Why so sleepy after your Thanksgiving dinner?

November 23, 2008

Many attribute the sleepy feelings after a large Thanksgiving meal to the amino acid, tryptophan.

This amino acid is an essential amino acid, meaning that it cannot be produced by the body. Thus, we need to ingest it regularly though our food. In your body, it is used to manufacture niacin (a B-vitamin). This contributes to the production of serotonin, which can regulate sleepiness.  That typical Thanksgiving focus, turkey, contains tryptophan, though not in a concentration any higher than most other meats.

It has become somewhat widely accepted that by ingesting turkey, the tryptophan is what causes a person to be lethargic. However, it is unlikely that this is the cause of the sleepiness. In truth, the competition that tryptophan goes through with all the other amino acids in the Thanksgiving meal causes it to have very little effect on the brain. It is more likely the alcohol consumed on this holiday that causes the tiredness.

However, if you have an empty stomach, it may have a greater chance for effect. So if you have leftover turkey and need a snack before bed, turkey may be a good idea for helping you drift off to sleep.


A Few Facts to Know About Alcohol….

November 14, 2008

Alcohol removes inhibitions – like that scared little mouse who got drunk and shook his whiskers and shouted: “Now bring on that damn cat!”” ~Eleanor Early

Alcohol has a variety of interesting effects on the body. It is a unique substance, in that, once it is in the blood stream, it can permeate the brain, liver, heart, pancreas, lungs, kidneys and all other tissue systems of the body in only minutes. Because alcohol is diluted in the water of your body, it travels quickly through your system, especially to those places which contain a lot of water: like your brain.

Because alcohol can quickly collect in the brain, blackouts or memory loss are common. When alcohol collects it can cut off the supply of oxygen to the brain, killing tens of thousands of brain cells each time. In addition, if a person is more lean they tend to have more water in their bodies and thus alcohol is more diluted in their bodies when they drink. Conversely, a person with more fat can consume less alcohol before they become adversely affected. This phenomenon is easily noticed between men and women, because often men can have about 10% more water in their bodies then women. (Plus, women have differences in their digestive enzymes which make them more susceptible to alcohol.)

Absorption can also be affected by what the alcohol is mixed with. For example, water and fruit juices can slow absorption, while the carbon dioxide in soda can speed it up because it can pass through the stomach walls easily, taking the alcohol with it.

The average adult body will get rid of alcohol “at an average rate of approximately ½ to 3/4 ounce per hour, the equivalent of 1 ounce of 100-proof whiskey, one large beer, or about 3 to 4 ounces of wine.” (1) However, it is vital to remember this is only an estimate, and does not take into account your personal amount of water in your body and your tolerance.

In moderation, alcohol can be safe, yet it is important to be as informed as possible about your own body so that you can make safer choices about alcohol consumption.