Many people are looking forward to their Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. You may also be wondering if eating turkey can cause drowsiness and put you into a post-dinner slump. Turkey, specifically an amino acid in turkey, can cause drowsiness. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and research has found turkey meat contains a lot of an amino acid called L-tryptophan. This amino acid travels through our circulatory system and enters the brain where is it then converted to a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is the hormone that calms us down and may help us to sleep. Newer research is showing that consumption of high doses of tryptophan and only tryptophan can make someone tired right away, but turkey meat contains many other amino acids besides tryptophan.
Now scientists believe the drowsiness after a big Thanksgiving meal may not be coming directly from tryptophan consumption but from the amount of food being consumed in one meal. After a large meal, our body diverts blood flow from different parts of the body including the brain, to the stomach to aid in digestion. This diversion of blood away from our brain may be contributing more to drowsiness than the consumption of tryptophan.
To avoid drowsiness this Thanksgiving try a few of these tips:
- Eat a few small meals before dinner to “prep” your digestive system for the incoming influx of food
- Drink plenty of water during dinner and take breaks throughout the meal to check how full you are
- If you feel full, stop eating!
- Lastly, do light activity after your meal. Going outside for a brief walk will aid greatly with digestion and reduce symptoms of “crashing.”