Most of us have experienced it. That aggressive and often angry feeling when we are hungry. It’s known as being “hangry,” the combination of hungry and angry. What exactly turns a person from Jekyll into Hyde just because they are hungry?
It’s mostly due to blood-glucose levels. When we eat, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, one of which is glucose. Right after a meal, the levels of glucose in the bloodstream are high. When we go too long between meals, our blood-glucose levels drop and if they diminish too much, the brain will perceive this as life-threatening. Unlike other organs, which have an energy back-up, your brain relies solely on glucose as a fuel source. Even though the brain accounts for only 2% of the body's mass, it uses 23% of your body's energy intake throughout the day.
When we get too hungry, we may experience a growling stomach, headache, nausea, and lightheadedness. Once blood glucose levels drop low enough, the brain gets a "feed me now or die!" signal. This creates stress. When the body senses stress, it then releases hormones such as glucagon, epinephrine, cortisol, adrenaline, and Neuropeptide Y. These hormones regulate anger and aggression. To add more wind to this perfect hormonal storm, the brain also triggers the release of ghrelin, the hormone that tells the body to eat! I call it “ghrelin the felon” because it makes you want to eat like a prisoner that just got out on furlough. Once you consume enough food, the gastrointestinal tract communicates with the brain to release another hormone called leptin, which has a calming effect and tells the body to stop eating. These two hormones constantly go back and forth regulating your appetite. When the body has more ghrelin being produced than leptin, this can lead to hunger pangs, which can turn to anger.
If you are one of those that have “hanger” issues, cut down on or eliminate sugars and simple carbohydrates. Foods that are low in fiber and high in sugar can cause your glucose levels to spike quickly and then crash suddenly. This includes things like sugary drinks, refined grains, white bread, and pasta. Consuming a lot of fiber-rich foods helps make you feel fuller longer and keep blood sugar levels balanced.
Here are a few food items that will help keep you from getting hangry:
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