How to get off of hormone replacement therapy naturally
Have you heard of natural hormone therapy replacement? It’s an alternative to traditional hormone treatments and your best bet for feeling your best as you age.
Hormonal imbalances are caused by various factors, like aging or medical conditions. Both men and women face it at some point. While often inconvenient, they don’t have to be uncomfortable or debilitating.
Hormone replacement therapy is the most common treatment for age-related hormone decline. But it’s not the sole option at your disposal. So, if you’re ready to stop or replace it, you’re in the right place.
Join us to discover ways to quit HRT and natural hormone replacement options at your disposal. Read our guide and make an informed decision that best supports your well-being.
What is hormone replacement therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment that supplements naturally occurring human hormones. It’s used to treat hormonal imbalances that follow aging, health issues, or surgeries.
Most often, we associate HRT with menopause management.
Menopause is the end of the female reproductive years. It causes a drop in estrogen and progesterone and results in various symptoms. Most women experience hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness.
HRT isn’t exclusive to (peri)menopausal women. Men experience a similar phenomenon called andropause. It occurs in middle-aged or older men and causes a decline in testosterone levels.
People with hormone-related conditions like thyroid disorders find this treatment helpful. Transgender individuals undergoing gender-affirming care use masculinizing or feminizing HRT.
Natural hormone therapy replacement takes various forms and must follow a doctor’s prescription. They check your hormone levels and medical history to find the most suitable method.
Treatment delivery options include:
- Oral tablets or capsules which you take every day.
- Transdermal patches that release a continual stream of hormones.
- Injections that vary in frequency based on the hormone and your condition.
- Implantable pellets under the skin that deliver hormones over several months.
- Vaginal rings and tablets administered directly to the vaginal area.
- Nasal sprays that you spritz into your nose.
Just as delivery methods vary, so do the available types of HRT. Let’s quickly examine the most common solutions.
Types of HRT
There are several types of HRT for natural hormone supplementation. They can contain different hormonal blends administered consistently or cyclically.
Physicians prescribe estrogen and progesterone for menopause and perimenopause (the menopause transition). Testosterone isn’t licensed for these symptoms, but specialists may suggest it.
Menopause-related treatments can take the form of combined or estrogen-only HRT. In the combined version, you take estrogen and progesterone together.
Testosterone for women usually enters the picture post-menopause. It’s also helpful to menopausal people with low sex drives and those not seeing results from HRT alone.
HRT has also proven effective for aging men. It may restore hormone levels and improve their quality of life. Most often, doctors use testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) for andropause.
Different HRT options can also help transgender individuals and people with gland disorders. In these cases, the therapy is condition-specific and professionally tracked.
Our guide is on HRT for (peri)menopause (and andropause, where applicable). We leave specialized interventions to you and your physician.
Reasons for quitting HRT
You may choose to quit HRT for various reasons. Common ones include lack of necessity, treatment risks, side effects, and insufficient information.
This treatment is time-limited, although the timeline depends on the person. Many people find they no longer need HRT after ten years of menopause or andropause. It typically happens as they approach the age of 60.
Despite being generally well-tolerated, hormone replacement therapy carries certain risks. They include:
- Breast cancer. This risk is non-existent for women under 50. It increases for those over 50 who take combined HRT. Luckily, these cancers are rare and often easier to treat.
- Stroke and cardiovascular disease. There’s a slightly greater risk of these conditions for women over 60. It rises with combined HRT and cases when treatment starts late into menopause.
- Blood clots. This risk is compounded by other factors, like weight, age, and smoking. It’s less prominent if you use skin patches and gels instead of intravenous or oral HRT.
The risks increase the longer you’re on HRT. So, you might consider stopping after several years.
HRT is inherently risky for some groups. Those who have had allergic reactions to estrogen or progesterone might consider HRT natural alternatives. Those with a history of breast cancer and blood disorders should also be wary.
Other medical conditions can complicate HRT. They include hypertension, diabetes, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, asthma, dementia, and obesity.
Then come the adverse reactions. They’re dose-dependent, typically mild, and improve over the first three months. Still, of all people who discontinue HRT, over half do it due to side effects.
