The Science of Over-eating

In two days, you’re going to embark on America’s favorite celebration of food: Thanksgiving. With this in mind, we thought it that you would like to know more about what happens to our bodies when we over-eat.

The human stomach is best designed to hold no more than one liter of food, and can stretch to three/four liters after a big meal. At this point, you might feel like you are about to explode, but the truth is that you’ll at least keep your stomach intact (we can’t say “you’ll be fine” though). Your stomach does expand and push up against other organs. The intestines fill with gases (even more so if carbonated beverages were consumed in addition to the food), which leaves you feeling even more “filed up.”

Next, you’re like to feel heartburn start to arrive. Simply, more food means more stomach acid to digest it, and with more stomach acid (and very little excess space inside you), that acid is going to go somewhere. A likely destination is up into your esophagus where it creates a burning sensation.

Hormones are now reaching your brain, trying to get you to stop eating. This might just be the “I’m full” feeling, or it can manifest in you feeling tired, weak, dizzy, or nauseated. If you take an antacid, you’re going to neutralize some of the acid in your stomach but increase carbon dioxide—which mean, until the gases escape, you’ll feel even fuller.

If you happen to survive this massive event inside your body (you will), you may still have difficulties with blood sugar. If you are prone to swings or difficulties with blood sugar, there’s no exception to the rules you need to follow to care for your health.

There’s also the chance for food poisoning, so be sure to follow the best ways to prevent food poisoning blog post we put up last week. If you suspect severe food poisoning, go to a hospital immediately.

In time, your body will recover. As you digest this large amount of food, you’ll likely get sleepy. There’s nothing wrong with a good nap, although if you have GERD it’s probably best not to sleep after eating (if you have GERD, why did you eat so much to begin with?).

Enjoy the upcoming holiday—it’ll be great. Try to eat a little less at once and spread the meal out to prevent some of the ill effects of over-eating (besides, what you don’t finish is perfect for leftovers on Black Friday).

Happy Thanksgiving,

The Pleasant Hills Apothecary Team

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