IT'S 1 PM AND YOU JUST FINISHED YOUR LUNCH NOT TOO LONG AGO. NOW IT IS TIME TO GET BACK TO WORK, BUT ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS TAKE A NICE, LONG NAP. YOUR BODY FEELS HEAVY AND YOUR MIND IS STARTING TO FOG. SORRY TO BREAK IT TO YOU - BUT YOU MAY BE IN A FOOD COMA.
Food comas are no joke! They can be especially dangerous in the workplace. Known as post-prandial somnolence (Fancy huh?) to the medical world, a food coma is defined as a normal state of drowsiness following a meal.
To break this concept down even more, think of it as a series of chain reactions. When you consume food, your body goes into a general state of low energy due to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system in response to the increase of mass in your gastrointestinal tract. This then leads to a specific state of sleepiness caused by hormonal and neurochemical changes related to the rate at which glucose enters your bloodstream and the downstream effects it has on the transport of amino acid in the central nervous system. In other words, your energy is being diverted to aid in digestion, so “non-essential” functions such as, exercise and muscle exertion are placed on the back-burners.
As a general rule of thumb – the bigger the meal, the harder it will be for you to stay awake! When you eat a lot at once, your parasympathetic nervous system ends up shifting more of its energy to help with digestion. What you eat also matters. When you consume foods loaded with fat and sugar, they are quickly broken down into glucose (the simplest form of sugar). Your body uses glucose for fuel and this increase of it will cause a spike in your bloodstream. To counteract this surge in blood sugar, your body then releases more insulin to clean up the excess glucose. However, the increase in insulin causes your brain to produce more serotonin and melatonin, which are neurochemicals that make you feel sleepy.
If you’re concerned about feeling sleepy after eating, we have some tips that can help you improve your digestion and overall gut health…
- Add lots of fiber to your diet. Fiber is the number one recommended treatment for digestive problems. Try adding beans, seeds, fruits and vegetables until at least 75% of your diet consists of these foods.
- Get more probiotics in your system. Probiotics are living microorganisms that are similar to the beneficial ones naturally present in your gut. You can get probiotic microorganisms from consuming foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, miso and kimchi.
- Eat more prebiotics. They are found in some greens, onions, garlic, artichokes, bananas, etc. Prebiotics are a type of helpful bacteria that is similar to probiotics. Studies have shown that a lack of fiber can lead to an overabundance of harmful gut bacteria. Prebiotics promote the growth and proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract and increase the absorption of minerals such as, calcium and magnesium.
- Drink plenty of water. The combination of high-fiber and water will increase the efficiency of your digestion. Most doctors recommend drinking eight 8 oz. glasses per day. Feel free to experiment with this amount to see if your body requires more water than what’s recommended. People who exercise regularly should increase their water consumption. For example, they may want to consume an extra 16 oz. of water for every 30 minutes of intensive cardiovascular exercise.
- Reduce fat and sugar in your diet. Not only can these substances cause stomach aches in high quantities, but they also slow digestion and cause constipation. One way to ensure that you are reducing fats and sugars is to consume less processed foods since they tend to contain hidden chemicals and higher amounts of sugar.
- Try eating several small meals per day if large meals give you heartburn or acid reflux. Your body is better at digesting smaller quantities at a time. After you figure out the amount of food that works well per meal, try to keep a regular schedule that your body can easily adjust to.
- Eat lean proteins, such as fish and lean cuts of meat. Proteins are essential for maintaining healthy muscles, but lean cuts are less likely to cause heartburn and will be quicker to digest. In general, high-fat foods take longer to digest than low-fat foods.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. What is good for the entire body is good for the digestive system. Exercise and movement help food move through your system and aid in weight loss, which can also help digestion.
- Avoid the consumption of cigarettes and alcohol. The chemicals inside these substances can cause nausea and they can also undermine the benefits of good diet choices. Caffeine may also cause an increase in acidity in the stomach that can lead to high levels of heart burn and acid reflux.