The side effects depend on your type of treatment. Those on estrogen-only HRT may experience:
- Breast tenderness and pain
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Mood changes, including depression
- Hair loss
- Leg cramps
- Mild rashes and itching
When you add progesterone, the chances of developing acne also become prominent. Testosterone treatments may cause pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, and unusual hair growth.
Adverse reactions generally clear within weeks. It might help to transition to natural hormone therapy replacement if they persist.
A lack of knowledge is another reason people might quit. There’s a myth that says women in menopause drop HRT after five years. As a result, many stop using hormones without talking to a specialist.
Even more people cease to take HRT after only a few weeks because they have unexpected symptoms. Unfortunately, that’s often because the doctor hasn’t taken the time to explain the therapy.
Whatever your reason, quitting HRT should be a gradual, informed process. Going cold turkey is a bad idea, as it shocks your system.
How to get off of HRT
Do you feel like you’re ready to get off of HRT? Begin by consulting your healthcare provider. They assess your current health and medical history to develop a quitting strategy. They may also suggest a natural hormone replacement alternative based on your symptoms.
The main rule here is: don’t stop overnight. Gradual reduction lets your body adjust to fewer hormones, making the transition seamless. The only exception is if you must drop it as soon as possible due to a health condition.
Most of the time, you’ll get prescribed a lower dose of the product you’ve been using. You might reduce it several times, depending on where you started. Once you’re doing well on the lowest available dose, it’s time to stop altogether.
In practice, here’s how that would look:
- Pills or injections. Use a lower dose instead of taking HRT on alternate days. Our bodies quickly break down estrogen, and missing days could lead to fluctuations.
- Patches. Ask for a lower strength or cut it in half, thirds, or quarters.
- Gels or nasal sprays. Reduce the number of pumps you apply.
Those with implantable pellets have to wait for the implant to stop working. Since some last for multiple months, you can get it removed and use another product.
What if your symptoms come back after quitting HRT? There are several solutions:
- Restarting HRT. This approach is the most common and doesn’t mean you’ll have to use hormones forever. It just suggests you need to wait more before stopping. Restart treatment with a lower dose and work your way up until you feel well again.
- Using natural hormone therapy replacement. Traditional HRT isn’t the only way to manage symptoms and balance hormones. Doctors might prescribe alternatives, like other therapies or natural medicine.
- Using vaginal HRT. Menopause causes vaginal tightness, itching, and dryness. These issues don’t disappear like other symptoms. In this case, your physician could prescribe vaginal HRT. It doesn’t go into your bloodstream, but it does make your life easier.
What to expect after stopping HRT?
The body responds to hormonal changes, and quitting HRT brings a cavalcade of reactions. Most are benign, but some may feel uncomfortable and become problematic.
As we mentioned before, it helps to wean off HRT. A sudden drop surprises the body and may worsen the symptoms. Besides taking it slow, track your hormone levels and side effects to devise a quitting plan.
Watch your reproductive hormones. Most importantly, measure estrogen, testosterone, DHT, and estradiol. These chemicals affect aging and sexual function, and they shouldn’t drop too much.
Despite these preventative measures, adverse reactions are typical. Whether quitting or replacing HRT with natural options, there are some withdrawal symptoms and long-term effects.
When you start weaning off HRT, you may notice menopause-like symptoms. That’s because both scenarios include dropping levels of estrogen. Side effects include:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Mood changes, anxiety, and depression
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort
In some people, these side effects are nearly non-existent. They’re more intense for those who had debilitating menopause symptoms before HRT. Women who were on higher hormone doses and took them for longer may also struggle.
Men and women who use testosterone therapy may experience additional adverse reactions. They include:
- Weight gain
- Muscle loss
- Brain fog
- Loss of sex drive
These side effects tend to fade away within months. Should they persist, consider returning to HRT or natural hormone replacement.
Quitting HRT has long-term effects on the body. This therapy is geared towards older individuals with low hormone levels. As a result, there’s a deficiency once you’re no longer supplementing.
For women, this may mean menopausal symptoms returning for good. They may turn to localized treatment, like vaginal HRT, for symptom management. Natural hormone replacement is another viable option.
