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Worried (Hungry and Depressed) in Wyandotte (Part II)

  • Posted on May 23, 2016 at 1:01 am

Dear Christine,  

I’m feeling what I usually call depressed or hopeless.  I feel tired and sleepy from work and it’s a physical job.  I was hungry and I just ate.  How do I differentiate between depression, hunger and tiredness? 

Signed, Worried (Hungry and Depressed) in Wyandotte  (Part II)

Dear Worried,

Hunger can feel a lot like depression.  Maybe you’ve heard the term “Hangry” meaning “I’m hungry and I’m angry.”  When blood sugar levels are low, it is easy to feel negative, depressed, angry and irritable.  It is also can make you feel whiney, confused and needy.  If you aren’t sure whether you’re hungry or depressed, try addressing hunger first, assuming you haven’t eaten in a while.  Just a small snack of real foods (nuts, fruit but not processed foods) can pep you up and clear up your thinking and restore the energy you missed.  To make healthy choices, here’s a list from Psychology Today

Ideas for good blood sugar control

  1. Eat regularly scheduled meals and snacks in between
  2. If you tend to have low blood sugar, eat small meals every 2 – 3 hours
  1. Meals should include protein sources: fish, grass-fed meats, eggs, beans, or protein powder in a shake. Beans are a good protein source, for these are complex carbs, where the blood sugar moves into the blood slowly. Meals should also include fat: avocado, nut oils, fish oil, olive oils.
  1. Snacks ideas: apple or celery with almond butter, raw nut and seed mix with dark chocolate chips and some organic raisins, carrots, and hummus
  1. Reduce the amount of simple carbs, such as cakes, cookies, and breads. Keep these as occasional treats instead of everyday staples.
  2. Consider a chromium supplement which can help support blood sugar balance.
  1. Keep up fiber-rich foods. Adequate dietary fiber helps blood sugar remain stable by slowing entrance of sugar into the blood stream.
  1. If the above do not work for you, consider having a blood test called the glucose tolerance test and also a serum insulin test. If these are not balanced, and insulin is high, strategies that help the body become more sensitive to insulin (like building muscle, and more specific ways to eat) might be appropriate for you.

Some people eat more when they are depressed or stressed out.  If that’s the case for you, then you probably aren’t hungry, but you are looking to sooth yourself and what most people find to be comfort foods are usually starches and sugars and processed foods.

New research findings may explain why some people who are stressed or depressed overeat.  In,

It has been found that chronic stress increases ghrelin, the hormone that increases when you don’t  eat.  Ghrelin is also called the hunger hormone and it can possibly be elevated when you feel stress from anxiety or depression.  Experiments with mice has shown that these elevated levels of ghrelin can continue for at least 4 weeks after the stressor occurred.  If humans are like mice, then feeling hungry from stress might drive us to eat and eat and eat.  If you are going through a stressful time, make sure to eat healthy foods, as listed above.  Also drink lots of water.  Skip pop and soda, alcohol and fruit juices which are mostly sugar.  Researchers hope to study what areas of the brain are acted on by ghrelin, to see if there is any antidepressant type effect.
So, eat regularly, sleep enough and if you are still feeling depressed, journal about what stressors you encounter that day and that period in your life.  Journaling can help you take the time to look inside, reflect and assess what is really going on in your mind, spirit and body.  It can help you see patterns and assist you in focusing and refocusing on your goals.

Christine Cantrell, PhD