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Nutritional Needs of Teens

There is a lot of growth during the teen years.  Emotional growth, intellectual growth, spiritual growth and, of course, physical growth.  All of this growing can be exhausting (this is one of the reasons teens need so much sleep!) It also means that nutritional needs are increased to support all this growth and change.

Teens need over 2 litres of water daily

The teen years are second only to pregnancy and lactation for high nutrient requirements.  The best way to ensure you are getting all of these nutrients is to eat a diverse diet high in different coloured fruits and vegetables, whole grains (such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, and millet), legumes and beans, lean meats (or alternatives) and low fat dairy (or alternatives).

Below are two charts on micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fats, water) nutritional needs.  Values given are daily requirements.


*Vitamin D requirements are higher in Canada from October to May due to inadequate sun exposure during the winter.

**Any female who is sexually active should be taking an additional 400mcg daily to prevent birth defects if pregnancy occurs


Remember: these reference values are for normal, apparently healthy individuals eating a mixed North American diet. An individual may have individual physiological, health, or lifestyle characteristics that may require different intakes of specific nutrients.

If you are concerned you are not getting enough nutrients in your diet consider a high quality multivitamin-mineral supplement to meet your needs.  It is better to take a supplement to meet your needs than to deprive your body of the building blocks it needs to grow and maintain health through your teens and beyond.


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.


Health Canada Dietary Reference Intake Tables.  Available online at:

Endometriosis in Teens

Endometriosis is one of the most common causes of menstrual pain in women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Recently doctors and scientists have begun to recognize that symptoms of endometriosis can begin during adolescence and be a significant cause of menstrual pain in teens as well.

Unfortunately, endometriosis is often overlooked in teenaged girls – one study found that women with endometriosis symptoms starting before age 15 had to see a doctor an average of 4.2 times before it was correctly diagnosed. That was more than in any other age group!

This same study found that more than one-third of women with endometriosis had symptoms starting before 15 years of age.

Early diagnosis of endometriosis is important for teenagers. Only with proper diagnosis can these young women receive appropriate education on the future of their reproductive health and treatments that can minimize or eliminate their pain and preserve their future fertility.

How Do I Know if I Have Endometriosis?

6979261624_6407c5ac68The most common symptoms of endometriosis are:

  • Pain before and during your period
  • Pain with intercourse (in sexually active teens)
  • Infertility

For many teen girls pain with intercourse and infertility are not issues that they experience, which makes diagnosis more difficult. Other signs of endometriosis include:

  • Bleeding prior to your period (spotting)
  • Back or abdominal pain during your period
  • Pain with bowel movements
  • Painful digestive upset

In teen girls one symptom to look for is painful periods that do not respond well to pain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve or naproxen.

Most teen girls with endometriosis will experience pain away from their periods; less than 10% had period pain alone and over 90% have pain both with their period and at other times during the month.

If you suspect you may have endometriosis your doctor will recommend an ultrasound and possibly a procedure called a laparoscopy. During a laparoscopy a small incision is made in the abdomen. A surgeon will be able to insert a camera into this incision and see if endometriosis is present – some endometriosis lesions can also be removed during this procedure.

Treatment for Endometriosis in Teen Girls

There are many available treatments for endometriosis. When started soon after diagnosis appropriate treatments can preserve a woman’s fertility and significantly decrease pain.

The most common mainstream treatment for endometriosis in adolescence is the birth control pill, used continuously or monthly, combined with pain medications to manage pain.

Naturopathic treatments focus on treating the underlying issues associated with endometriosis, normalizing hormone balance, decreasing pain and inflammation, optimizing immune function and supporting the body through the diet. You can read more about Understanding EndometriosisNaturopathic Medicine and Endometriosis, Acupuncture and Endometriosis and the Endometriosis Diet, all written by Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Lisa Watson.

If you are a teen who wants to treat her endometriosis, book a consultation now to get started.  You can make a big impact on your future health if you act now.


Ballweg ML. Big picture of endometriosis helps provide guidance on approach to teens: comparative historical data show endo starting younger, is more severe. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 2003;16(3 Suppl):S21–6.

