It’s common knowledge that the reason you get tired after eating Thanksgiving dinner is because turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan which makes you sleepy. But guess what? It’s not true.
Turkey does contain the amino acid L-tryptophan which your body uses to make the happy neurotransmitter serotonin. Your body then uses serotonin to make the sleep hormone melatonin. So it's easy to see why most people believe turkey = tryptophan = sleep. The problem is the therapeutic dose of L-tryptophan is 1-3 grams, but even at this dose many people wouldn’t experience sleepiness. To get the therapeutic dose of L-trypthonan, you’d need to eat a lot of turkey - between 0.75 pounds and 2.25 pounds to be exact!
The main reason that so many people get sleepy after eating Thanksgiving is because it’s a time when people tend to overeat (and over drink). As you can remember from last week, the digestive process takes a lot of energy and when you overeat, your body is going to use more energy to digest. Not only are people over eating, they are overeating carbohydrates: potatoes, marshmallow topped yams, stuffing, dinner rolls, and pie. Carbs initially spike blood sugar and insulin, and when blood sugar drops it leaves your feeling sleepy.
And of course, let’s not forget about alcohol consumption and hangovers. Obviously drinking less can prevent this, but I’ve also included a few tricks to lessen the pain of having one too many.
Don’t overeat: Eat slowly, set your fork down between bites and enjoy the company around you. Stop when you get full - you can always have leftovers!
Take a digestive aid: These are things that help stimulate digestion and the breakdown of foods. Try one of the following:
Apple cider vinegar (ACV): 1 tbsp in water 30 minutes before the meal
Herbal bitters: These are herbs that stimulate digestion and breakdown to food to prevent feeling sluggish and bloated after eating: take 3 dropper-fulls in a small amount of water before eating.
Digestive enzymes: ACV and bitters stimulate your digestive organs, where as digestive enzymes are supplemental pancreatic enzymes that actively help breakdown food. When you’re eating large quantities of foods that your body isn’t used to eating regularly, these are super helpful. Take 1-2 with your meal.
Tea: Follow your meal with a digestif tea: ginger, fennel, peppermint
Balance your meal with vegetables: Vegetables tend to get ignored on Thanksgiving (and no, your canned green beans and marshmallow yams don’t count). Instead of filling up on the heavier foods, make a big salad and try sautéed fresh green beans or brussels sprouts as a healthy side.
Go for a walk: Movement will help stimulate digestion and also improves blood sugar utilization to prevent fatigue.
Now on to the fun stuff….to prevent hangovers:
Activated charcoal: Charcoal absorbs toxins (i.e. alcohol) in the stomach/intestines. Take 2 of these before going to bed. Don’t be surprised if your stool is black the next day. You can get activated charcoal at most pharmacies in the supplement section or a health food store.
Chlorophyll: This is the stuff that makes plants greens. It's also effective in helping remove toxins from the body and nourishes the liver. You can take it in liquid or capsule form, I prefer liquid. Take 1-2 tbsp before bed and again when you wake up in the morning. Again, you can find this at most pharmacies or health food stores.
The next morning Ginger Kombucha: The carbonation and ginger will settle your stomach and kombucha is rich in B vitamins. I like GTs Gingeraide as well as Health-Ade Ginger Lemon. You can find kombucha in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores these days, but it may also be in the health food aisle.
I wish you and your family a happy and safe Thanksgiving!