white ceramic plate with hunger word
21 Mar 2022


Most of us haveexperienced the overwhelming grouchiness that takes over when weve gone toolong without food. Turns out, theres some science to explain why this happens.Here is what you need to know and how you can help your clients cope when hungerstrikes. The official definition of hunger is "a feeling or showing ofanger due to hunger." As humans, we have the choice to listen to ourhunger. Yet, in our busy and overbooked lives, we often choose to ignore thissignal, waiting far too long to feed our empty stomachs. The body's response tobeing ignored is to cause an emotional reaction (like anxiety and stress) toprompt a reaction. And the longer the body is deprived, the greater theemotional response. Its important to realize that the stomach and brain areconnected to one another, and part of the communication is related to signalsof hunger and satiety. In a study published in the Proceedingsof the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found a correlation between hunger, feeling angryand having low blood sugar. Basically, when youve gone too long between meals,your blood sugar level drops, signaling the release of a cascade of hormones. Hunger-relatedHormones Ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the stomachthat stimulates feelings of hunger. It can also produce anxiety in the brain,which is where anger starts. When youre hungry, you're more irritable and moreaware of your emotions because it reinforces the drive to seek food and tosatisfy nutrition needs. A release of ghrelin causes you to be hungry and should bethe motivation for you to begin seeking out food. When you eat, ghrelindisappears and so does anxiety. However, if this hunger signal is ignored,it can cause a disruption of other hormones in your body such as Cortisoland Adrenaline.


A low blood sugarlevel also triggers the release of stress-related hormones like cortisol andadrenaline. As these two hormones increase, the body goes into afight-or-flight response. From there, the effects of hunger are expressedmentally, emotionally and physically. When you're hungry, your prefrontalcortex doesnt function at a high capacity. This can affect personality, self-control,planning and even temporarily shut down long-term memory. Emotionally, yourmind begins to feel anxiety and stress. This can lead you to lose patience andfocus, or even act abnormally. Physically, your heart rate, blood pressure andrespiration all increase.


Neuropeptide Y: If you continue to ignore the ghrelin and the spike in cortisol and adrenaline,your body will go into panic mode and you will experience anger in its fulleffects. At this point, the body releases neuropeptide Y, which has been foundto make people behave more aggressively toward those around them. Additionally, this neuropeptidestimulates food intake with a preference for quickly digestible carbohydrates. Lastly,a release of neuropeptide Y increases your motivation to eat large amounts offood, while also delaying how long it takes for that food to make you feelsatisfied. In a nutshell, hunger causes you to have a larger-than-normalappetite, especially for carbs, so you end up overeating.


Real-life Effects of Hunger


 Example #1: One study thatattracted attention a few years ago found that judges are less likely to set lenient sentences the closer it gets to lunch. Turns out, their hunger ledto anger, which impacted their decision-making skills.


Example #2: classic study of married couples asked them to stick pins into voodoo dolls thatrepresented their loved ones, to reflect how angry they felt toward them. They foundthat when people had lower blood sugar levels, the more pins they stuck intotheir dolls. Ouch!


How to Prevent Hunger


Be Mindful: Listen for clues. If you notice yourself getting more irritable,hunger may be the cause. Take a break and find a snack that contributes tohealthy eating. Most people should not go more than four to five hours betweenmeals. This type of healthy eating pattern will help relieve your hunger andbalance out your blood sugar levels to prevent riding the emotionalrollercoaster of hunger.


Be Prepared: Keep snacks on hand that are travel-friendly, so you have themreadily available. A snack should contain a blend of carbs, proteins and fats.Whole-grain carbs that are high in fiber (5 grams or more per serving) raiseserotonin levels to give your blood sugar a quick boost, while the fiber keepsyour stomach full. Proteins and fats are digested more slowly to give youstaying power and keep you feeling full for longer. By having your own stash ofhealthy and fresh foods within reach, youll be less tempted to indulge inless-healthy food that lacks the nutrition your body craves.