Have you ever felt sleepy or sluggish after the lunch at office? Did you ever wonder why?
The reason for this is that after the ingestion of a meal, the process of digestion starts in the digestive tract (GI Tract), this causes all the blood flow to be directed towards the digestive system. This is because of the reason that proper supply of oxygen and nutrition does not reach the brain. So any food or drink that causes increased blood flow towards the digestive system for a long period of time will cause sluggishness. These foods will normally be those containing lots of fats and also high on simple carbohydrates and proteins.
Also, the production of insulin, during the absorptive phase, triggers the production of serotonin and melatonin. These are two hormones which produce the calming effect thus triggering sleep. These are produced from their precursor tryptophan, which is an essential branched chain amino acid. (amino acids are the building blocks of proteins).
The foods that normally cause these effects are:
Foods high in simple sugars or carbohydrates:
Ingestion of foods /meal that are rich in simple carbohydrates,such as sweets, chocolates, ice cream and desserts, etc. trigger release of insulin. Insulin in turn stimulates the uptake of certain large amino acids, but not tryptophan into muscle, increasing it’s ratio in the blood stream. The resulting increased tryptophan increases the tryptophan into the brain. Once in the brain, tryptophan is converted into serotonin and melatonin by the pineal gland. Hence, “feast-induced drowsiness”—or postprandial sleepiness—is the result of a heavy meal rich in carbohydrates, which indirectly increases the production of sleep-promoting melatonin in the brain.
High Fat Dairy Products:
Foods high in proteins which also have fat, remain in the digestive system for a longer time and cause sluggishness due to increased flow of blood to the digestive system. For example dairy products, milk yogurt, cheese, etc.
Foods such as chicken and eggs are high in both fats and protein and increase the circulation of tryptophan in blood and therefore sleep inducing hormone melatonin in body causing sluggishness
These initially cause a feeling of wakefulness and then later on cause sluggishness because of their effect on the central nervous system, so tea, coffee, carbonated beverages all cause sleepy effect.
Legumes, nuts and oil seeds:
Examples ares kidney beans, peas, beans, cashews,walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame, etc. all are rich in the amino acid tryptophan.
Certain vitamins and minerals deactivate the production of adrenaline in the body and aid in the production of serotonin and melatonin. Adrenalin is the hormone that increases activity level and is responsible for the body’s flight or fight response. These vitamins and minerals are:
- Magnesium, found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and oil seeds, soybeans, yogurt, bananas
- Calcium, also found in dark leafy vegetables, cheese, yogurt
- Vitamin B6 found in sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, bananas, fish and meat.
These vitamins and minerals convert serotonin in food to melatonin and induce sluggishness. However, some foods are themselves excellent sources of naturally occurring melatonin, these are, cherries, tomato, grapes, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower and flaxseeds, etc.
Hence, large meals induce sleepiness, so,it is advisable to take small frequent meals with good quantity of liquids in between the meals.
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