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Why Am I Feeling Tired After Eating?

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If you start to feel tired after eating, it may well be down to the digestion process your body is going through, so read on to find out about tiredness after eating.

We’ve all felt it, that horrible drowsy feeling that sneaks up on us after a meal. You feel full and relaxed and struggle to keep your eyes open, but why do we feel tired after eating, and should you be concerned about it? In this article we delve into fatigue after eating to help you answer your burning questions.

In general, a little bit of tiredness after eating is completely normal and nothing to worry about. There are several factors that contribute to this post-meal phenomenon, and there are a few things you might be able to do to minimize those drowsy effects, and give yourself that boost of energy you need.

Why do I feel tired after eating?woman asleep after eating

Feeling tired, or having difficulty concentrating, after a meal is relatively common. A person may feel particularly tired, depending on what, when, and how much they have eaten. Some types of food and the timing of meals can also make people feel tired after a meal. A decrease in energy levels after eating is called postprandial somnolence.

What causes tiredness after eating?

There are many things that cause tiredness after eating, such as how much food you eat and the type of food you consume, as well as the start of your digestion cycle that your body goes through after eating.

The type of food you eat

Foods that are rich in protein and carbohydrates, have the potential to make people feel sleepier compared to other foods. Some researchers believe that a person feels tired after eating because their body is producing more serotonin, a chemical that plays a role in regulating mood and sleep cycles.

An amino acid called tryptophan, which occurs in many protein-rich foods, helps the body produce serotonin. Carbohydrates may also make a person feel sleepy.

Tryptophan occurs in foods that are rich in protein, which include:

  • Salmon
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Seeds
  • Milk
  • Soy Products
  • Cheeses

Foods that contain high levels of carbohydrates include:

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • White bread and crackers
  • Cakes, cookies and muffins
  • Corn cobs
  • Milk
  • Sugar and Sweets

    Foods high in protein

If you are someone that often eats a lot of carbohydrates before bed, such as cereal with milk, or treat yourself cheese, you may have symptoms of fatigue after eating which, you may think will help you to sleep.

How much food you eat

A person may be more likely to experience fatigue after eating after having a large meal. People who eat larger lunches may experience more of an afternoon slump than those who eat less at midday. Eating causes the blood sugar to rise, which may prompt a dip in energy to follow.

Food allergies

If you notice that after eating certain foods they cause you to feel tired after eating, it is time to take a more detailed look into your eating habits. Consider a food diary over the span of a few weeks. Note if there are any particular foods or ingredients in your diet, which after eating, you feel a sudden wave of fatigue.

The release of histamine from these allergies could be causing the fatigue after eating. Try to eliminate what you think may be causing you issues, and if your symptoms still persist then seek medical advice from a trusted health professional.

Your digestion cycle

Your body needs energy to function, to breathe and to simply exist. We get this energy from our food, which is broken down into glucose, this glucose then acts as a fuel, by our digestive system. Macronutrients, such as protein, provide essential calories to our bodies. Our digestion cycle triggers all kinds of responses within our body, not just changing food into energy.

Hormones, such as cholecystokinin, glucagon, and amylin are released to increase a feeling of fullness, blood sugar then rises, and insulin is produced to allow this sugar to go from the blood into the cells, where it is stored and used for energy.

However, there are also hormones that can lead to tiredness, if increased levels are found in the brain. That being the serotonin hormone we mentioned earlier. Another hormone that can bring on the symptoms of fatigue is melatonin. This hormone isn’t released in response to eating, however, but food can influence the production of melatonin in the body.

How to stop feeling tired after eating

Feeling tired after a meal can be frustrating, especially when you have a whole checklist of things to do. A wave of low energy during the day can be dangerous for people who work in demanding jobs or risky fields of labour intensive work. Don’t let a meal dictate how the rest of your day will go, there are a few things you can adopt that will help you fight that post-meal fatigue. Dietary and lifestyle habits may help boost or sustain energy levels and counteract drowsiness.

Practice a good sleep routine

Most adult needs between 7-8 hours of sleep a night to perform at their cognitive and physiological best. It’s normal to have a bad night’s sleep every now and then. Try limiting your use of electronics at least two hours before bedtime as it stimulates the brain, keeping you awake. Dim any room lights to prepare your body to sleep. Avoid bright lighting before bedtime, and keep the bedroom dark.

Balance your meals

If a large lunchtime meal causes you to have the post-meal slump, try eating smaller meals, and snacks spread throughout the day.Woman waking up

Limit caffeine

Whilst it may seem tempting to beat the afternoon slump with a lot of coffee, it might backfire on you in the evening. Try to limit your caffeine during the day, especially in the afternoon hours, especially if you are sensitive and it can affect your sleep routine

Drink plenty of water

Dehydration can add to feeling tired after eating, if you aren’t a fan of drinking plain water, try incorporating more water-filled food into your diet. Vegetables, fruits and soups are all great options.

Get up and move around

When you feel your energy levels starting to take a dive, get up, and get moving. Exercising will not only get the blood pumping through your body and help re-energize you, but it also improves digestion and helps reduce blood sugar levels.

If exercising wasn’t enough of a boost, if you take your exercising outdoors, the  sun will naturally help you feel more energized with bright light and UV exposure. The sun exposure will also deliver some vitamin D, there is nothing better than a cure of fresh air to get you out of your post-food fatigue.

When to see a doctor

If you feel tired or lethargic after a meal there’s a very strong chance it is in response to chemical changes that occur during the digestion cycle, which is completely normal.

However, if your fatigue symptoms are very disruptive, appear to be worsening or don’t seem to change after experimenting with the above suggestions, then seek the advice from a trusted medical professional. If a person is continually tired after eating, and it is affecting their quality of life, they should speak to a doctor.

The following medical conditions could contribute to excessive tiredness after eating:

  • food intolerances or allergies
  • celiac disease
  • anaemia
  • diabetes.

Many people experience a dip in energy after eating. Large meals, and meals that are rich in protein and carbohydrates, are most likely to make people feel sleepy.

In most cases, a dip in energy after eating is a natural response to the digestion process. However, if this is getting in the way of daily activities, then you may benefit from changing the contents and timing of meals. If you don’t notice any of these changes making a difference, then you should seek medical advice.

Hopefully, this article has given you some answers to the reasons behind your fatigue after eating. If you want to carry on reading about the symptoms of tiredness, not related to eating, then read our article how to stop feeling so tired, next.

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