The Thanksgiving feast is over and everyone is lounging around watching football or holiday movies. So why so tired after a big meal? The humble turkey has been blamed for the after-meal sleepiness for generations but is that really what makes us long for a nap?
It has been a long-running rumor that the amino acid tryptophan, which is present in turkey, will make you feel drowsy after a meal. However, to take in enough tryptophan to make you feel these types of effects, you would need to eat a very large amount of tryptophan-containing foods and probably on an empty stomach. In addition, tryptophan is not an amino acid that our bodies produce naturally so it is important that we get it through our diet as it is used by the body to make vitamin B3 and serotonin, our happy chemical and one that helps to regulate sleep.
Tryptophan is actually present in a large variety of foods including other meats, chocolate, fruits such as bananas and mangoes, dairy products, eggs, peanuts, chickpeas and a large number of other foods. Some of these foods contain significantly more tryptophan than turkey including seeds and nuts, which have the most tryptophan, soy foods and cheddar cheese to name a few.
What causes the after-meal drowsiness lies in the simple factors of what makes up the traditional American Thanksgiving meal… lots of food. The average Thanksgiving meal in the United States is around 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat! Fat takes a lot of energy to digest so to do that, our bodies redirect blood to the digestive system. That means a lot of work for our digestive systems, and reduced blood flow in the rest of the body, which leaves the body and brain feeling a little tired. And if alcohol is a part of your holiday meal, and for many people it is, the natural depressant effects on the central nervous system add to the sleepiness.
So have your turkey and stuffing, your gravy and pie and even your favorite cocktail but be sure to add some veggies to your feast and some activity to your weekend to help balance the indulgences with maintaining a healthy routine. However you celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Georgia Chiropractic Neurology Center.