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When Foods Attack – Can Your Dinner Make You Angry?

how to control anger with food

The idea that diet and emotions are connected is not a new one; however the idea that you can control anger by watching what you eat has to sound pretty intriguing. Interestingly enough, some of the ancient wisdom traditions of the east and modern research singles out a few dietary culprits that can inflame our temper.

According to ancient Chinese medical beliefs, every organ in the body correlates with an emotion. It is said that energy known as “chi” moves easily through the body in healthy individuals, but can be obstructed in unhealthy people as demonstrated through emotional pain and disease. The Chinese link the liver with the emotion of anger, blaming a long-term diet in heavy fats and large quantities of animal protein for feelings of anger. Based on Chinese medical advice, people with anger issues should limit their intake of red meat, whole milk and eggs.

According to the science of Ayurveda, tomatoes, spicy peppers and other spicy foods are considered to be a heating type of food, aiding in digestion.  But in some body types like Pitta, who are already inclined to exhibit aggressive behavior, these foods produce internal over-heating effect, especially in the summer time when the body could use some blood “cooling” foods instead.  It is said that overloading the body with too much “fire” will bring about irritability and a lower threshold for anger.

Food is not just something that fills our stomach. It’s very active biologically and chemically, and it affects us,” – Jack Challem, author of The Food-Mood Solution.

Few would argue that food allergies also disturb a person’s mood and can promote anger. Wheat and milk products can cause brain inflammation in people who are sensitive to those foods. According to the Jack Challem, author of The Food-Mood Solution, “Casein, which is found in dairy, and gluten in wheat are two culprits. According to the theory, some people get a toxic effect, creating a substance in the body that leads to aggression or inability to control behavior.”

Foods that create an insulin imbalance are also considered to have diet ties to anger. Refined foods, alcohol, starches, caffeine and sugary treats are believed to trigger anger in certain individuals.  Dietitians believe that manufactured chemicals like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are neurotoxins and can also turn you into a fire cracker.

To sum up, foods that are linked to increased tendencies towards anger are:

1.  Spicy peppers: produce heating effect and a wilder, more difficult to control energy.

2.  Sugar:  carbohydrates initially boost mood by activating serotonin but you’ll also crash quickly, making you feel cranky.

3.  Caffeine:  improves alertness but can make you more jittery, and the crash that follows can make you irritable.

4.  Alcohol:  Alcohol weakens brain functions that normally restrain impulsive behaviors such as excessive aggression.  Its a huge irritant on the nervous system too, leaving one with jitters and a short fuse.

5.  Wheat and milk:  The main allergic response to wheat and casein in milk products is possible brain inflammation, which is said to cause hostility.

6.  MSG and artificial sweeteners: controversial item but some say these food additives can heighten reactions, including aggressive feelings.  (See hidden sources of MSG.)

“Damn it” you may say, “this is my entire diet you just listed here!”  Well, there you are, if you want an edge in managing anger then you are looking at one of the lowest hanging fruits to help you deal with the problem.  Start small and eliminate a few food items to see how you feel.  If you had to pick two, I’d say start with avoiding spicy foods and excessive alcohol intakes.  It is much better to have fewer peppers on your plate than spaghetti on your partner’s ears after a fight.

If you want to learn about the foods that can do the opposite and actually boost your mood, check out this post about “Happiness Management Diet to Fight off Anger and Depression.”  Be well.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Joe February 5, 2015, 8:08 am

    I liked your article and I just wanted to mention for me the biggest trigger is MSG from Chinese food 1 or 2 days after I have extreme agitation and out bursts that are not normal for me but It has gotten to the point to where I know what will happen if I do. I try to think this time I should be okay but nope it never fails so I stay away. I realise MSG is in many foods but somthing about that chinese food for me anyway.

    • AM Tadas February 5, 2015, 9:29 am

      Interesting you say it never fails. Some people are probably more sensitive to it than others. I bet Chinese restaurants just put way more MSG into their dishes than others. When I lived in California, most Chinese restaurants claimed to have stopped putting MSG in their food but then I heard MSG can be disguised as many other things these days… like all sorts of hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, yeast extracts and a ton of others (just added a link to hidden sources of MSG in the post). Another thing that is a huge irritant on the nervous system is garlic and there’s plenty of it in Chinese cuisine too. Anyways, good thing you know now and stay away. Take care Joe.

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