Rowe T. Endometriosis: Diagnosis and Management. J Obstet Gynaecol Canada 2010;7(32)


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Onset of Mental Health Disorders – Teen Years

The majority of ‘adult’ mental health disorders start during the teen years. This is not surprising given the substantial development occurring in the brain during the teens. Problems with this rapid and drastic development have been linked to mild mood disturbances as well as major illnesses, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.


Most anxiety disorders begin in childhood, adolescence and into early adulthood. Children tend to experience separation anxiety, while during the teen years social phobia, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety are the most commonly experienced anxiety disorders. In early adulthood panic disorders often start, perhaps due to inadequate management of anxiety during the teen years.


Natural support for mental illness in teensAlthough depression rates are highest in those aged 25-44, the average onset of depression is around 14 years of age.   Depression is a huge concern for teens because it is a major risk factor for suicide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for 10-to-24 year olds. Additionally, depression often co-exists with other mood disorders such as anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse.


With 1% of the population suffering from schizophrenia, it is not one of the most common mental disorders. Schizophrenia affects males and females equally. Men tend to have their first episode in their late teens, women are most often affected later – in their twenties and thirties.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) tends to occur later than the other mental disorders on this list. The average age of diagnosis is the mid-twenties, with a first manic episode occurring in the late teens or early twenties. Bipolar disorder is slightly more prevalent than schizophrenia affecting approximately 1.2% of people over 18 years of age.


Naturopathic medicine for mood in teensWith such a large proportion of mental disorders beginning during the teen years, why are we not recognizing these issues and offering more support to these teens?

Teens who are seeking a drug-free solution to their mental health concerns should consult with a Naturopathic Doctor who is well versed in adolescent health, mental health and who can help you recognize your imbalances and provide you with a plan to help regain balance in your life.

Effective natural treatments are available for anxiety and depression. If you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, your Naturopathic Doctor can work with your Medical Doctor to help you feel better and regain a sense of health and well-being in your life.

If you suspect you may have a mental health disorder, consult a Naturopathic or Medical Doctor. For further reading, visit Teen Mental Health or Adolescent Medicine at Sick Kids Hospital.


William R Yates, MD, MS. Anxiety Disorders. E-medicine from WebMD, updated April 20, 2010. available online at: Accessed November 20, 2010.

National Institute of Mental Health. The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America. Reviewed November 18, 2010. Accessed November 20, 2010.


Teen Insomnia

There is no question that teens need their sleep.  Often parents recognize when their teens are sleeping too late – waking at noon or later, but insomnia in teens often goes unnoticed.

An article in the journal Sleep suggests that 12.5% of teens experience insomnia and that in almost half of those teens the insomnia is chronic.  This means that insomnia is just as common in teens as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.  So why are teens losing sleep?

Teen insomniaSleep patterns in teens

Major changes in sleep patterns happen during the teen years.  Sleep patterns in teens are different than those of children and adults.  Teens need, on average 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night.  However, the hormone that is responsible for causing feelings of sleepiness (melatonin) is produced later in teens than in children and adults.  This means that teens often have difficulty falling asleep early and tend to stay up later at night.  Combined with an early waking time for school it is nearly impossible for most teens to get the necessary 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night.

Mood disorders and sleep

Disturbed sleep is associated with mood disorders in teens – teens with insomnia are more likely to be depressed or anxious, and anxious or depressed teens are more likely to have insomnia.  Although in adults these conditions are more common in females, in teens insomnia is equally as likely to affect boys as girls.

It is unclear whether insomnia leads to anxiety and depression or if the reverse is true.  It is clear that these conditions are affecting the health of teens and that identification and treatment of insomnia in teens is an important health goal.

Recognizing sleep disorders in teens

There are many signs that can identify sleep disorders in teens.  These include:

  • Difficulty waking in the morning
  • Falling asleep in class
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Decreased performance in school
  • Feelings of moodiness or depression
  • Late afternoon fatigue
  • Cravings for sugar in the afternoon
  • Decreased motivation

Sleep deprivation or insomnia?Teen computer insomnia

Biologically determined circadian rhythms are keeping teens up later – but biology doesn’t take all the blame.  For some teens part-time jobs, homework, social activities, computer games, television, social media sites and other behaviours are keeping teens up late – beyond the point where their bodies and minds are tired.  These teens are choosing to sleep less, prioritizing other activities by sacrificing sleep.

