Why do I feel so tired after food?
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.