Adolescence is a period of change from childhood to adulthood and witnesses speedy physical and emotional development. These changes also demand for specific nutrient requirements.
Key nutrients for Adolescence
- Protein: Necessary to support the growth and pubertal changes
- Calcium: Needed for the bone growth as there is growth in bone on everyday basis in this stage
- Zinc: Needed to support the pubertal growth and changes
- Vitamin: To support skeletal growth
- Iron: To support the increase in hemoglobin concentration and increased blood volume
Menstruation is a unique physiological phenomenon in young women, characterized by the periodic high levels of estrogen and the shedding of the endometrium (lining of the uterus). The menstrual cycle is an essential life rhythm governed by interacting levels of progesterone, estradiol, follicular stimulating, and luteinizing hormones. Among the factors that can modulate hormone secretion, there are diet and exercise, two of the few known lifestyle-related features that can be modified.
The menstrual cycle lasts for 28 ± 7 days. The ovarian cycle has two stages separated by ovulation,
- Follicular or proliferative phase, which is from the beginning of the cycle to ovulation. This phase begins the very first day of menstruation.
- Luteal or secretory phase, which is between ovulation and next menstruation. This phase lasts 14 days in most women after ovulation.
Premenstrual syndrome: This is not so uncommon in adolescence and is characterized by physical and psychological symptoms which occur 7-10 days prior to the onset of periods and disappear within the first day or two of menstrual flow. These include weight gain, headache, irritability, anxiety, depression, abdominal bloating, breast engorgement and pain, constipation, peripheral oedema, tension, fatigue, lack of concentration, increased appetite, craving for sweet and salty foods. Management of this includes reassurance, exercise and dietary modifications to meet all the nutritional requirements.
Premenstrual syndrome exists when women experience regularly recurring psychological or physical symptoms, or both, which occur specifically during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and which are relieved by the onset of, or during, menstruation.
Specific nutrients to be looked into:
- Iron: To prevent iron deficiency anaemia and fatigue. To make up for the monthly blood loss through menstruation.
- Vitamin C: To enhance iron absorption. Also plays a part in regulating the level of hemoglobin in the blood.
- Vitamin B6- It is claimed to be associated with psychological symptoms of PMS. It is known to have beneficial effects in relieving PMS symptoms.
- Folic acid: It is required along with Vitamin B12 for haemoglobin synthesis.
- Zinc- helps relieve menstrual cramps
- Magnesium- helps in muscle relaxation and helps with menstrual cramps.
A proper diet with all essential nutrients to meet the body’s needs is important to maintain health during menstruation and to also relieve painful symptoms of PMS.
Adolescence & Anemia
Among some common nutritional problems like obesity, eating disorders, Undernutrition etc., Anemia is the most prominent and prevalent among adolescents. It is most common amongst girls, perhaps due to the menstrual blood loss. Anemia can be combatted by including iron rich food on a daily basis along with Vitamin C for better absorption.
- Srilakshmi, B. (2002). Dietetics (Revised. New age international publication).
- Dietary Guidelines for Indian- A Manual; ICMR, National Institute of Nutrition.
- Adolescent Health- WHO