Men mostly experience the deficiency through loss of sexual vitality. There’s a drop in sperm production and quality. Medications like Clomiphene can be helpful. They stimulate the testes to produce testosterone and maintain normal testicular function.
Other long-term symptoms include bone and heart problems and mood instability. These symptoms are manageable, but you should be aware of the risks.
HRT maintains bone density and reduces the chances of osteoporosis. So, discontinuing it can increase this risk. People who already have this condition may experience more fractures.
Estrogen is heart-protective, and its levels drop upon quitting this therapy. For this reason, cholesterol levels and blood pressure may increase post-HRT.
Finally, discontinuing hormone therapy may increase the risk of mental health issues. Studies found estradiol withdrawal causes mood destabilization in women predisposed to depression. Mood swings and anxiety are also typical in people with hormonal imbalances.
We generally consider HRT safe, but it carries certain risks. What if your symptoms require hormonal treatment, but you don’t want to take your chances?
Many people turn to alternatives to ease symptoms and balance their hormones. We already hinted at natural hormone therapy replacement options, so let’s dive into them.
Bioidentical hormone therapy (BHRT) is a natural hormone replacement alternative. It uses hormones identical to those of humans, usually plant-derived estrogen and testosterone. These chemicals have the same molecular structure as the ones we produce naturally.
BHRT therapies contain plant hormones that mimic progesterone, melatonin, estriol, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). This blend addresses the struggles that come with aging in men and women.
This treatment comes in two types. The first is Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved BHRT similar to standard HRT. Custom-compounded HRT gets individualized by pharmacists according to your hormonal panel.
Why swap HRT for natural plant-derived hormones?
The primary appeal of BHRT lies in its customizability. Your doctor can prescribe hormones based on your needs and preferences. It’s easy to track your progress and adjust treatments as needed.
Some patients report fewer side effects with BHRT than with conventional treatments. Due to its bioidentical composition, it might also deliver improved symptom relief.
On the flip side, custom-compounded BHRT lacks the FDA regulation of HRT. There’s limited research, and products may be inconsistent in quality. So, be extra careful while choosing the physician and pharmacist.
Non-HRT treatment options
Managing aging symptoms doesn’t have to include conventional or natural hormone therapy replacement. Your doctor may prescribe other medication to keep you well-functioning.
Antidepressants are among the most commonly prescribed menopause medications. Beyond stabilizing the mood, SSRIs and SNRIs might treat hot flashes.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and Clomiphene are important meds for hormone management.
HCG helps you gradually increase natural hormone production, letting you wean off HRT. Clomiphene may relieve the symptoms of declining hormone levels. Both are ingredients in our testosterone treatment but can also aid menopausal women.
Besides the treatments above, aging women can get prescribed these medications:
- Clonidine. A high blood pressure medication that can help reduce hot flashes.
- Ospemifene. An FDA-approved treatment for vaginal dryness.
- Fezolinetant. This drug treats sex hormone-related conditions, especially hot flashes.
Supplements as symptom relievers
Several supplements may relieve sex hormone-related symptoms. Notably:
- Folate supplements. Folic acid (vitamin B9) may increase the effect of antidepressants. It also reduces the risk of arthritis, diabetes, and some cancers. It supports overall health and works well for women facing menopausal depression.
- Vitamin E. This vitamin neutralizes oxidative stress in the body. Supplementing it can reduce hot flashes and night sweats by up to 40%.
- Omega 3 fatty acids. These fats lubricate the body, lessening joint pain and tenderness. They may also boost estrogen production, reducing vaginal dryness.
- Vitamin D and calcium. This combination strengthens the bones and boosts the mood. It’s valuable for older individuals who face a higher risk of osteoporosis.
You can use supplements alongside medication and natural hormone therapy replacement. They’re available in food, capsules, or our vitamin shots.
In general, these treatments are safe and don’t require prescriptions. They can interact with drugs, so ask your doctor if you’re getting treated with medication. Follow the dosing guidelines, as excessive use can lead to toxicity and liver issues.
NAD+ treatment is another worthwhile option for older individuals. It supports natural biological processes that slow down with age. “NAD+” stands for “nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide” and aids energy metabolism. It’s not a standalone treatment but enhances the effects of others.
