Today I wanted to write about something I am seeing more and more frequently in the clinic- The long term outcome of young girls and women being put onto the Oral Contraceptive Pill in a push to try and reduce their teenage acne outbreak. I use this as an example, because this is the one I see most frequently. However young teenage girls can be put onto the Pill for a myriad of reasons aside from contraception- mood stabilising, heavy or painful periods, or even irregular periods.
Quite often these girls are not sexually active yet, but a GP will suggest the Pill for these conditions because, symptomatically, they can help to alleviate and lessen the symptoms. They do this, because your endocrine system (hormones) work on a feedback system- meaning that if you put an extra-source of hormones into your body to fill the receptors, your body registers this as having enough hormones, and it ceases the production of its own hormone. Simple right? I wish I could agree.
Studies are now finding that, although a teenagers' organs are developed fully enough to pass through puberty and start a menstrual cycle, the 'hormone cascade', which is the hormone signalling between your pituitary gland (in your brain) and your ovaries, isn't usually set in stone until the age of around 20-21. What this means is that any intervention prior to this cascade solidifying can have a long term interrupting effect on the hormones.
The most common 'cascade interruption' I am seeing, is a complete cessation of any menstrual cycles when the girls decide to stop the Pill. Commonly, this is a few years down the track, when those girls become women and are either wanting to try and start a family, or just want to have a break from the many years of Contracteptive Pills. These (now) women frequently do not ovulate, and therefore have no chance of a regular cycle OR conceiving a baby. Western Medicine's answer to this is that they will have to go back onto the Pill to stimulate a cycle, OR they can use a fertility drug to stimulate ovulation for conception!
Some of you may be wondering why this is such a bad scenario? We all get what we were after in the end, right? What if I told you that some of these women were going through up to 12cycles of IVF with no result? Or that some of them have moved into the developmental stages of chronic fatigue, most younger than 30?!
The somewhat 'simple interventions' CAN have some very serious long term effects... Frequently I also get the feedback that girls have been advised by specialists or GPs that 'skipping periods' by discarding the sugar tablets and having a continuum of hormone pills throughout a cycle, is 'completely safe' and will just help to reduce any heavy bleeding or pain. I have to strongly disagree. These are the girls who end up in my clinic one day down the track. We are meant to have a period to discard, detoxifying and rebalance. It is a cycle for a reason! I strongly suggest that a healthier culture of acceptance and understanding is cultivated within the females of the home- the pain and/or heavy periods can be fixed with a bit of dietary and sometimes herbal intervention!
Back to the topic of discussion, teenage acne.. Before you head to a GP, who will put your daughter onto a hormone Pill, perhaps get some help and look at things like her diet and lifestyle. Of course, there are many girls out there who have amazing diets, are fit and active and still get teenage acne- These are the girls who can really be helped by a good Naturopath. Often the massive surges in hormones are too much for their growing body's to process, and the imbalance will almost always present as acne or menstrual complaints.
Yes, googling it will bring up your herbs like Vitex, that can help to balance an estrogen dominance, but remember that its not always Estrogen that is the culprit. Androgens can also play a role, and I am also seeing girls with a collection of genetic mutations that would be most certain drivers of the condition. If a body cannot detoxify, then it cannot handle the rise in teenage hormones!
I wont go too far down that rabbit hole, because literally everybody is different. The point I wanted to make today, to any parent of girls, is to try not to be so quick off the mark when it comes to teenage acne. Do your research, and understand the real potential consequences of putting a child onto any forms of hormone therapy. Even if a GP tells you it is completely safe, please do your own reading first.