Signs that a teen may be sleep deprived rather than suffering from insomnia include:

  • Use of caffeinated beverages (cola, tea or coffee) or “energy drinks” to stay awake at night
  • Late night video game or television watching
  • Anger or moodiness when confronted about sleep issues

Treating teen insomnia

Establishing appropriate sleep-time rituals is the first step to encouraging healthy sleep in teens.

  1. Set a regular bedtime

Establish a regular bedtime and stick to it.  Going to bed at the same time every night trains our body to fall asleep more easily and to sleep more soundly.  Compromise on a reasonable bedtime – one that allows time in the evening for activities but also allows for adequate sleep each night.

2. Remove the television and computer from the bedroom

Any light before bedtime – including the light from a television or computer screen can disrupt the body’s ability to initiate sleep.  It is best to keep the television and computer in a separate room and have the focus in the  bedroom be on sleep.

3. Caffeine worsens PMS symptomsAvoid stimulants

Caffeine (soda, tea, coffee, chocolate) and other stimulants should be avoided from early afternoon on to avoid disrupting sleep.

4. Keep the bedroom dark at bedtime, and bright at waking

Darkness stimulates the body to produce melatonin – the hormone that causes sleepiness.  Use dark window coverings to block light from the outdoors.  Turn alarm clocks towards the wall or cover them up.  In the morning bright light stimulates our body to wake up – place a lamp on a timer to help the body wake up more naturally.

5. Avoid napping too much

Napping can help to meet our sleep needs, but napping too much can disrupt nighttime sleep.  Nap for no more than 40 minutes and nap only between 3 and 4pm – no napping after 5pm or falling asleep at night will be difficult.

In addition, some natural therapies can be effective in treating short-term insomnia in teens.  For chronic insomnia a consultation with a sleep specialist is recommended.

  1. Melatonin

The hormone that is responsible for sleepiness can be taken as a supplement.  Since melatonin production in teens is delayed (some studies suggest it isn’t being produced until 1am, compared with 10pm for adults) there is some evidence to suggest that taking a melatonin supplement can help teens with insomnia fall asleep at a reasonable time.

Melatonin should not be used in teens before puberty or in early stages of puberty.  It should only be used for short periods of time and in low doses.  Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor to determine if melatonin supplementation is appropriate for your teen.

2. Passionflower

Passion flowerA gentle botanical (plant-based) medicine that is effective in the treatment of insomnia associated with restlessness, anxiety or over-active mind at bedtime.  This type of insomnia is common in teens, with anxiety over tests, social relationships, jobs, and other issues.  A cup of passionflower tea 30 minutes before bed or a passionflower supplement can be used safely for acute insomnia in teens.

Passionflower should not be used during pregnancy.

3. Chamomile

Another gentle botanical that can be used as a mild sleep aid in children, adults and teens.  Taken as a tea 30 minutes before bed or in supplement form it can effectively treat acute insomnia and is very calming.

Chamomile should not be used in pregnancy or in people with hayfever.

4. Valerian

One of the most common natural supplements for sleep, valerian is not recommended for use in teens.  Valerian has similar properties to benzodiazepine drugs and in children and teens these medications can often cause restlessness rather than sleepiness.

Insomnia in teens is a health concern that should be taken seriously.  Talking with teens about appropriate bedtime behaviours, maintaining a regular bedtime and the occasional use of supplements can help teens get the sleep they need to succeed in school, work and life.


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.


Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: Monographs on Valerian, Melatonin, Passionflower and Chamomile.  Accessed November 1, 2010.

Roberts R, Roberts CR, Chan W.  Persistence and Change in Symptoms of Insomnia among Adolescents.  SLEEP 2008;31(2): 177-184.

Canadian Teens Have Highest Levels of BPA: Study

91% of Canadians have detectable levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine according to recent data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS).

This study represents the first time BPA levels were measured at a national level in Canada.  Urine samples from 5,600 Canadians aged 6 to 79 years were collected between March 2007 and February 2009 at 15 sites across Canada.

