Hunger X anger: It’s a real thing and here’s how you can save yourself.
It’s 3pm and your boss has just walked in. He needs you to finish and hand something to him an hour earlier than he previously asked – instead of knuckling down and getting it done, your blood begins to boil, your heart rate rises and you find yourself biting your tongue in order to prevent a snarky response. Lucky for you, common sense kicks in and you’re able to remember you skipped lunch today. It’s alright – you’re just a bit hangry.
Hanger. Hunger meets anger. The grumps you get when you haven’t eaten. It’s an actual thing. And here’s the science behind why it happens.
Glucose is a carbohydrate, or simple sugar, and is basically the backbone of ‘cellular respiration’ – aka our body’s production of energy. So for obvious reasons it’s pretty crucial that our glucose levels are kept stable at a constant level, which is where hormones like insulin come into play in maintaining them for us (that is, the body secretes insulin into the blood when our levels are too high to turn the excess glucose to glucagon thereby lowering glucose levels, and the reverse if our levels are too low…still with us?).
Hypoglycaemia is what happens when our blood glucose levels drop too low – more specifically, when they fall below 3.9mmol/L (DANGER!) – mainly due to the complicated hormonal fluctuations that come from eating too many refined carbohydrates (but also possibly because of gastric surgery or conditions like anorexia). When this happens, glucagon is released, adrenaline and the growth hormone are released, cortisol is released, cognitive dysfunction comes into play…and all of this leads to anxiety.
There’s no mistaking the link between the brain needing glucose for energy, and us mentally (pardon my French) cracking the shits when we don’t get it.
Hypoglycaemia also brings with it a bevy of super fun symptoms like anxiety, sweet cravings, irritability, fatigue, weakness if missing a meal, headaches, the sweats, tiredness after eating, poor memory, poor concentration, overweight, depression, nervousness, mood swings… HANGER! All of which is not great for our productivity throughout the day.
So, what do we do about stopping ourselves from getting hangry? It’s all about diet and lifestyle.
A diet full of whole, unprocessed foods, with lots of complex carbohydrates, high fibre, and natural sugars (put down that raw sugar – we’re talking fruit and vegetables, which also contain the fibre to slow down sugar absorption and prevent sugar fluxes) is recommended. Low GI(glycaemic index) foods are also favourable. Oh, and cinnamon, cocoa and chromium help to support the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels – so reach for those next time you’re feeling the hanger or sugar cravings taking hold!
Exercising for even half an hour three times per week will also prevent hypoglycaemia and hanger – so get out there, and get that heart rate pumping.
Bon voyage, hanger!
By contributor Emily Bathgate