Beware the She-Hulk!

“You won’t like me when I’m angry!”

I’ve noticed that lately I have a shorter fuse than usual. I’m a lot quicker to yell at the girls and a lot quicker to criticize the husband. My temper has not always been the best, especially when the girls are pushing my buttons, but this is extreme even for me.

So what do I do when something is out of wack or I want to know more? I research the crap out of it. My research regarding mood swings and hormonal imbalances after bariatric surgery actually resulted in some very interesting information. It also verified for me that my recent mood change isn’t totally on me and that I just have to ride it out, and find some different coping mechanisms, till my body normalizes again.

There are many reasons why one’s mood would go cray-cray post surgery. The first and easiest to explain is that we no longer have our go-to coping mechanism when things get tough: food. Without learning other ways to cope with stresses and emotions we can tend to become a bit wack-a-do temporarily while we learn.

Another reason that’s a bit more complicated to explain is hormone imbalance. When one is overweight their body produces more estrogen. As the weight comes off the amount of estrogen is decreased and testosterone in increased. Testosterone is linked to higher energy and sex drive. While the body is re-regulating itself, learning what it’s new normal is, these hormones are all over the place.

Hormones are also affected by the change in diet itself. The lack of, or dramatically decreased amount of, carbohydrates alters serotonin levels, and thus neurotransmitter activity. “It is the insulin release after carbohydrates are eaten that indirectly allows more serotonin in the brain to be made. Insulin changes the levels of amino acids in the blood and this enables one amino acid, tryptophan, to enter the brain. Serotonin is made from tryptophan, and thus is dependent on its brain availability.”

“Dietary regimens before and after bariatric surgery often create the perfect storm for serotonin depletion. High-protein/very low-carbohydrate diets are imposed on pre-surgical patients so they will lose some weight before surgery. Post-operatively, patients eat only protein and supplements to prevent muscle, vitamin and mineral loss. Even though tryptophan is one of the amino acids making up protein, studies done over several decades at MIT showed that when protein is eaten, little or no tryptophan enters the brain.”

“Low and/or inactive serotonin is associated with depressed mood and anxious mood, anger, irritability and fatigue.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-antidepressant-diet/201403/depression-after-gastric-bypass-surgery)

Serotonin is basically the feel-good hormone. It is thought to regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood. So combine a lack of calories (thus decreased energy), a probable decrease in sleep amount, removal of go-to coping mechanism, and a decreased level of serotonin and you get an occasional episode of hulking out.

I think that this lack of carbs/serotonin depletion occasionally affected me pre-op too, though not to this extreme. It’s called getting Hangry. I’d totally turn Betty White until someone gave me a snickers if I went too long between food stuffs.

I feel better being a bit more educated in the why and how-to of the hulking out episodes. Now I just have to learn a new coping mechanism and try to space my tiny meals a bit better throughout the day, especially when I’m out with the girls by myself.

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