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You Won’t Like Me When I’m Hangry: How Hunger Affects Your Mind and Body

Written by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Updated Mar 09, 2022

    You Won’t Like Me When I’m Hangry: How Hunger Affects Your Mind and Body

    The portmanteau “hangry” — hungry + angry — has often been seen, heard, and talked about.  In recent years, more and more people have been using the word to describe the anger that they feel when they haven’t been able to eat. Feeling hangry has been described as causing the person feeling it great discomfort. This results in not being able to concentrate and hostile emotions such as anger. But is there a physiological reason for this anger? Do hunger pains really affect mood negatively? And what can we do to stop feeling hangry?

    A Matter of Blood Sugar

    We’re all too familiar with intense headaches that follow hunger, times when the stomach growls so loudly that it becomes to audible to those around, or sudden feelings of anger. That hunger-induced, sugar-fueled anger happens when your blood sugar dips. People of all ages experience this unpleasantness, but there is a good reason for this. As dietitian and International Food Information Council nutrition communications coordinator Alyssa Ardolino says, “Your body wants to keep you alive.”

    “Your body is super smart,” she adds. “So, if for some reason, you have a deficit of calories or are not eating consistently, it focuses on the main parts of the body that it needs to sustain, such as the heart, the brain, and certain vital organs.”

    Why So Hangry?

    There are several possible reasons for feeling hunger, ranging from too much alcohol, not getting enough protein, not sleeping enough, or a lack of water and fiber in the diet. However, researchers have identified other causes for the combination of hunger resulting in crankiness or feeling hangry.

    A study published in 2019 proposed that hunger is not enough to feel hangry. Instead, they hypothesized “that people experience hunger as emotional when they conceptualize their affective state as negative, high arousal emotions specifically in a negative context.”

    Another study published in 2018 cited the chaotic 19th century as a time when something akin to being hangry “intervened in debates concerning the interconnectedness of the gastrointestinal and psychiatric or neurological systems.” Ranging from chronic indigestion to dyspeptic hypochondriasis, writers of the age attempted to pin down the mechanics of digestive health in one way by studying the violence that could emerge as a result.

    How to Battle Feeling Hangry

    Aside from eating before getting too hungry, it is advisable to avoid junk food when you do take a bite. New York-based dietitian Jessica Cording says, “blood sugar management is key to anger management.” Some tips to combat this include:

    •         Choose whole grain fiber-rich foods, like a slice of whole wheat bread. These will help you to feel full for longer periods of time.
    •         Protein like turkey or tofu is ideal.
    •         Snack smartly with a handful or nuts. It helps that these are often portable so you can snack anywhere, at any time.
    •         Consume a lot of complex carbohydrates since they produce the highest amount of blood sugar. Take these with protein or fat.

    Missing a meal can sometimes be unavoidable and leave one feeling hungry on top of being angry. While the resulting discomfort can lead to a person lashing out at those around them, there are some very easy ways to battle this and greatly reduce the rage that comes with it.

     Learn more about Healthy Eating here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Chris Icamen

    Dietetics and Nutrition

    Updated Mar 09, 2022

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