Dear Leah Renee,
Why do I get so grouchy when I’m hungry? I’ll be completely fine and then all the sudden I get irritable and sometimes snap at others (like my boyfriend!). I would love if you had some insight and any tips to make the madness stop! Thanks. ~Cecilia, GA
If our brain is the CEO of our body, our gut is the managing director. Our brain tells us what to do all the time. Our alarm goes off and our brain sends a signal to our legs to make their way out of bed. We get to the bathroom door and our brain tells our hand to open it. On the way to the shower, our stomach rumbles and sends a message to our brain that it needs food. If we wait too long, our brain starts to get foggy and decision making gets a little tougher. Our stomach and our brain are linked, and each one greatly influences the other in our thoughts, feelings, and impulses. So what happens when you wait too long to eat? You get hangry! Yep, hangry–that’s hungry + angry 🙂 .
There is a reason you get irritable and I promise you’re not alone! Some people are more prone to aggression than others (depending on their hormone levels and many other chemical factors). One of the major players contributing to your short temper is serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone found in our digestive tract and one that helps regulate behavior. Women actually tend to produce less of it than men, which could explain why women suffer from becoming hangry more often. When we have gone too long without food, or are stressed out, aggression levels increase (and serotonin levels decrease).
So what’s going to help you ward off those dips in serotonin levels and keep you from snapping? Here’s a list of attainable practical ways:
- Eat balanced meals. That means eating an adequate amount of complex (not simple) carbs and protein. Healthy carbohydrates help keep serotonin levels stable.
- Keep snack on you—at ALL times! I doubt you enjoy being irritable any more than your friends/boyfriends/girlfriends do. It doesn’t feel great to be annoyed! Have some almonds, a piece of fruit, or trail mix around to get the right balance of protein and carbs to level you out again.
- Eat enough healthy fat. I recently posted an article on healthy fats here. Our hormones require essential fatty acids to work properly, so incorporating fatty fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds can help tremendously. We need those omega 3’s and 6’s!
- Get some sunlight. Food is not the only way to boost serotonin levels. A dash of sunlight will help too, even if only temporarily.
- Exercise. This is a natural mood booster. Don’t have much time? Go for a quick walk or even hop in place (which may even make you laugh).
- Step away from the sweets. Step. Away. Highs and lows from sugar are only going to create or exacerbate the problem. I’m talking cakes, candies, and cookies—by all means have some berries or an apple (or even a piece of dark chocolate)!
All of these methods will help keep you steady through the day– and that hanger away.