Postprandial somnolence: the sluggish, sleepy feeling that you get after eating a big meal. Does this sound familiar? With the season of socializing upon us, one thing is for certain: the foodie sleeps are on their way. But have you ever thought about what is influencing your body to make you so lethargic? Simply put, when you’ve eaten high-calorie, high-fat foods like the ones found in many traditional feasts, your body directs blood flow to your digestive system to amplify efforts, and facilitate the breakdown of the food you’ve just consumed. Consequently, as most of your energy has been focused toward your gut, the rest of your body slows down: enter “rest and digest”. In the instance of a turkey dinner, sides like creamy mashed potatoes and cheesy macaroni increase blood sugar levels, triggering insulin and encouraging your body to absorb all amino acids except for tryptophan, the sleepy essential amino acid that you find in your Thanksgiving turkey. In addition, high blood sugar can also turn sleep-promoting neurons on in the brain, encouraging those feelings of heavy limbs. By the time you’ve finished your second helping, your stomach, abdominal muscles and small intestines have been stretched to the max. Looking to skip that sluggish feeling this season? Here are our dos and don’ts for staving off a food hangover!
Take a digestive supplement like Digestive Enzymes or a Probiotic Supplement.
These products help take the stress off your gastrointestinal tract and assist your body in breaking down the fats and sugars you’re about to pile onto your plate. Digestive enzymes aid in the breakdown of foods into micronutrients, allowing you to extract amino acids from proteins like turkey, fatty acids and cholesterol from fats like stuffing, and simple sugars from carbohydrates like pumpkin pie.
Since the majority of your immune system is located in the digestive tract, added sugar, alcohol and stress can easily contribute to a decrease in good bacteria in your system. Without a sufficient amount of good bacteria in your gut, you may experience some unwanted and uncomfortable physical and mental side effects like gas, bloating, and even mental fogginess. A probiotic supplement can help maintain digestive health and strengthen the immune system so that you can continue to enjoy the festivities.
Hydrate before your meal
Water’s role in digestion is that it helps us break down solid foods and properly absorb nutrients. Skipping the aqua prior to eating decreases your body’s overall performance, which could lead to dehydration, decreased blood pressure and ultimately constipation. On the contrary, drinking too much water after your meal could dilute your digestive juices, making it hard for them to do their work, and will in turn cause further digestive upsets.
Chew your food
Chewing your food ensures that your body is receives the materials in a format it can adequately digest. When food is properly chewed, it is more easily degraded by your gastric juices, and better digested. This allows you to properly absorb the nutrients and fluids you are consuming, and is easier on your tummy overall.
Chew ginger or drink mint tea after your meal
Ginger is made up of gingerol and shogoal, both thought to promote your body’s flow of saliva, gastric secretions and bile, potentially aiding in your digestion. It is also said to reduce feelings of nausea by interfering with the serotonin receptors responsible for alarming your brain of it. Mint tea, on the other hand, is both warm and soothing, helping to relax the digestive tract, encouraging fluidity of food and helping to relieve bloating.
Go For a Walk
Studies have shown that taking a brisk walk of 15 minutes after a meal can significantly lower insulin levels. As you walk, you are off-setting your body’s absorption of the glucose, lowering your levels and bringing you back down to normal more quickly than you would have otherwise. This allows you to avoid the dreaded sugar crash, as well as that stuffed-sausage feeling.
If all else fails, give your belly a rub -- seriously! We know it sounds funny, but rubbing your belly in a circular motion encourages ‘gastric motility’*, which can actually help you pass gas. Consider it like burping, but for adults!
Whatever you do, DON’T
Physiologically, your body has been designed to digest food in an upright position, so when you lie down on a full stomach, you disrupt your natural processes. This can lead to indigestion, heartburn and feelings of overall discomfort and restlessness.
Engage in Strenuous Exercise
Ever noticed increase cramping when you exercise on a full stomach? That’s because when you are active, your heart engages in vasoconstriction, the constriction of blood vessels that raises blood pressure. Your heart then requires an increased level of blood and energy, conflicting with the needs of your digestive tract! This, in turn, causes the painful contractions. We can imagine that the feeling of food moving around in your stomach isn’t exactly pleasant, either.
Drink too much
You should note that alcohol slows down digestion, so if your stomach is full of food AND alcohol, you’re in for a doozy! Alcoholic beverages are usually also loaded with calories, and since you’ve already taken the hit with all of the delicious foods and fixings, your caloric intake will far surpass your expectations! Try limiting your alcohol intake, replacing wine with sparkling water and lime. It’ll both quench your thirst and give you the little something extra you’re after.
*Gastric motility: Contractions of gastric smooth muscle serves two basic functions:
ingested food is crushed, ground and mixed, liquefying it to form what is called chyme. Chyme is forced through the pyloric canal into the small intestine, a process called gastric emptying.
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