Some herbal supplements can help you manage symptoms of andropause and menopause. Although not research-backed, they have a background of ample anecdotal evidence. Plus, the risk is minimal with this natural option.
Oft-suggested options include:
- St. John’s wort. A herb with chemical properties similar to some antidepressants. It might improve motivation levels and regulate your mood. Never combine it with regular antidepressants, though.
- Black cohosh. This flowering plant supports hormonal balance and eases menopause symptoms. It contains plant-based estrogen that may reduce hot flashes and depression symptoms.
- Chaste tree. This shrub produces berries that maintain hormonal balance. It may stimulate progesterone production, decreasing the drop you experience in menopause.
- Red clovers. These flowers contain isoflavones, plant-based compounds that act as natural hormone replacement. They play the role of estrogen in your body and reduce menopause-related discomfort.
- Dong quai. This Chinese herb is a blessing for women’s health. It aids the complexion, leaving you younger and better-looking. It may reduce hot flashes and leave you feeling drowsy, supporting your sleep.
- Valerian root. This herbal sleep aid is a widely recognized insomnia treatment. Besides preventing sleep disturbances, it may ease menopause by stabilizing estrogen levels.
Note that research is scant on herbal therapies. They can also interact with medication, so consult your doctor for optimal safety. Otherwise, they shouldn’t cause adverse reactions if taken in controlled doses.
Lifestyle changes for balanced hormones
People who don’t want HRT or natural hormone replacement still have ways to manage symptoms. Doctors suggest these lifestyle shifts once the reproductive system comes to a halt:
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity improves sleep quality and bone density. It aids in weight management, which might reduce hot flashes. Plus, it makes your body release mood-boosting endorphins, helping fight off depression.
- Eat a healthy diet. Spices increase hot flashes, and salty food leaves you bloated. Reduce the amount of processed and preservative-rich food to lessen symptoms. Don’t disregard the importance of hydration, either.
- Keep your body cool. Air conditioning, loose-fitting clothes, and linen sheets may make you more comfortable.
- Limit alcohol, caffeine, and spicy food. All three are known to worsen hot flashes. You can indulge in moderation, but don’t overdo it.
- Quit smoking. Besides being generally unhealthy, cigarettes might intensify your hot flashes. They also increase the risk of age-related diseases.
- Use vaginal moisturizer and lubricant. Swapping HRT for natural alternatives might not address vaginal discomfort. Moisturizing creams and lubricants during sex minimize itchiness and irritation.
- Minimize and manage stress. High cortisol causes weight gain and makes you prone to sleep difficulties. Consider mindfulness meditation or cognitive-behavioral therapy if you lead a stressful life.
- Consider acupuncture. This treatment has been found to decrease hot flashes in intensity and frequency.
These lifestyle changes can help people who are on HRT, too. They’re cornerstones of a healthy life at any age, just more so as you grow older.
The final step: Choose wisely
Hormonal depletion is a natural part of life. That doesn’t mean it’s not bothersome and shouldn’t be treated. HRT is an excellent way to address its symptoms, but it’s not long-term or the only viable option.
Timing your decision to stop and using alternatives are personal choices. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so it requires careful consideration. Remember these key takeaways:
- Quitting HRT should be gradual. In most cases, abrupt withdrawal only causes more trouble. Slowly un-adapt your body to maintain a balanced state.
- HRT isn’t the only possibility. Natural hormone therapy replacement may use bioidentical hormones or herbs and supplements. You have a choice, so study all options to decide what’s best for you.
- Combining treatments may be optimal. HRT is effective, and so are its natural alternatives. We find that no single treatment works as well as a combination of several. Mix medication, supplements, and lifestyle factors for the best results.
Aging comes with uncomfortable symptoms, but they’re manageable with the right solution. It’s all about examining different options and tailoring a treatment to your body and needs.
Would you like expert assistance for this feat? Fill out the wellness questionnaire and let our experts analyze your symptoms. We’ll help you find the most suitable treatment in no time.
Author: Dr. Jason Phan NMD – Founder of LIVV Natural – Anti-aging – regenerative medicine – peptide therapy