Over indulging with food can cause many problems for us from affecting our sleep, our weight and our organs. Even overindulging once in awhile will have short term negative effects on our body. Sometimes it’s a holiday, a special occasion, or sometimes we overindulge due to stress. When we overindulge, once in awhile, there are things we can do to help.
When Are You Really Full?
Apparently it takes about twenty minutes for the brain to send a signal to the stomach to let you know that you’re full. Overeating occurs when you continue to eat beyond the point of fullness. According to an article at Harvard Health, a full stomach is only part of what causes someone to feel satisfied after a meal. The brain has to receive a series of signals from digestive hormones secreted by the gastrointestinal tract. The stomach has stretch receptors and these are activated as it fills with food or water. They signal the brain directly through the vagus nerve that connects gut and brain stem. Hormonal signals are released as partially digested food enters the small intestine.
What happens to your body when you overeat?
Overeating causes the stomach to expand beyond its normal size to adjust to the large amount of food. The expanded stomach pushes against other organs, creating an uncomfortable feeling. This discomfort can take the form of feeling tired, sluggish drowsiness and even clothing becomes tight.
Eating too much food requires the organs to work harder. They secrete extra hormones and enzymes to help break the food down. For example, in the stomach, hydrochloric acid helps to break down food. When too much food is in the stomach, this acid can back up into the esophagus resulting in heartburn. (One or two teaspoons of baking soda in a glass of water will quickly help get rid of heartburn.) The stomach may also produce gas, leaving you feeling terrible for hours.
Overeating, especially unhealthy foods, can take its toll on the digestive system. Digestive enzymes are only available in limited quantity, so the larger the amount of food consumed, the longer it takes to digest. If a person overeats frequently, over time, this slowed digestive process means the extra pounds are going to start packing on.
Your quality of sleep may be impacted when you overindulge, especially if the food, (more so processed foods and sugar), is consumed within two to three hours before sleeping. Also, our circadian clock, which controls our sleep cycles, causes sleep and hunger hormone levels to rise and fall throughout the day. Overeating can upset this rhythm, making it difficult to get quality sleep at night.
Digestive bitters are herbs that support digestive function by stimulating bitter receptors on the tongue, stomach, gallbladder and pancreas. Their primary effect is to promote digestive juices such as stomach acid, bile and enzymes to breakdown food and assist in the absorption of nutrients.
Taking bitters before eating can help reduce the amount of calories consumed by about 20 percent. Herbal bitters include dandelion leaves and root, burdock root, yellow dock, angelica and gentian. Bitters are easy to make as they are basically tinctures made with vodka or for those who cannot have alcohol, organic apple cider vinegar.
How to Take Bitters
Take a dropper full of a bitter and place in a small amount of water or tea shortly before a meal. If you suffer from heartburn, start with a very low dose and increase slowly as tolerated. Please note though – do NOT take bitters if you suffer from gastritis, stomach ulcer, gallbladder disease or kidney disease unless your qualified health professional has told you it is ok.
Benefits Of Bitters
- Improves protein digestion and mineral absorption.
- Improves breakdown of fats and fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Relieve occasional heartburn.
- Promote regular bowel movements.
- Reduce food sensitivities.
- Breakdown microbes and prevent yeast overgrowth.
- In Chinese medicine, bitters are cooling and remove excess heat from the body (inflammation)
- Improves detoxification.
- Improves joint pain.
- Reduces the glycemic impact of the food you eat.
- Improves digestion (reducing indigestion and bloat).
- Regulates hunger and satiety hormones.
- Decreases sugar cravings.
- Improves the desire for healthy foods.
If you do not have bitters and you have overindulged, then there are some herbs that can help you with the “after” effects of overeating. Having a tea made from carminative herbs is one way to help. (Carminative herbs dispel gas and prevent bloating.)
Herbs for the Digestive System
- Peppermint: cool and uplifting, an herbal carminative that alleviates digestive discomfort.
- Dandelion Leaf and Root: this tea can be enjoyed for its bitter liver supporting properties.
- Catnip: this calming tea is useful for digestive issues like gas, indigestion and heartburn.
- Fennel: this sweet, soothing tea might not taste like herbal medicine, but each seed contains essential oils rich with anethole and fenchone, known for their capacity to ease bloating and gas.
- Ginger: a warming carminative traditionally used for motion sickness, stomach upset, and cramping.
- Lemon Balm: used for thousands of years as an aromatic nervine to support digestion and calm frazzled nerves.
- Chamomile: this common flower isn’t just a sleep aid but also a calming flower that eases digestion and can help to relax an overworked stomach.
- Calendula: can be used as a gentle demulcent to moisten and soothe digestive tissue.
- Lavender: this common flower works to calm nerves and upset stomachs.
In addition to all this, if you have overindulged, getting out after that meal and going for at least a thirty minute walk will help you feel better. In fact, if you want to lose weight, according to the N.I.H., walking just after a meal seems to be more effective for weight loss than waiting for one hour to walk after a meal.
Bottom line, the best way to sidestep all the pain and suffering that comes from overindulging is to avoid overeating in the first place. However, if you have your bitters and herbs to help, overdoing it once in awhile probably won’t hurt.