Charlotte Hunter, best known as “THE MENOPAUSE NUTRITIONIST” – is an expert in nutritional therapy - specialising in helping women to feel at their healthiest from perimenopause, through menopause & beyond using food, lifestyle & therapeutic methodologies for feeling good.
Charlotte on what she believes is the biggest myth about menopause:
I think this idea of HRT is a magic wand. I take buckets of HRT, and I'm an advocate for HRT. However, I think there's this misconception that if you're dealing with all of these symptoms, associated with menopause, that taking HRT, we'll just fix all of that. In most cases, it helps massively and is life changing, but very often, the problems that you had, even before menopause are still going to be there during and after menopause, even if you take HRT. So if you're stressed, if you struggle with your weight, if you've got mental health issues, or huge levels of general stress or sleep problems, all of those things, if they become worse, because of the menopause, they're not necessarily going to disappear, you've still got to address those issues. We have to think about things in a wider context. Yes, HRT is amazing. However, it's not going to fix everything for everyone all of the time.
Charlotte on women’s nutritional needs during menopause
There's a huge metabolic shift that occurs as we we move through perimenopause and through menopause itself and then, when we we fully classed as postmenopausal as well. As a whole, whether it is nutritional therapy, or its other modalities, we don't pay enough attention to our cardiovascular system, I don't think. We're so focused on HRT, the hormones and plugging those symptoms, we're not thinking about the wider implications of our health as a woman moving through menopause. During that time, one of the big changes is that we become naturally more insulin resistant. So we were not sensitive to those signals from insulin. And insulin is the key, isn't it? It allows us to access the carbohydrates from our diet, and tells us to either use it as energy, put it into storage, and that whole system can go a bit haywire as we go through menopause.
The first thing to remember is that different solutions work for different people and I think one of the biggest myths is such a thing as a menopause diet. We're all so different. But there are certain themes that we've got to stick to, to support our health. Firstly, cutting out sugars, especially the added sugars. It's really unpopular, and I get slammed on social media for saying this, but get your carbohydrates down. As far as I'm concerned it's not negotiable. If you want to support your menopause, I personally believe you have to get your carbohydrates down. For example if one of your favorite meals is spaghetti bolognese, doesn't mean you can't have your spaghetti bolognese, but think about having half of your plate with the meat, vegetables, source, have a couple of spoonfuls of spaghetti so you’re still having your carbs, and then have a gorgeous big salad and loads of olive oil and make it reasonably balanced meal.
Even if you do absolutely nothing, and you make no changes to your diet, if you can get to three meals a day, limit snacking, limit caffeine between meals, you will start to notice differences in your metabolism.
Charlotte on food tips and supplements to help with common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
When it comes to supplements, a lot of companies get it totally wrong. A lot of companies produce these, what I would call it a kitchen sink formula, where there's about 30 ingredients, and they all claim to do something for menopause. So how's that going to work? Because in some people, black cohosh might help, in other people, it's not going to do a thing.
When it comes to menopause, and hormones in general, whether you're in your 30s, or in your 60s, beyond, it doesn't matter, there are the fundamentals that we need to address. We need to be thinking about stress, there are certain nutrients that will support stress and sleep. Thinking about inflammation, we know that things like turmeric will be lovely. Thinking omegas, we want to be thinking about our insulin. And then also the gut, you can't forget about the gut. So good probiotics for some people thinking about the immune system in the gut as well. The kind of complexes that address those fundamentals are going to be much, much more effective. And a less is more approach will also be more effective than looking at the supplements that have got, literally, you know, a massive long list of every possible ingredient you would .
Charlotte on go to foods in the supermarket
Get as many vegetables as you possibly can. The idea of five a day, we need to have at least double that. The biggest advice I can give you would be to increase vegetables because it's going to increase your fiber, which is good for your gut and it's good for your hormone metabolism. If you're on HRT, you need to really love your gut. If you're eating vegetables, think about ways to increase it. In the morning, if you're having eggs or you're having some bacon, have some avocado, have a handful of spinach. Maybe make a small smoothie to go with it. We don't want to be going mad on smoothies because of the sugar but you could put half a banana, tablespoon of berries, and then wherever you can find in your fridge. So think about how you can add your vegetables at lunchtime, have an extra handful of salad. Chop up some tomatoes, and at every meal have a side order of vegetables as a way to try and boost your levels. The other thing, nutritionally speaking, would be to make sure you're eating protein at every meal. So every meal, ask yourself, where is my protein? Even if you're having a snack think where's my protein? The other thing is water. Make sure you're hydrated. You know if you're having hot flushes, problems with your digestion, not sleeping, night sweats, brain fog, staying hydrated is going to really help. So vegetables, protein, good hydration.
Charlotte on her surgical menopause
When we realized that my cervix was just falling apart, I was booked in for my hysterectomy a month after being advised to go ahead with it. I didn't really have much time to understand what was going to happen. I thought, I’ve just got to get feeling better. The best thing you if you’re going through surgical menopause is talk to people who've had the same thing. Don't listen to what they say about all the bad stuff. Ask really direct questions like what helped you get through it? So I took ginger tea, mint tea boxes and Windies not exactly naturopathic but hey. I came out the other side and I had a laparoscopic hysterectomy, I didn't have an incision. I had a catheter and I woke up thinking, I don't actually feel too bad. I was really, really bloated, that's the worst thing. It's the gas because they fill you up with air so they can do everything they need to and you get a lot of trapped wind. I felt like I was going through a really heavy, painful period. That was the worst thing along with the discomfort of having a catheter in because you just cannot get comfortable with that tube sticking out of you. I came out of hospital, they packed me home with a big bag of painkillers which I merrily accepted and 48 hours after being home the hot flushes hit me like a train and I was really surprised it happened so quickly. I wasn’t due to see my doctor for a week to discuss how to change my HRT, she had given me a really, really low dose to get started and I spent a week just in a vest and a pair of pants and dressing gowns. But since then, I've gone on HRT, it does its job, most of the time, I do get the odd hotflush when I'm stressed. I do suffer with insomnia, and joint pains if I don't drink enough water, if I don't sleep well enough. It's going back to those pillars, if you don't support your pillars, then you know, menopause is going to be crappy, even if you're on HRT, which is why diets, lifestyle support and really good quality, targeted supplements are the way to get through it, not Kitchen Sink supplements.
Charlotte’s top tip
Try to sleep and do your best to get good quality sleep. Iit goes alongside the things that I mentioned - inflammation, stress, insulin - think about your sleep and what can you do to try and get better sleep.