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Your changing body.

Your features are changing, you're getting taller, and your face looks like an oil slick. What's going on? Puberty (adolescent growth). You may feel as if an alien has invaded your body, but it's just your hormones, your body's chemical messengers, kicking in. During puberty, your hormones signal your body to grow and undergo some pretty radical changes. That can be kind of scary. But it's worth it, because your growing pains are part of becoming a young adult.



At about age 10, your body starts producing sex hormones that begin to shape your body. The major shapers are testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Testosterone, a hormone abundant in males, is also present in women's bodies; it accelerates bone and muscle growth, as well as the growth of body and facial hair. Estrogen and progesterone are responsible for the development of your reproductive system.


Estrogen triggers your breasts, which have milk-producing glands, to begin growing at age 11 or 12. Breast size is hereditary. Some girls' breasts reach their full size at 14, others in their early 20s. Your breasts may feel sore as they grow, but the pain will pass. As you get older, examining your breasts for lumps that may signal breast cancer becomes more important.


Between the ages of 12 and 14, many girls begin menstruating, periodically shedding the lining of the uterus (the organ where babies are carried) when they are not pregnant. During this shedding "period," you may experience cramps - painful contractions of the uterine muscles as they squeeze out the lining. If you have questions about menstruation, serious cramps, or if you don't menstruate by age 14, see a gynecologist - a doctor who specializes in the female reproductive system.


Girls begin to get taller at age 11 or 12. Most girls stop growing around age 16, though some continue to grow into their late teens or early 20s.


Between the ages of 12 and 15, girls begin to store fat on their upper arms, buttocks, thighs, and chest. Girls are born with more fat cells than boys. Your body needs fat to function properly. If you're worried about your weight, see your family doctor or counselor for proper advice about dieting. Severe dieting can lead to eating disorders, like bulimia and anorexia. One out of eight high school girls has an eating disorder.


As you grow older, your hair gets thicker and darker. Because oil glands are working overtime, you may get the greasies. When you reach your late teens or early 20s, oil production slows down.


Acne affects 75 percent of growing teens. Androgen, a hormone that instruct your body to grow, also instructs the glands beneath your skin to produce more oil. Too much can clog the pores - tiny openings in the skin's surface. Bacteria feed on the oil and enter your pores. When white blood cells rush in to fight the bacteria, the pores swell to form zits. Use pimple creams with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to dry up the oil and/or kill the bacteria.


At age 11 or 12, you may begin to see hair growing under your armpits, and on your arms, legs, and genital area. Men have more hair than women because they produce more testosterone, the male hormone that, among other things, stimulates hair growth. Boys may also grow hair on their faces, chests, and backs.


During adolescence your sweat glands start producing a richer, thicker fluid. Bacteria living in the sweat may cause unpleasant body odor. To keep odor in check, bathe regularly and use antiperspirant/deodorant.


To grow healthy and strong you must eat a balanced diet. Each day you should have: at least 6 servings of energy-rich carbohydrates, like rice or pasta; 3-5 servings of vitamin-and iron-rich vegetables; and 2-3 servings of protein - for example, beans, chicken, or fish. Avoid fats. And drink milk; it contains lots of calcium to keep your bones strong. When you snack, reach for something nutritious.


The safest way to protect yourself and your partner against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is abstinence, not having sex. But if you are sexually active, learn the facts about AIDS and other STDs, and how condoms can help protect you and your partner. Discuss your sexual health with your parents, a counselor, or a family physician.



Testosterone, a hormone produced by gland cells in the testes (reproductive organs), is responsible for your physical and sexual growth. Testosterone triggers the development of all your typically male characteristics - body and facial hair, bulky muscles, the growth of your sexual organs, and production of sperm (reproductive cells). Boys also produce some estrogen, a predominantly female hormone. Scientists aren't sure what function it serves in boys.


Testosterone triggers your larynx, or voice box, to grow at age 11 or 12. The growth causes your voice to "break," alternate between a high and low pitch, and deepen permanently by age 15 or 16.


At age 14 or 15, you'll see a change in your muscle mass. Your shoulders broaden; the muscles in your arms and legs become stronger and more firm. Boys are bulkier than girls because they produce more muscle-growth-stimulating testosterone.


In your early teens, your reproductive organs start to grow. The testes begin to produce sperm, reproductive cells than can fertilize an egg (a woman's reproductive cell).


Growth occurs at different rates for everyone. Generally, boys start to get taller when they're 14 or 15. Growing continues sporadically until your early 20s.


By the time you reach 18 or 19, you may have put on 30 to 50 extra pounds. Boys are born with fewer fat cells than girls. Your body needs its fat stores to function properly. If you're worried about your weight, contact your family doctor or a counselor for proper advice about dieting. Severe dieting can lead to eating disorders, like bulimia and anorexic. Eating disorders affect half a million boys between ages 12 and 18.
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Title Annotation:adolescent growth
Author:Jones, Lynda
Publication:Science World
Date:Feb 10, 1995
Previous Article:Scent solutions: scientists explore new ways to make flower-friendly perfumes and colognes.
Next Article:Under alien control.

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