The Lizard, the Dog, and the Human, what does this have to do with battling the HANGRY?

Hangry

Hangry. Didn’t even know it was a real word for most of my life, but once being with The Lady, I learned not only is it a word, it is a real thing. Hangry. Hunger = Angry. I’ve never experienced it that I know of, but then I rarely was hungry, lol. Food meet face was pretty much my way of life. The Lady, on the other hand, didn’t have this method of constantly grazing for food. She was more structured – 3 meals plus a few very small snacks when needed. What I noticed and she realized as well, was that when she was getting overdue for food, she would start to get snippy, short, HANGRY. She would say she thought her blood sugar would drop and that would cause her to get pissed off. She could feel it coming on, recognize it but be completely helpless to stop it without food. Since I had never had this happen to me, I knew it was a real thing but didn’t quite understand it – I just made sure I gave her food ASAP so she would be happy :).

Interestingly, after about a week of no grains and going keto, besides the obvious physical changes she saw, there were some additional mental benefits. She stopped feeling hangry and only felt hungry. She also saw a marked decrease in anxiety (I’ll be covering this top in more depth in a later post). This got me wondering, could it be the keto or getting rid of grains or both? So, I started looking around for clues (Hobbit the PI is on the job!!). I found some that lead me to more clues and then…The Hobbit GOT HIS MAN!!! Yup. It was the carbs, or more specifically, it was the reduction in the flood and ebb of glucose to the brain caused by carbs. Let me explain…

The human brain is made up of 3 regions – I’ll spare you the medical and technical details but google is your friend if you really want to know them – that work independently and co-dependently at the same time. There are various names for them, depending on where you read. Since I’m all about keeping it simple, I’m going with the simple labels:

  • The Lizard brain – handles fight\flight reflex, basic bodily functions, sex drive, and basic emotions.
  • The Dog brain – handles complex emotions and emotional reasoning
  • The Human brain – handles cognitive thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving.

The lizard brain is the most basic part of the brain for human survival. It’s purpose is to keep us alive (individually and as a species). It controls basic things like breathing, your heart, organs, etc. It controls sex drive. It controls anger and fear for self defense. It controls happy and safe feelings. It’s main trigger chemical is dopamine, a chemical produced in the brain that is known as the ‘feel good juice’ and ‘reward chemical’ as it is associated with good or high intensity basic feelings – for example, dopamine is at its highest naturally occurring levels at orgasm. It also spikes high when a threat is perceived. In situations that create high spikes of dopamine, on the backside of that is when the level drops, it drops below ‘normal’ levels as the body attempts to regulated the flow and what just happened. This is why men end up snoring minutes after sex, but if they fight that urge to go to sleep and say up, the return to normal shortly after as the brain brings the dopamine levels back into balance.

Ok, so what does all this have to do with being hangry? The lizard brain also controls when you eat. Hunger.
Yes.
Eating is an essential survival mechanism, right?

So, what happens in the body when eat? In a nutshell, the brain runs off glucose (one of the only organs that cannot use ketones), glucose also can cause elevation in dopamine. When levels of glucose drop in the brain below normal levels, so does dopamine. If it spikes or is at a chronically elevated level, when it drops, it is going to drop HARD as compensation. This creates a craving in the lizard brain for more food to help bring the dopamine levels – a sugar addiction if you will as this is very similar to the reactions that happen in the brain in addicts – back up as it knows that this is what is needed to stabilize the dopamine levels. Now, what does this have to do when it comes to keto? A ketogenic diet reduces the glucose floating around in the body since carbs are converted to glucose as that is the only purpose of carbs and brings them down to a level that is stable. On a typical American diet, we eat way more carbs than we need to function, which increases the glucose in our system, which in turns increases the dopamine in the brain because, well, carbs make us feel good… until they wear off and the dopamine drops along with the glucose. And guess what, if the lizard brain doesn’t get what it needs, it triggers an angry response. It gets pissed. And so do you. You get…

HANGRY.

Now, on a keto diet, you use fat to create glucose, but since fat takes longer to process by the body, instead of wildly throwing glucose levels up and down like carbs, they provide a nice, steady stream of what is needed by the brain to function. Fat keeps regular dopamine levels in check. Fat keeps the hangries away.

If you want some light reading on the subject (light as in not light at all…), check out this study.

Hey, if you read this and like it, feel free to give me some feedback in the comments. I’d love to hear from everyone on what they think of my ‘creations.’ If you have questions, ask! If you hate them, tell me 🙂. If you do your own tweaks, let me know, I love to learn new things!!

~The Hobbit

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