Over The Counter: Helping teens stay healthy in body, mind
The teen years are tightly packed with high emotion, racing hormones, conflict, indecision and sometimes unsettling transformation.
It is during this period, as well, that young people become acquainted with a host of social and environmental elements that can be injurious to their health.
Decision-making and discretion –– advised by the right mentors –– can encourage young people to steer away from hurtful influences and to embrace and practice healthy living. And making the right choices as an adolescent can set in motion a healthy lifetime.
Biennially, since 1991, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has produced a research study, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States.”
The research involves more than 15,000 questionnaires filled out by students in grades 9-12, representing a sampling of public and private high schools across the U.S., varied according to socio-economic, racial and geographic factors.
In June, CDC released its 2011 YRBS. Here is an excerpt:
Many high school students are engaged in priority health-risk behaviors associated with the leading causes of death among persons aged 10–24 years in the United States.
During the 30 days before the survey, 32.8 percent of high school students nationwide had texted or e-mailed while driving, 38.7 percent had drunk alcohol and 23.1 percent had used marijuana.
During the 12 months before the survey, 32.8 percent of students had been in a physical fight, 20.1 percent had been bullied on school property and 7.8 percent had attempted suicide.
Many high school students nationwide are engaged in risky sexual behaviors associated with unintended pregnancies and STDs, including HIV infection.
Johnson Compounding & Wellness Center takes a holistic approach to supporting health and wellness –– with this approach including suggestions on a proper diet; recommendations on exercise, rest and stress reduction; supplement regimens; and, as necessary, prescription medication that we compound in our own on-site lab.
Indeed, it is all connected, and good health is comprised of many components. "Healthy mind, healthy body" is an expression and a notion with which many of us are well acquainted.
We rightly worry about the choices and decisions of teenagers, and how these choices and decisions will affect their overall health. Parents concern themselves with discipline, rules and guidance for their children. They work hard to provide their children with opportunities that will enrich and enlighten them and that will foster in them responsible and moral conduct.
It is also vital and important that we promote for adolescents, and for everyone, keeping the body strong. A healthy body –– and the decisions and conduct made in support of a healthy body –– facilitate and maintain a broad spectrum of healthy choices.
Adolescence is a propitious time to learn and start practicing healthy living, for it is an age in which the mind can appreciate and process lessons, and when individual liberty and identity are being established. It is also a period of what should be rapidly increasing personal responsibility and accountability.
So what can a parent do to nurture the health of their adolescent?
Here are some good practices that will build a foundation for a healthy life.
- Junk food is injurious to so much of society. And white flour and processed sugar are not beneficial to one’s health. Avoid as much of it as you can.
- Caffeine is another substance that can throw teens off. And kids are ingesting a lot of caffeine, mainly through coffee, soda and energy drinks. Caffeine does keep one alert –– which can help in certain activities –– but, of course, it can also induce anxiety and interfere with sleep.
- Proper sleep is essential to growth and health in all areas of life. Growing teenagers should have a minimum of nine hours of sleep per night. It can be difficult for a parent to ensure that this happens, particularly because puberty can have an effect on the body’s normal sleep/wake rhythm, but this is an essential building block to long-term health.
- To get back to diet, kids need to understand what they eat –– and they need to know what good and bad diets do to the body. When young people are advised on the benefits of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, low-fat dairy and whole grains –– and when they are educated on the bad effects of bad food –– then the chances are upped that they will eat the good stuff.
- We recommend that teens take a probiotic, which is a form of good bacteria that helps digestion, provides protection from harmful bacteria and strengthens the immune system.
- Acne is on the list of physical conditions that are most prevalent with teens, and one that causes anxiety and stress. Indeed, it is the 12-20 age group in which acne is most commonly found. This is because in the teen years, hormone levels rise, which causes sebaceous glands that are attached to hair follicles to produce the oily substance sebum. When a hair follicle gets plugged with sebum and dead cells, it results in an outbreak on the skin surface.
Teens should be aware that while the jury is still out on the relationship between diet and acne, it seems that some foods may, for some people, aggravate the condition. There has been some discussion, particularly around dairy and its relationship to acne.
- We know that smoking cigarettes, excessive alcohol consumption and illicit drugs are not good for you. Additionally, the high level of adolescent abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter meds is extremely worrisome. If you use any prescription medication, make sure it is not accessible to a teen in your home.
Do teens need supplements?
Whether it is to enhance performance in sports, or to simply to build muscles and stay trim in the interest of looking better, teens spend a lot of money on supplements and substances.
The foundation for running faster, lifting more weight, jumping higher, increasing endurance and building a physique is the same today as it was when humans first undertook these pursuits: the right type and the right amount of training, sufficient rest and a healthy diet.
Intelligent and carefully considered supplementation can help. Yet there are mountains of supplements out there that are if not worthless, close to worthless, and some are even harmful.
At Johnson Compounding & Wellness Center, we carry a line of natural sports performance supplements that have received strong and positive reviews. Yet even the highest quality and purest supplements need to be taken in the proper amount, and it must not overused. For example, protein is necessary for muscle and strength building and overall health.
We are concerned though that teens are consuming too much protein –– even high-grade protein –– in the form of powders and concentrated liquids. This places stress on the kidneys and liver, where it is metabolized. A surplus of protein can damage these vital organs.
Steroids are powerful compounds that have important uses in medicine, including reducing inflammation, reducing pain, treating autoimmune disease, stimulating and supporting weight and muscle gain in people with illnesses or traumatic injury and helping those with anemia boost their red blood cell production. When abused, steroids can be deadly.
There is only one reason to take steroids –– and that is because a medical doctor has prescribed them to treat an illness or other health condition. Any other use is dangerous both to teens consuming them and those around them, as abuse of steroids can lead to physical aggression and deadly force.
What applies for healthy living for adolescents is what applies for people of all ages. Still, teens have specific challenges, angst and health concerns. It helps society all around, for today and for the future, when society promotes and emphasizes the importance of the establishing healthy living as early as possible.
Youth should also be ever mindful that decisions and life choices made and acted on today can have an impact on their entire life. Just like going to school provides a foundation for a successful career, tending to one’s health will lower the chance of chronic disease in the future. And what investment could be more worthwhile?
Steve Bernardi is a compounding pharmacist and Dr. Gary Kracoff is a registered pharmacist and a naturopathic doctor at Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center in Waltham, Mass. (www.naturalcompounder.com) Readers with questions about natural or homeopathic medicine, compounded medications, or health in general can email email@example.com or call 781-893-3870.