Canadian Teens Have Highest BPA Levels

The average Canadian has a mean concentration of urinary BPA of 1.16 micrograms per litre.  International studies have found similar results with mean concentrations ranging from 1 to 3 micrograms per litre.

Concentrations of BPA were highest in the teens – people aged 12 to 19 had mean concentrations of 1.50 micrograms per litre.  That is nearly 30% higher than the mean concentration.  Children aged 6 to 11 also had concentrations higher than adults aged 40 to 79.

Teens may have higher levels due to a higher intake of BPA-containing foods, higher intake of food relative to their body size, or due to absorption, metabolism or excretion differences.

It is of great concern that teens and children have higher levels of BPA than older adults because exposure to hormone-like substances during the different developmental stages of childhood and adolescence can cause permanent, lifelong changes in the way cells function.

What is BPA?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrical chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastic (for food containers and water bottles) and epoxy resins (most commonly used as a protective lining in canned food and beverages).  BPA does not occur naturally in the environment.

The main source of BPA exposure is from ingestion of foods in BPA-laden containers, although BPA is also found in drinking water, soil, dust, air, and consumer products.  BPA can migrate into food from food containers, especially when containers are heated, as well as from repeat-use plastic containers.

BPA has a short half-life in the body (less than six hours).  The finding of urinary BPA in 91% of Canadians suggests that Canadians are having continual and widespread exposure to BPA.

Health Effects of BPA Exposure

Studies are emerging that demonstrate negative health impacts from low level exposure to BPA, especially early in life.

BPA is a recognized endocrine disruptor (has hormonal impacts in the human body).  The structure of BPA is similar enough to estrogen (the predominant female hormone) that it can bind to estrogen receptors in the body and have effects similar to naturally occurring estrogen.

It is this similarity to the estrogen molecule that causes concern.  Although the level of BPA found in the CHMS study is low it is still a thousand times higher than natural levels of estrogen found in the body.

Some health impacts of BPA that have been proposed in scientific literature include:

  • Reproductive toxicity – including effects on fertility and embryo development
  • Permanent changes to the genitourinary tract
  • Increased risk of breast cancer
  • Early puberty in girls
  • Increased prostate weight and increased risk of prostate cancer
  • Decreased testosterone
  • Hyperactivity and aggression
  • Insulin resistance and type II diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Cardiovascular system abnormalities

Protecting Yourself and Your Family from BPA

Canada has been making headlines since 2008 when it banned BPA in baby bottles.  However, there are still no guidelines on the amount of BPA allowed into plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and other food containers that are the primary source of BPA exposure for Canadians.

In order to protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of BPA the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have prepared a list of eight suggestions for minimizing BPA exposure.

  1. Eat Fewer Canned Foods
    The easiest way to lower your BPA intake is to avoid foods that come into contact with the industrial chemical.  Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables – which are usually higher in nutrients and taste better than canned foods!
  2. Choose Cardboard and Glass Containers Over Cans
    When possible select foods that come in cardboard containers (such as Tetra-packed soups, juices and sauces) and glass containers.
  3. Don’t Microwave Plastic Food Containers
    Polycarbonate plastic, used in the packaging for many microwaveable foods, can break down at high temperatures and release BPA.  Most polycarbonate containers are marked with a number 7 recycling code – indicating a BPA-containing plastic.
  4. Choose Plastic or Glass Bottles for Beverages
    Canned juice and soda often contain BPA, especially if they are in cans lined with BPA-laden plastic.  Use a stainless steel water bottle for water, or a recyclable plastic water bottle which does not have the number 7 recycling symbol.  Plastic bottles with the recycling numbers 1, 2 or 4 do not contain BPA and are safer choices.
  5. Turn Down the Heat
    To avoid BPA in your hot foods and liquids, use glass or porcelain containers, or stainless steel containers without plastic liners.
  6. Use BPA-free Baby Bottles
    Canada banned the sale of BPA-containing baby bottles in 2008.  Glass, stainless steel, and BPA-free plastic baby bottles are the best choices.
  7. Use Powdered Infant Formula Instead of Pre-Mixed Liquid Formulas
    Breastfeeding is best.  But if you must use a formula select a powdered formula over a liquid formula.  Liquid formulas contain more BPA than powdered versions.
  8. Practice Moderation
    The fewer canned foods and beverages you consume, the less your exposure to BPA, but you don’t have to cut out canned foods altogether to reduce your BPA exposure and lower your potential health risks.  Eat less canned food overall, and limit your intake of canned foods that are high in BPA

