What It Really Means When You're In A 'Food Coma'

We've all experienced a feeling of drowsiness after a big meal. This is referred to as a 'food coma' and often prompts us to head to the couch and sleep off our indulgence. Here's what's actually happening in your body.

According to Verywell Fit, the scientific name for a 'food coma' is 'postprandial somnolence.' It refers to the sensation of grogginess, mental fog, and lethargy that can last for several hours after eating.

Scientists are unsure exactly what causes this. Some believe that eating foods with L-tryptophan can cause post-dinner grogginess. This amino acid, found in some meat and dairy products, can boost serotonin levels when eaten with carbohydrates. In addition to making you feel relaxed, serotonin works with L-tryptophan to help produce melatonin in the body. Melatonin is responsible for making you feel sleepy. This explanation is commonly used to address the post-Thanksgiving dinner slump many people experience after chowing on turkey, mashed potatoes, and bread.

There are several other potential causes of a 'food coma'

Everything from the type of food you eat to allergies can make you feel groggy after eating. A meal full of foods that metabolize quickly can lead to a crash afterward.

"Refined foods, foods that have a lot of sugar, and refined carbohydrates can cause glucose levels to go up and then quickly go down," Raphael Kellman, M.D., a physician of integrative and functional medicine, author of The Microbiome Breakthrough and founder of the Kellman Wellness Center, told Good Housekeeping. "That's when you go in the 'food coma' state and feel very out of it, lethargic, lightheaded, foggy, and like you can't think straight."

Thyroid issues, weak microbiome in the body, and allergies to certain foods can also affect how you feel after a meal. If your 'food comas' are affecting your productivity during the day, you can try eating smaller meals with plenty of fluids to avoid a crash. If that doesn't help, talk to your doctor about the sensation. They can help you determine if a dietary change can help or if your grogginess is caused by an underlying health condition.