Could hunger have a part to play in domestic disharmony?

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Yesterday, my blog was based on a piece that appeared in the UK’s Daily Mail from melanoma specialist that urges us to get more sun (and quite right too). While reading this piece, my eye was caught by another article in the same publication with the headline High Court judge ‘beat up his wife because she hadn’t cooked his dinner’

In short, a man and wife are currently in court and he stands accused of punching his wife during a row. I in no way intend to make light of this couple’s plight or the accusation of assault and domestic violence.

What interested me about this story was actually to the reference that the dispute might have been sparked by the fact that the man’s wife had failed to cook his dinner. In my mind, this might be more relevant to the case than is immediately obvious.

If you read the article you’ll see that it is claimed that when the man came home from his work as a judge, his wife was comforting the household cleaner. Apparently, he had not eaten all day. Then he went to his bedroom to work for an hour and a half. And then the trouble started it seems.

My experience in practice is that hunger is a major cause of disharmony in the home. Let me paint a picture of a typical scenario…

Someone has a sandwich for lunch at work at about 12.30, and then eats little or nothing before they come home, often at 7.30 or later. By their own admission, they are often ‘starving’ at this time. Hunger and a bit of blood sugar dysregulation from eating a sandwich may well have led to a bit of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).

One potential effect here is for the body to turn on the ‘stress’ response through, for example, the secretion of adrenaline (epinephrine). Low blood sugar can causes quite profound changes in mood, not least of all because it can cause increases in the levels of glutamate in the brain, which increases excitability.

Some of you will know this from your experience of kids. If children, especially quite young ones, are not ‘fed on time’, they can morph into ‘little monsters’. They’re not monsters, of course, but when their brains don’t get the fuel needed for proper functioning they can sure look that way. It’s pretty much the same with many adults, though.

So, someone coming home in this ‘heightened’ state is normally not the best version of themselves they can be. Here’s a few ways this phenomenon can manifest:

  • Worker comes home ‘frazzled’ and partner wants to hell him/her about important things that have happened during the day. The worker’s attention, however, is on the fridge or kitchen cupboards.
  • Worker comes home and reaches for wine, beer or gin and tonic in an effort (unconsciously) to get their blood sugar levels up (alcohol now being used a substitute for food).
  • Worker comes home and in their ‘excitable’ state manages to fund fault with something quite minor like the fact that there’s some toys in the hallway or, ahem, dinner is going to be ‘half an hour’.

I cannot tell you how often individuals fall foul of this. My experience is that it affects the majority of workers I talk to. The other problem with coming home too hungry is that it generally leads to overeating (and over-drinking).

These issues are so very often ‘cured’ just by ensuring that rampant hunger and low blood sugar are kept at bay in the late afternoon and early evening. For most people, what this amounts to is eating a handful or two of nuts between lunch and dinner. Some people use fruit as a snack, but I don’t advise it too much, mainly on account of the fact that fruit tends not to sate the appetite particularly effectively. Many people who get hungry find fruit quite quickly leaves them as hungry (or even hungrier) than they were before they ate the fruit. Nuts work much better – a handful or two will is usually all that is needed to ensure healthier eating habits and a healthier atmosphere in the home too.

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