Feeling 'Hangry' is Normal and You Can Blame Your Brain

Feel irritable when you're hungry? Blame your brain!
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You skipped breakfast and lunch, but dinner is hours away. While your stomach is growling, you snap at a friend who asks a simple question. You aren't just hungry. You're "hangry."

Hangry is a combination of "hungry" and "angry" – and it means just that: You've got a bad temper because you're hungry. Although it has become a popular meme, scientists have found that feeling hangry is actually normal.

What Does Hangry Mean?

The Oxford English Dictionary recently added the word hangry to its official list. According to NPR, you may feel angry, irritable or upset because of hunger. Some people lash out and have outbursts, while others are impatient. Although the individual response to hunger may vary, people who are hangry are usually angry. If your stomach is empty, it can affect your brain and mood.

Hunger and Your Brain

Your brain and stomach work together to let you know when you are hungry or full. The hypothalamus in the brain has a hunger center. When you eat a plate of pasta, the nerves in your digestive tract can send signals to this portion of the brain to let it know that you are now full. (If you scarf down the entire plate in a few minutes, you may still feel hungry because the signals need time to travel to the brain. This is why eating slowly can help you feel full faster.)

On the other hand, when you do not eat for a long period of time, your stomach may start to grumble. You may have hunger pangs, which are stomach pains or cramps. Other symptoms may include dizziness, weakness and headaches. As your blood sugar levels fall, the hunger center in your brain receives signals that you are starving.

Your Brain Craves Glucose

Glucose is a sugar that you can get from eating carbohydrates. Your brain needs glucose because it the only fuel it can use. Moreover, the neurons in the brain cannot store glucose, so you need to provide a constant source. Usually, there is enough glucose in your bloodstream for the brain to function normally. However, hunger causes glucose levels to plummet.

When your blood glucose levels fall, your brain starts to starve and makes the body release hormones. This makes it harder to concentrate and think. It also affects your behavior and mood. You may be more aggressive and angry because it is a natural response to not having enough food in your body. You also have a harder time with self-control when you are hungry.

Hunger and Anger

In some cases, hunger can cause you to feel angry. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association (APA), scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that being hangry was a complex emotional response. Whether you have this response depends on your self-awareness and context.

The study included 400 people who had to rate an image and evaluate their hunger levels. Researchers learned that hungry people were more likely to rate an ambiguous Chinese pictograph as negative if they saw a negative image before it. In addition, they discovered that people who were aware of their emotions were less likely to be hangry.

Overall, this means that your situation and emotional awareness can affect how you respond to hunger. Scientists believe that being hangry shows the brain and body connection.

When Hunger Turns Violent

Although most people show they are hangry be being upset or irritated, others take it to an extreme level by becoming violent. ABC7 News reports that in New York City, one woman went on a rampage at the Back Home Restaurant because it ran out of beef patties. The hangry woman smashed windows with a bat.

A similar incident happened at a Brooklyn deli, according to ABC7 News. A hangry man attacked the deli worker and threw food because his sandwich was taking too long to prepare. Alcohol may have also been involved in this incident.

Sometimes an entire group of hangry people can make a scene. Newsweek reports that two people were arrested after a brawl at the Meteor Buffet in Huntsville, Alabama. The hangry visitors fought over crab legs at the buffet and cut each other in line.

How You Can Fight Being Hangry

Obviously, eating is the simple solution for fighting hangry feelings. However, you may not always be able to grab a quick meal or snack. Sometimes, you have to manage the hunger. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recommend paying attention to how you feel so that you separate the hunger from the emotions. Also, try to avoid negative situations that can make the response to hunger worse.

Hanger Management

In addition to avoiding negative situations and increasing your emotional awareness, there are other things you can do to manage hunger. First, avoid eating carbohydrates on their own. Instead, make sure your meals and snacks combine multiple food groups, including protein, fat and carbs. Stick to whole-grain carbohydrates that take longer to digest and keep you full. For example, have a cup of yogurt with pretzels and fruit.

Try not to skip meals. It may not be possible to have a full breakfast, lunch or dinner every day, but you should aim for eating at least three times a day. Although timing will depend on your health and other circumstances, you want to make sure that you eat at least every four to five hours.

If the time between meals is too long, grab a healthy snack before feeling hangry. Similar to your meals, you want snacks to include protein, fat and carbs. Produce and proteins are easy to combine. For example, try apples with peanut butter and cheese.

The best thing you can do is to avoid feeling hangry in the first place. By planning your meals and eating healthy food, you can stay away from dealing with hangry emotions.

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