Foods Highest in BPA

Chicken soup and other soups
Infant formula (liquid)
Ravioli and canned pastas
Tomato sauces

Source: Environmental Working Group

As parents of children and teens, we can help to promote lifelong health by helping them to make healthy choices at young ages.  Encourage your family to eat fewer canned foods and decrease exposure to BPA by following the guidelines above.


Bushnik T., Haines D., Levallois P., Levesque J., Van Oostdam J., Viau C.  Statistics Canada.  Lead and bisphenol A concentrations in the Canadian population.  Available online at:  Accessed August 31, 2010.

Environmental Working Group.  Bisphenol A: Toxic Plastic Chemicals in Canned Food: Consumer tips to avoid BPA exposure.  Available online at:  Accessed August 31, 2010.

Statistics Canada.  The Daily, Monday August 16, 2010.  Canadian Health Measures Survey: Lead, bisphenol A and mercury.  Available online at:  Accessed August 31, 2010.

Statistics Canada.  Publications: Health Fact Sheets.  Bisphenol A concentrations in the Canadian population, 2007 to 2009.  Available online at:  Accessed August 31, 2010.

Multivitamins for Teens – The Best Health Boost

You wouldn’t consider going through pregnancy without taking a multivitamin supplement.  Did you know the teen years are second only to pregnancy in nutritional needs – but how many teens are taking a multivitamin supplement?  Not enough!

The NHANES and NHANES III (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) both concluded that:

The highest prevalence of unsatisfactory nutritional status
in the adolescent age group”

Read on to discover the ways a multivitamin can support health during the teen years – and beyond.

Increased Growth Needs for Teens

Teens grow at astounding rates!  Teenage girls grow approximately 23 to 28 cm during their teen years, and teen boys add approximately 26 to 28 cm to their height.  Growth during the teen years accounts for about 20% of total height.

Not only do teens grow up, but they grow out as well.  Weight gain during the teens accounts for about 50% of a person’s ideal adult body weight.  Lean body mass (muscle mass, bones, organs – everything except body fat) increases in both teen boys and girls.

Multivitamins provide a wide spectrum of both vitamins and minerals – nutrients that are essential for growth.  In addition to these nutrients proper amounts of protein, healthy fats (omega 3 fatty acids), and unrefined grains also support healthy growth in teens.

Teens often have very active lifestyles

Increased Physical Activity

The lifestyle of most teens is hectic.  School, part-time jobs, chores, homework, activities with friends – and yet many teens still find time to engage in regular physical activity.  Many adults could learn a lesson from these teens!

Teen athletes (and all active teens) have increased nutritional needs.  A higher daily intake of calories is needed – for 2 hours of physical activity an extra 800 to 1700 calories are needed daily!  In addition to calories, active teens also have higher requirements for sodium and potassium.  And water!  Many people forget that water is an essential nutrient – but it is.  Maintaining hydration is very important for teen health.

Both male and female teen athletes are at risk of iron deficiency.  Regular (yearly or more often) blood tests should be done to make sure iron levels are adequate for teen health.   A multivitamin supplement containing iron should only be used once blood tests have confirmed low iron status.

Poor Eating Habits

Teens may be able to teach adults a thing or two about incorporating physical activity into busy lifestyles, but they could also learn a thing or two about healthy eating.  There are a number of poor eating habits that contribute to nutritional deficiencies and are (unfortunately) very common in teens:

Teens often make high calorie, low nutrient food choices
  • Frequently skip or miss meals
  • High-sugar snacks (including soda) with low nutritional value are popular
  • Excess fast-food consumption

A multivitamin is NOT a substitute for poor eating habits.  Taking a multivitamin supplement will not make an unhealthy diet into a healthy one.  Multivitamins can support our bodies when we don’t always make perfect choices but should be used together with a healthy, balanced diet.

