Adolescence is a life stage fraught with challenges. It is a time of a desire for increasing independence yet limited opportunity for complete self care or life experience to understand the complex responsibilities of modern adulthood. This challenging life stage also spans a phase of massive hormonal and physical changes. Adolescence is characterised by high levels of testosterone in boys with related increase in libido, aggression and competitiveness to be the alpha male. This often includes a desire to challenge authority including parents and teachers. The growth spurt depletes iron, zinc and Vitamin B6 which are required for making the happy brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine and the calming chemical GABA. Low levels of these are associated with irritability, depression, anxiety, impaired learning and abstract thought.
In young women menstrual cycles are initially irregular and frequently occur without ovulation. This causes hormonal imbalance with a dominance of oestrogen over the calming hormone progesterone. This imbalance causes an exacerbation of premenstrual syndrome symptoms and further depletes both zinc and vitamin b6 as occurs in boys. Other factors that coincide include unstable blood sugar levels, an increased requirement for both energy and sleep and a shift in daily body clock. Most of these nutritional and hormonal problems can be managed through lifestyle with diet modification, exercise, adequate exercise sleep and supplementation.
With proper assessment and individualised management of adolescents they have the potential to flourish and optimise their potential as successful adults.