more and more of our children are experiencing hormonal challenges of some sort.  In this blog post, I look at the myriad reasons why our children collectively have more hormonal challenges, and what these challenges mean for their health and well-being.  Sadly, it seems that one outcome of these challenges may be infertility.   Believing that the potential loss of grandchildren could really motivate you, I also offer what I hope are actionable insights for parents to safeguard their children's hormonal health.

Understanding Hormones: The Architects of Human Physiology

As suggested above, our hormones serve as the body's chemical messengers, regulating crucial processes such as growth, metabolism, reproduction, and mood. Produced by various glands, including the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive organs, hormones circulate through the bloodstream, exerting their effects on target tissues. When everything is working well, this intricate hormonal symphony ensures the effective functioning of the body's systems, maintaining equilibrium and vitality.  But, again, sadly, for many children. things aren't working so well:  their hormones are out of whack. 

Why?  It seems to have a lot to do with the way we live today. Our modern life isn’t as healthy as it might be. Yes, our medical science is phenomenal in many ways. We've eliminated or at least reduced deaths from many contagious illnesses like polio, measles, and smallpox. We have also effective vaccination campaigns and improved sanitation practices that have radically changed child mortality rates. But our worry about infectious disease has been replaced with worry about chronic illness.   Yes, the epidemic of chronic illness now extends to our children.  They, too, are much more likely than previous generations to have chronic challenges like obesity, diabetes, and asthma, all of which are largely linked to lifestyle factors such as poor diet, sedentary behaviour, and environmental pollutants. And, many of these chronic illnesses influence hormone levels.  Consider, for example: 

Increased Obesity in Kids: The epidemic of childhood obesity has emerged as a significant contributor to hormonal imbalance. Excess adipose tissue, particularly visceral fat, can disrupt hormone production and signalling, leading to insulin resistance, elevated oestrogen levels, and altered reproductive function. 

Dietary Choices: Poor dietary habits characterised by excessive consumption of processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can wreak havoc on hormone levels. Imbalances in insulin, leptin, and ghrelin - hormones involved in appetite regulation and metabolism - can result in metabolic disorders and hormonal disturbances.

Stress: The pressures of modern life, coupled with academic demands and social challenges, expose children to chronic stress. Prolonged stress triggers the release of cortisol, the body's primary stress hormone, which can disrupt hormonal balance, impairing growth, immune function, and reproductive health. 

Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs): Perhaps one of the most concerning factors is the ubiquitous presence of EDCs in our environment. Found in everyday products such as plastics, pesticides, and personal care items, EDCs interfere with hormone production, reception, and metabolism, posing a grave threat to children's hormonal health.

Of course, all of us, big and small, old and young, are being affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals.  However, children are particularly vulnerable to their harmful effects for a variety of reasons:

  • Compared to adults, children take in more water, food, and air in relation to their body size.  To the extent that this water, food, or air is contaminated, our children will be disproportionately affected.
  • Children's developing brains are more sensitive to damage from EDCs due to their immature blood-brain barrier.
  • The skin of infants is more permeable to water, increasing their exposure to harmful chemicals in water.
  • Children often spend time indoors on floors where they are more easily exposed to EDCs released from our furniture, or used on the floor, or embedded in our rugs or their toys.
  • Infants, in particular, are prone to putting objects in their mouths, further increasing their exposure to EDCs.
  • Finally, and very importantly, during development, children's detoxification systems are less effective, which leaves them more susceptible to the harmful effects of EDCs.

Did you know that our children are also borne with quite a significant stock of toxins running through their veins?   A seminal study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) examined cord blood samples from newborns, revealing disturbingly high levels of various EDCs, including phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and flame retardants. Actually, each of the 10 babies studied carried more than 200 different chemicals in them, not just EDCs but also common pesticides, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorochemicals, which are used in fast food packaging, clothes and textiles.  These include the Teflon chemical, PFOA, which was recently labeled as a ‘likely human carcinogen’ by the EPA's Science Advisory Board.

Yes, we thought that the space in which our babies developed was ‘clean.’   Apparently, not.  Many chemicals can cross the placental barrier, disrupting foetal development and predisposing children to hormonal imbalances from the very inception of life.

So, perhaps it is less surprising now that our children face such hormonal challenge. The repercussions of hormonal imbalance in children are far-reaching and encompass a spectrum of health issues, including:

Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders: Disrupted insulin signalling and metabolic dysfunction can culminate in type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, placing children at heightened risk of cardiovascular disease and other complications.

Menstrual Difficulties and Reproductive Disorders: Hormonal disruptions can manifest as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), irregular menstrual cycles, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in adolescent girls, compromising their reproductive health and quality of life. PMDD in particular is concerning, given that it has a functional impact very similar to major depression. 

Decreased Testosterone and Sperm Count in Boys: Boys are not immune to the effects of hormonal disruption, with declining testosterone levels and sperm counts raising concerns about fertility and reproductive function.   While there is some debate about the severity of the global decline in sperm counts, there is seemingly clearer illustration of the decline in testosterone levels across multiple ages and countries.  Sadly, this hormonal decline has ramifications not just for reproduction but apparently for aging men’s cognitive health as well.

So what can we do?

As stewards of our children's health, we, parents, play a pivotal role in mitigating the risks of hormonal imbalance.  Here are some actionable steps parents can take to support their children's hormonal health:

Promote a Nutrient-Rich Diet:  Encourage consumption of whole, unprocessed foods rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. Emphasize lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while minimizing intake of sugary beverages, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods.

Prioritize Physical Activity: Foster a culture of physical activity and outdoor play, engaging children in regular exercise to promote metabolic health, hormone balance, and overall well-being 

Minimize Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors: Take proactive measures to reduce children's exposure to EDCs by opting for organic produce, using glass or stainless steel containers instead of plastic, and selecting personal care products free of harmful chemicals

Cultivate Stress Management Techniques: Teach children stress management techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques to mitigate the adverse effects of chronic stress on hormonal balance.

 It is still so surprising to me that the epidemic of illness amongst our children isn’t front page news.  It seems to have been completely normalised.  But if you are at all interested in having grandchildren, the increasing risk of hormonal imbalance in our children demands urgent attention and concerted action. With learning, with care, and with some day to day lifestyle efforts, parents can empower their children to thrive in this modern world.

It’s what Azoki is all about.  We’ll help in every way we can.


Yours in Health & Happiness,