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Being “hangry” too often ages the brain

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Do you crash when you go too long without eating, losing energy and becoming “hangry?” Hanger—hunger plus anger—is that explosive combination of low blood sugar and irrepressible irritability that turns a normally nice person into a multi-headed hydra.

People joke about being hangry, but when it happens regularly, it means your body and brain are in a perpetual state of alarm. This constant stress raises inflammation and accelerates degeneration of the brain.

In other words, being chronically hangry ages you too fast.

How being hangry ages your body too fast

The low blood sugar that triggers “hanger” sends your body into an emergency “fight-or-flight” mode, causing you to snap at loved ones or fly into a rage because you can’t untangle your earphone cords. This constant stress ages the body and brain.

Low blood sugar also raises an immune messenger called IL-6, which triggers inflammation that destroys tissue.

If you have a chronic or autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis, the inflammation from low blood sugar can trigger flare ups that destroy tissue, worsen symptoms, and advance your condition.

Autoimmunity means an over zealous and imbalanced immune system is attacking and destroying tissue in the body. Many people have autoimmunity but have not been diagnosed. Low blood sugar can worsen autoimmunity and speed destruction of tissues or glands in the body.

In a nutshell, the stress and inflammation from chronically low blood sugar ages your body too quickly.

How being hangry ages your brain too fast

The low blood sugar from being hangry deprives the brain of fuel and impairs brain function. This speeds degeneration because energy-deprived brain cells die.

Brain-related symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • Irritable and easily upset
  • Lightheaded
  • Fatigued
  • Feeling shaky, jittery, or tremulous
  • Agitated and nervous
  • Eating gives you energy
  • Poor memory, forgetfulness
  • Blurred vision
  • Lack of appetite or nausea
  • Energy crash around 3 or 4 p.m.
  • Wake up anxious around 3 or 4 a.m.

Being hangry can worsen brain autoimmunity

Chronically low blood sugar also ages the brain by triggering autoimmune flares in the brain.

A number of people have autoimmunity to brain and nerve tissue but don’t know it—it’s more common than realized.

When blood sugar drops too low, it can trigger the autoimmune process in the brain just as it does in the body, speeding the brain degeneration process.

A few common symptoms of brain autoimmunity include fatigue, “crashing” after too much stimulation or exertion, brain fog, memory loss, anxiety or depression disorders, autism or ADHD symptoms, and poor balance.

If you suffer from any brain-related symptoms, preventing low blood sugar is crucial.

Tips on avoiding low blood sugar to slow aging

If you want to function optimally and slow the aging process, make sure to avoid getting “hangry.”

Tips include never skipping breakfast or other meals, avoiding sugars and processed starches, eating plenty of vegetable fiber and healthy fats, minimizing caffeine, eating small meals every two to three hours  until blood sugar stabilizes, and avoiding foods to which you are sensitive (such as gluten and dairy for many people).

A number of herbal and nutritional compounds can also help bring blood sugar to normal levels and balance immune and brain health. Ask my office for more advice.

Meet the Author

Dr. Matz DC

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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