BedMD: How To Fight The Food Coma

By Alyse Borkan  |  Nov 25, 2015
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Thanksgiving Eve: It was the best of times (turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing), it was the worst of times (post-feast fullness). Every year we make promises to pace ourselves, and every year we find our table empty and our stomachs full.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Just as you’re finishing up the last bite of pie, you start to feel the onset of drowsiness. Before you dream of falling asleep until Christmas, read our guide to properly identify and treat the ominous food coma.

What is a food coma?

Food coma (n): A state in which you’re so full that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you just want to sleep.

What are the causes?

The presence of carbs at holiday dinners are higher than ever. No one wants to get a grilled chicken topped salad from Whole Foods on Thanksgiving. Between mashed, roasted, and sweet, there’s a different form of potato at each corner of the table. We treat Thanksgiving dinner like a sprint, piling on as much food as we can and scraping it off our plate without coming up for air. Once we’ve eaten to the point of bursting, the “rest-and-digest” system, technically called the parasympathetic nervous system, is triggered. During this time, our body puts resources toward digestion rather than energy-expending muscle movement, causing the sleepy sensation.

Is it preventable?

Not unless you want to prevent yourself from enjoying the glorious Thanksgiving meal you waited all year for. If you want to reduce the full feeling, we recommend eating a late lunch, finishing a glass or two of water during dinner, waiting before you go back for seconds, and limiting your alcohol intake… until later.

What are the symptoms?

        • Strong desire to unbutton pants.
        • Vocal opposition to ever looking at food again.
        • Refusal to pack up leftovers.
        • Failure to keep eyes fully open.
        • Inability to contribute to family conversation.
        • Repulsed by the mention of pie.

Is it treatable? Are there home remedies?

Rest assured. The average food coma only lasts for a few hours. Although there is no cure, there are ways to relieve the symptoms.

    • Drink water: LOTS OF IT. It will help flush out all of the food and toxins and keep you from bloating.
    • Eat again: We know the thought of eating again can seem daunting, but try and eat small meals every 3 – 4 hours. Make sure they are chock-full of fruits and vegetables. (No, potatoes don’t count as vegetables.)
    • Change into comfy clothing: Pick the pair of pants in your closet with the most give. Don’t be scared to go up a size! An elastic band, drawstring, and fleece lining are key for ultimate comfort.
    • Start binge-watching: Take your mind off your coma and commit yourself to a marathon of Friends. It doesn’t take much brain power, you can zone out, and if you fall asleep and wake up an hour later, you don’t have to feel guilty about missing anything. No rewind button necessary.
    • Sleep it off: Why bother napping when you can hibernate? Since you have the next day off (we hope), draw an ad-hoc “Do Not Disturb” sign, tape it to your door, turn the lights off, and curl up in the warmth that can only be found under your covers. See you tomorrow, maybe.
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