The pre-cursor to many memorable naps, postprandial somnolence is the sluggish, sleepy feeling that you get after eating a hefty meal. With more celebration comes a fuller serving tables, equip with the food comas we are all too familiar with. If you’ve ever wondered about the mechanics behind this, here’s the breakdown: 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 support its efforts to breakdown the food you’ve just consumed. In turn, as most of your energy has been focused toward your gut, the rest of your body winds down and prepares to “rest and digest”. By the time you’ve finished your second helping, your stomach, abdominal muscles and small intestines have been stretched to the max. When it comes to turkey dinners, sides like creamy mashed potatoes and cheesy macaroni increase blood sugar levels, triggering insulin. These foods may also result in high blood sugar, which can turn sleep-promoting neurons on in the brain, encouraging that heavy limbed feeling. Looking to skip the sleep spell this season? Here’s what to do to stave off a food hangover!
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 help to dissolve 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 much of your immune system is found in the digestive tract, what happens there shows up in the rest of your body. The combination of added sugar, alcohol and stress can cause inflammation in the gut, making its walls more permeable and the degrading the presence of good bacteria. The trouble is, without enough 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 (socially distanced) festivities.
Hydrate before your meal
Water’s role in digestion is that it helps us break down solid foods and properly absorb nutrients. Skipping this step ahead of your meal will lower 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 causing further digestive upset.
Chew your food
Cringy question alert: are you chewing enough before swallowing? Experts ask that you give your food at least 32 good chomps before sending it down the hatch. This intends to deconstruct your food’s texture to make it easier on your tract as when food is properly chewed it is more easily degraded by your gastric juices and better digested, allowing you to properly absorb the nutrients and fluids up for consumption.
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, all of which aid in digestion. Ginger is also said to reduce feelings of nausea by interfering with the serotonin receptors responsible for alarming your brain of it. Alternatively, mint tea 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, 15-minute walk after a meal can significantly lower your 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 feeling of being stuffed.
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 process in which the constriction of blood vessels raises your blood pressure. Your heart then requires an increased level of blood and energy, conflicting with the needs of your digestive tract. This ultimately 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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