Why Are You Hungry? The Effects of Blood Sugar on Mood

Why Are You Hungry? The Effects of Blood Sugar on Mood

Why Are You Hungry? The Effects of Blood Sugar on Mood

Feeling hungry?

Almost everyone has been there. You’re tired, you’re frustrated and worst of all you’re hungry. You haven’t had a chance to eat so your exhaustion and frustration seem to be worse.

You feel like you’re on the brink of snapping. This is the dangerous junction where hunger and anger meet head on.


This emotional episode, otherwise known as “hangry”, has been portrayed in a popular chocolate bar commercial with the tagline “you’re not you when you’re hungry.” Truer words have never been spoken.

There’s a plausible, scientific reason for this; let me break it down for you.

How does what I eat affect my mood?

Your mood and your food are regulated by a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Increased levels of serotonin help to elevate and improve mood. If production of serotonin is effected and decreased in any way, you can expect to experience mood swings, anger and frustration.

When blood sugar levels drop, your brain registers this low level of sugar and kicks into action triggering the hypothalamus to produce certain levels of leptin and ghrelin – two hormones that are responsible for hunger and fullness.

These hormones cause an imbalance in neurotransmitters and suppress serotonin receptors. When serotonin is blocked from joining with its receptors it interferes with your body’s natural ability to balance mood and appetite.

In other words, prepare for some mood swings.

When do mood swings occur?

This usually occurs when blood sugars drop quite low. Hypoglycemia is typically defined as a blood sugar level less than 70 mg/dl. The effects noted above are more likely to occur when blood sugar drops as low as 55 mg/dl or less.

You can expect this effect many hours after eating, it is not likely to occur if your meal was delayed slightly.

Why Are You Hungry? The Effects of Blood Sugar on Mood

What if I have diabetes?

However, people with diabetes or those diagnosed with hypoglycemia are more susceptible to low blood sugars and this effect on mood.

If your spouse comes home from a long day of work and is in an angry, bitter mood (and is “starving”), ask him when he has last eaten. Chances are he might have skipped lunch due to a work meeting that went longer than planned, and his blood sugars are low.

Give him a hearty meal and within minutes, his mood will improve.

Other signs of low blood sugar levels

Aside from mood, personality changes or confusion are other signs that blood sugars levels might have dropped too low. Take note of this in other people and alert others to look for these signs and symptoms in you as well.

Of course there are other reasons why people snap so quickly, it’s not always low blood sugar. It’s important to remember that everyone has their own outside stresses at work or at home that may worsen the problem of low blood sugar.

Pay attention to how your body affects your mind. Researchers have found that long-term deficits of serotonin can lead to depression. What’s important is learning how to control this issue before it happens.

How do I avoid mood swings?

Here are a three tips to help you avoid these “food and mood swings” caused by low blood sugar:

1. Eat smaller meals more frequently to keep your blood sugars more stable and avoid highs and lows. Never let your blood sugars get too low.

2. Ensure your meals will satiate and sustain you. This means combining a protein with a complex carbohydrate and healthy fat. These foods take longer to break down so your body will be busy digesting this combo while you carry on with your day.

3. If you’re heading to work or even running errands, pack yourself a bag of mood-boosting snacks. Hummus on pita or cheese on whole wheat crackers will do the job just fine. Try to eat every three hours to keep your mind in check.

So the next time you feel inexplicably frustrated, remember that your mood might be the cause and you have the power to manage it.

Read more from WatchFit Expert Bonnie Giller