Unique Circumstances

The only thing many teens have in common is their age.  Just about every teen will have their own unique circumstances that lead to individual nutritional needs.  Some of these circumstances include

  • Sports/ physical activity
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Illegal drug use
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Prescription drug use
  • Vegan diet
  • Vegetarian diet
  • Weight management diets (to gain or lose weight)

Each of these circumstances lead to unique nutritional needs.  There is also another circumstance that half of teens experience that lead to increased nutrient needs.  That circumstance is the menstrual period.  Teen girls are at increased risk of iron deficiency due to their monthly period and use of birth control pills in teens further contributes to deficiencies of B vitamins, folate, magnesium, selenium, zinc and others.

Establish Lifelong Health

The choices we make during our teen years influences the health of our bodies for the rest of our lives.  Changes in bone mass and density occur throughout life, but bone mineral density reaches its peak during the late teens and early adulthood.  These minerals will serve as a “bone bank” for the remainder of life.  Ensure that you are supporting your bones (so they can support you!) by:

  • engaging in regular physical activity
  • consuming adequate calcium in the diet
  • taking a calcium supplement if necessary
  • taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement

Correct Deficiencies

One of the most common uses of multivitamins in all ages is to correct nutrient deficiencies.

A balanced diet plus a multivitamin supplement provides top health for teens.

As previously mentioned, the NHANES and NHANES III studies found that teens had the most unsatisfactory nutritional status of all age groups.  They found that teens were most likely to be deficient in:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1)
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc

A multivitamin, in combination with a healthy diet can correct these deficiencies and prevent the numerous health consequences of having a nutrient deficiency.

Multivitamins for Teens

Above I highlighted many of the reasons why a multivitamin is an excellent addition to teen health – so how do you select a multivitamin for your teen?  The best suggestion is to consult with a Naturopathic Doctor who can uncover any unique nutritional needs for your teen.  Otherwise, select a high potency, high quality multivitamin and take as directed for your teen’s age.


Neinstein L. (Ed.)  Adolescent Health Care: A Practical Guide.  4th Ed. 2002.  Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.  Philadelphia.

National Center for Health Statistics.  Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) Public-Use Data Files.  Available online at

Teen Girls Need More Calcium

Teen girls aren’t likely to be thinking about their risk for osteoporosis, but maybe they should be.  Peak bone density is reached for most women in their early 20s, and what they are eating in their teen years has an enormous impact on the health of their bones later in life.

Calcium is an essential mineral found in dairy products, leafy green vegetables (spinach, mustard greens, collard greens), almonds, tofu, broccoli, green beans, tofu, asparagus, figs, and apricots.  Calcium requirements vary based on need – and the need increases during times of growth, such as during teen growth spurts.

Calcium Requirements by Age (mg/day)

Infants 0-6 months:  210
Infants 6-12 months: 270
Children 1-3 years: 500
Children 4-8 years: 800
Pre-teen 9-13 years: 1300 – 1500
Teen 14-18 years: 1300 – 1500
Adult 19-30 years: 1000
Adult 31-50 years: 1000
Adult 51 + years: 1200 – 1500
Teen pregnancy and lactation: 1300
Adult pregnancy and lactation: 1000

Modified from Health Canada DRI Tables

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the intake of calcium in the diet of over 350 teen girls and found that the majority of girls were consuming less than the recommended intake of 1300mg per day.  The average calcium intake was 830mg/day – approximately 65% of the daily recommended intake.  The study looked at the long term effects of supplementing teenage girls with calcium (supplementing with an additional 670mg/day to obtain a daily calcium intake of 1500mg/day) and found that giving teen girls calcium during their teen growth spurt produced higher bone mineral density, making bones bigger and stronger.

The researchers in this study expect that the benefits of calcium supplementation during the teen years will benefit these women into late adulthood, preventing osteoporosis.  Several years of supplementation (ideally from 9-19 years of age) is necessary to have the maximum positive impact.

This study also found that taller girls benefit from higher levels of calcium (as they will have longer bones to support their height).

Supplementing with Calcium

The first step in meeting the calcium needs of teen girls is to include calcium rich foods in the diet.  Below is a list of some of the highest food sources of calcium.  Since dairy is a common source of calcium, special care must be taken by vegans to ensure they are getting enough calcium.

