How to support your body when coming off HRT
Author: Helen Morton
Helen Morton, a registered nutritional therapist, offers advice on the best foods to eat to support your body when coming off HRT, as well as what foods to avoid.
Some women choose or need to use Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for a number of reasons. The treatment replaces sex hormones that are at a lower level as you approach menopause and can be very effective in relieving symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, and reduced sex drive.
When you choose to come off HRT it is best to do so gradually over a period of time to minimise side effects and the potential recurrence of menopausal symptoms. Gradually reducing dosage of HRT allows for gradual readjustment of your natural hormone levels.
As ovarian production of oestrogen and progesterone sex hormones naturally decline, your adrenal glands help to take over and produce some oestrogen and progesterone. When you come off HRT, supporting your adrenal glands and moderating your stress hormone production is important. Ideally you want to put adrenal support in place before coming off HRT to ensure your adrenals are functioning optimally when they begin to help take over oestrogen and progesterone production.
Foods for adrenal support
Adrenal glands use up large quantities of vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, iron and B vitamins (1). The best foods to eat for adrenal support include eggs, fish and meat, dairy, whole grains, nuts and seeds and a rainbow of colourful vegetables and fruits. Stress management is crucial for optimally functioning adrenal glands (2), as is reducing or avoiding food stressors including caffeine, sugar, and alcohol (3). Herbal teas and green tea, rich in L-theanine which promotes relaxation (4), can be effective replacements for coffee. Eating regularly, by having small meals and snacks, will support good adrenal function and therefore production of oestrogen and progesterone to replace hormones no longer being produced by your ovaries or from HRT.
Phytoestrogens gently support oestrogen receptors by binding to them and acting as hormone regulators (5), giving oestrogenic benefits after coming off HRT. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds which can replace some of the effect of oestrogen that is no longer being produced by the ovaries or from HRT. Dietary phytoestrogens are acted on by gut bacteria and converted into other compounds that exert weak oestrogenic effects at receptor sites. It is a very individual process though so not every woman will experience the same effects. Foods rich in phytoestrogens include tofu, soy foods, nuts, seeds, oats, lentils. flax, beans, pulses, celery, and fennel.
Foods to avoid
HRT relieves symptoms of the menopause, including hot flushes. Once you have stopped taking HRT you do not want a resurgence or recurrence of hot flushes so it makes sense to avoid nutritional triggers including coffee, alcohol and spicy foods. Instead, drink plenty of water and herbal teas, and eat a healthy natural diet as much as possible.
There is some research that lower oestrogen levels after coming off HRT may leave women more sensitive to the effects of carbohydrates (6). Choose root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and beetroot, as well as whole grains like wild and brown rice, whole oats and quinoa. Limit your intake of refined grains, including pasta and bread, which affect the body in a similar way to sugar.
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- Mauvais-Jarvis F, Clegg DJ, Hevener AL (2013) The Role of Estrogens in Control of Energy Balance and Glucose Homeostasis. Endocrine Reviews. 34: 309-338.
About the Author
Helen Morton (DipION) is a qualified, registered Nutritional Therapist. She is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and Complimentary and Natural Health Care Council (CNHC). Helen has a special interest in nutrition for mental health, stress management and overall women’s health including menopause. If you would like to book a free 20-minute consultation with Helen to discuss your individual nutritional requirements, please visit her website at: www.helenmortonnutrition.com