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What Causes Food Coma?
One of the primary reasons that scientist think causes the hallmark sleepy feeling associated with a food coma is a decrease in the amount of blood flow to the brain. In an effort to concentrate on the digestion of the meal, more blood is sent to the digestive organs of the body to assist in processing the food.
Another contributing factor associated with some meals is tryptophan. This is an amino acid which is found in some foods such as turkey. It is thought to cause drowsiness if consumed in large enough quantities. Additionally, the hormone gastrin is produced when the body focuses on the digestion of food.
This hormone is responsible for the release and regulation of digestive juices in the stomach. Simultaneously, another hormone called enterogastrone is also released. It is used to control the flow of blood in the body. This is what limits the blood flow to the brain and redirects it to the digestive organs that are working hard to break down that large, heavy meal you just enjoyed.
You may not realize it, but it required a large effort for your body to ingest and break down your food and make it ready for absorption in the intestines. The more food you ingest, the harder the body must work. Keep in mind that certain food has a more pronounced effect on the individual after consumption.
The more carbs and sugar you ingest, the more sleepy you will feel after the meal. Even though your meal may not seem high in sugar or excessively rich with carbs, it can still create the need to take a long nap after you eat your meal.
If you want to avoid dealing with a food coma after your meal, you are going to have to be conscientious about avoiding foods such as pasta, potatoes, heavy meats, and excessive sweets.
A good solution would be to choose a vegetarian option or order a salad or light seafood option. Salmon is a great choice if you are at a restaurant and want to order a meat dish, but don’t want to feel weighed down after you eat. Just be mindful of sauces and other toppings that may come with the meal. These “extras” can sabotage your plan to have enough energy to continue your activities after the meal.
Do You Have a Food Coma Right Now?
- Did you recently have a large meal, possibly one with a lot of carbohydrates and/or meat?
- Are you too tired to read this article?
- Is it Thanksgiving, Christmas, your birthday, or any other day of celebration and gathering?
- Have you recently eaten turkey, chicken, roast beef, or steak, possibly with potatoes, stuffing, or other forms of carbohydrates?
- Have you recently enjoyed a slice of delicious cake or other desserts?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you may be having a food coma.
Possible side effects of a food coma
Generally, the side effects of a food coma may include things like falling asleep at your desk after lunch or snoring on the couch post-Thanksgiving dinner. However, if you consistently have postprandial somnolence, it may indicate that you’re eating too many carbs and not enough lean meats and veggies.
In the presence of other factors, excess glucose in your bloodstream after each meal and the resultant insulin spikes can lead to a condition called insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. If your body is consistently producing a high amount of insulin, the cells in your body may become insulin resistant, which means that instead of insulin opening the door for nutrients and glucose, the cells are keeping their doors firmly closed.
This, in turn, leads to high volumes of glucose in the bloodstream, making the blood thicker and damaging your arteries and veins. High blood glucose levels can lead to type 2 diabetes, a disease that damages many systems in the body and can lead to blindness and gangrene in the extremities.
Tips for Preventing a Food Coma
Although it can’t (and shouldn’t) be stopped early, a food coma can be prevented by taking certain steps in anticipation of a large meal. At the basic level, this boils down to “don’t overeat” but since food comas are associated with parties and holidays, such advice is not always helpful or easy to employ. The good news is that there are some simple strategies you can use to lower your risk of overindulging:
1. Don’t Skip Meals Some people like to skip meals earlier in the day with the intent of “saving room” for the large dinner at special events. This will end up increasing your risk of overeating since you will be extra hungry by the time the big meal comes around. Instead, make sure to eat normally throughout the day and consider having a small snack before going to a party to help even out your appetite.
2. Pick Your Food Wisely Although any overeating can cause a food coma, carbohydrates in particular are able to contribute to the effect more than other foods. Things like potatoes, rice dishes, pasta, and breads should be kept to a minimum as a preventative measure. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy such things during the holidays, but maybe only have one scoop of mashed potatoes instead of two.
3. Target Your Dessert Dessert is delicious and fear of a food coma should not prevent you from enjoying it. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t be smart when doing so. Pick your favorite treat and eat it slowly. This both makes the flavor last longer and eases up the pace at which your body has to deal with the food.
4. Minimize Alcohol In addition to being a contributor to food comas, alcohol can also loosen inhibitions and make you more prone to overeating.
A Word From Verywell
While food coma isn't comfortable, an occasional episode of postprandial somnolence isn't likely to cause harm. In fact, it may remind you to stick to smaller, less fatty meals next time. So rest after your big meal if you need to. Then use moderate food practices most of the time to keep your body healthy, active, and alert.Foods That Help Fight Fatigue