Calcium supplements should be used in teen girls to make sure optimal levels of calcium are achieved.  Calcium should be taken with vitamin D to improve absorption of calcium.

Another way teen girls (and all women) can support healthy bones later in life is by engaging in weight-bearing physical activity several times per week.

Food Sources of Calcium

Gruyere cheese (3oz) 860mg
Mozzarella cheese (3oz) 621mg
Cheddar cheese (3oz) 525mg
Turnip greens (1 cup, cooked) 492mg
Collard greens (1 cup, cooked) 357mg
Yogurt (1 cup) 345mg
Sesame seeds (1/4 cup) 340mg
Soy milk (fortified, 1 cup) 300mg
Cow milk (1 cup) 300mg
Spinach (1 cup, cooked) 245mg
Tofu (2/3 cup) 190mg
Broccoli (1 cup, cooked) 180mg
Blackstrap molasses (1 tbsp) 137mg
Almonds (1/4 cup) 92mg

For a list of vegan calcium sources, check out this article: Vegan Calcium Sources.

Broccoli is a vegan source of calcium

The teen years are a time of immense growth and development.  Don’t forget that your bones are growing too.  Support your bones, now and later in life, by consuming adequate calcium in your teens.


Health Canada: Dietary Reference Intakes Tables

Velimir Matkovic, Prem K Goel, Nancy E Badenhop-Stevens, et. al.  Calcium Supplementation and Bone Mineral Density in Females from Childhood to Young Adulthood: a Randomized Controlled Trial.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  2005; 81: 175-88.

Marz, Russell.  Medical Nutrition from Marz.  2nd Ed.  1997.

Naturopathic Medicine for Teens

No one will dispute the fact that the teen years can be a challenging time.  School work, part-time jobs, sports, friends, chores, preparing for college – all of these things and many others make the teen years a very busy and demanding time.  So how do teens cope when a health concern adds additional strain to an already overwhelming time?

Naturopathic medicine for mood in teensHealth Concerns Affecting Teenagers

Teenagers don’t have it easy when it comes to health!  For some people it is a time of peak health – lots of energy, physical fitness, and few concerns or worries.  But the majority of teens are coping with at least one health problem.

The teen years are a transition from childhood to adulthood and during this time teenagers can have health problems that normally affect either children or adults.  The teen years are also a time when many chronic illnesses first are diagnosed.

Some conditions that teenagers may be dealing with:

  • Acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions
  • Addiction – alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, other legal and illegal drugs
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive complaints – stomach pain, IBS, nausea, constipation, diarrhea
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Hypothyroid and hyperthyroid
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Menstrual cycle disorders – PMS, heavy periods, irregular periods, endometriosis
  • Nutrient deficiency – from poor diet, vegan, vegetarian diets and dieting
  • Pain and injury – including sprains, strains and fractures
  • Personal growth and development – mental, emotional and spiritual change and maturity
  • Pregnancy and birth control use
  • Stress
  • Weight management issues

Naturopathic Medicine for Teenagers

Naturopath for teensNaturopathic Medicine is an ideal treatment option for teenagers.  With a focus on prevention and individualized treatments Naturopathic Doctors are able to listen to and understand the unique experiences and symptoms for each teen and tailor a treatment plan to their needs.

I first discovered Naturopathic Medicine when I was seventeen and had undiagnosed nausea daily for several months.  After a consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor I discovered the link between my stress levels and my digestive symptoms.  With a few nutritional supplements and some stress management techniques my symptoms were cured within a few short weeks.  My personal experience encouraged me to become a Naturopathic Doctor and to help other teenagers find an alternative to suffering with their health problems.

Being a Naturopathic Doctor enables me to help other teenagers heal through the gentle and natural therapies I use in my practice.  I place an emphasis on finding the root cause of the problem and correcting it with:

  • nutritional and dietary counseling
  • nutritional supplements
  • botanical (herbal) medicines
  • homeopathy
  • acupuncture
  • stress management
  • lifestyle counseling

If you are a teenager, or know a teenager, that could benefit from Naturopathic Medicine consider booking a free 15 minute consult to meet with me and discuss how we can work together to make your teen years healthy, naturally.