Most of us can attest to having been ‘hangry’ (hungry + angry) or dealing with someone hangry at some point, which we know isn’t always an enjoyable experience (i.e., never). But have you ever wondered what is actually happening within our body to produce this unpleasant behaviour?
The answer lies in the physiological workings of our brain, blood, and gut. Let’s explore this concept further.
Blood-Sugar Rollercoasters & Hormones
All of our organs, tissues, and cells require fuel to continue functioning optimally. When we eat, our gut breaks the food down into absorbable nutrients like amino acids and glucose and disperses the molecules into our blood, which then feeds these nutrients to the rest of our body. Our brain’s primary food source comes from glucose, and so when our blood-glucose levels fall, such as when we fast between meals, our brain begins to take things into its own hands.
Have you ever felt lethargic or weak when you are hungry? This is because our brain’s critical food source has been depleted, signalling to the brain that you are in a life-threatening situation.
Another process that takes place when you are hungry is the release of certain hormones which regulate your blood-glucose levels.
The four main glucose counter-regulatory hormones are: growth hormone from the pituitary gland situated deep in the brain; glucagon from the pancreas; and adrenaline, which is sometimes called epinephrine, and cortisol, which are both from the adrenal glands. These latter two glucose counter-regulatory hormones are stress hormones that are released into your bloodstream in all sorts of stressful situations, not just when you experience the physical stress of low blood-glucose levels.
Adrenaline is a ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone, meaning that it is also released during times of stress to help our body get out of sticky situations. It is no surprise, then, that adrenaline can sometimes contribute to a ‘snappy’ mood.
It’s In The Genes
Another reason hunger is linked to anger is that both are controlled by common genes, The Conversation reports. The product of one such gene is neuropeptide Y, a natural brain chemical released into the brain when you are hungry. It stimulates voracious feeding behaviours by acting on a variety of receptors in the brain, including one called the Y1 receptor.
Besides acting in the brain to control hunger, neuropeptide Y and the Y1 receptor also regulate anger or aggression. In keeping with this, people with high levels of neuropeptide Y in their cerebrospinal fluid also tend to show high levels of impulse aggression.
As such, hanger can be considered an intrinsic survival mechanism that can only be controlled by consuming quality nutrients before it reaches this state. Eating sugary snacks is a sure fire way to crash and burn, so be certain that your in-between meal snacking consists of foods like fruit, nuts, and fibrous whole grains. Only then will you avoid the all-feared hanger rampage, something your friends and family will thank you for.
Source: The Conversation