Why do I feel so tired af­ter food?

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR HEALTH - Ask Dr Libby Email your ques­tions for Dr Libby to ask.dr­libby@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz. Please note, only a se­lec­tion of ques­tions can be an­swered.

I of­ten feel tired af­ter I eat – why is this and what can I do about it? Thanks, Bryce.

Hi Bryce. The old adage you are what you eat isn’t quite cor­rect; in­stead, you are what you eat, ab­sorb and as­sim­i­late. There are a num­ber of fac­tors that can af­fect our abil­ity to di­gest and utilise the nu­tri­ents from food in­clud­ing stress hor­mones, caf­feine and med­i­ca­tions such as an­tibi­otics to name a few.

Stress is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to con­sider when it comes to di­ges­tive func­tion, as too many peo­ple spend their days in Sym­pa­thetic Ner­vous Sys­tem (SNS) dom­i­nance – a con­stant state of ‘‘fight or flight’’, with high cir­cu­lat­ing lev­els of adren­a­line. This can have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on our abil­ity to ef­fec­tively pro­duce stom­ach acid and thus can re­sult in re­flux, di­ges­tive dis­com­fort or lethargy af­ter eat­ing.

One in five women in Aus­tralia ex­pe­ri­ence Ir­ri­ta­ble Bowel Syn­drome (IBS), and of course food plays a ma­jor role in this, but so does the re­lent­less pro­duc­tion of adrenalin. From your body’s per­spec­tive, if it thinks you’re pre­par­ing to fight/ take flight, it di­verts blood flow away from what it con­sid­ers non­vi­tal pro­cesses such as di­ges­tion. All re­sources go into sav­ing your life from the dan­ger your body per­ceives you are in, due to the high lev­els of adrenalin.

If you are feel­ing tired al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter eat­ing/within the hour af­ter­wards, it’s usu­ally just be­cause of va­sodi­la­tion— widen­ing of the blood ves­sels sup­ply­ing your in­testines— as part of the nor­mal parasym­pa­thetic re­sponse or ‘‘rest and di­gest’’ re­sponse to the food en­ter­ing your stom­ach.

The body wants to max­imise nu­tri­ent ab­sorp­tion into the blood­stream as well as main­tain per­fu­sion to the churn­ing stom­ach etc. This re­di­rect­ion of a por­tion of blood vol­ume to the ‘‘non-es­sen­tial’’ or­gans can make many peo­ple feel tired af­ter a big meal. I of­ten find I ar­rive home over­whelmed! I’m very busy at work at the mo­ment and strug­gling to bal­ance all that I’ve got on my plate. What’s some­thing I can in­cor­po­rate into my daily rou­tine to help me re­gain some bal­ance. With grat­i­tude, Sue.

Hi Sue. Be kind to your­self. At the heart of a lot of very suc­cess­ful, busy peo­ple is a strong sense of self-worth. In the busy­ness of our lives, pos­i­tive af­fir­ma­tions are fan­tas­tic tech­niques to help you cen­tre your­self again.

Med­i­ta­tion, yoga and other breath-fo­cused prac­tices can be highly ben­e­fi­cial ev­ery day, but par­tic­u­larly dur­ing times you feel over­whelmed.

Re­peat calmly to your­self ei­ther out loud or in your mind: ‘‘Breath­ing in I am calm, breath­ing out I smile.’’ Prac­tise this while you wait at the traf­fic lights, or al­low your­self 10 min­utes in the morn­ing to breathe lovely long, slow breaths and re­cite this to your­self.

Say at least one kind thing to your­self a day . . . the more the bet­ter! Maybe you love your eyes, your quick wit, or your kind soul. What­ever it may be, ap­pre­ci­ate all you con­trib­ute to this world just by be­ing you. Be your own best friend.

Stress can have an im­pact on our di­ges­tive func­tion by in­ter­fer­ing with our abil­ity to pro­duce stom­ach acid.

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