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Is Diabetes Causing Me to Be Sleepy After Dinner?

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Q

About a year ago, I noticed that I can’t seem to keep my eyes open after eating dinner. I’m not really more tired than usual during the day, and I haven’t changed my diet. My brother said this might mean I have diabetes. Is that true?

A

Yes, it could be a sign of diabetes. But before you jump to that conclusion, you should know that after-dinner (postprandial) sleepiness can also occur because you’re not getting enough sleep at night or you’re simply overeating at dinner. A rush of calories into the digestive tract, especially after a heavy meal, increases blood flow to the digestive organs and away from the brain, resulting in increased sleepiness.

You say you haven’t changed your diet. However, if you’re eating the standard American diet (aka SAD), it is notoriously low in antioxidants and phytochemicals. Eating this way can lead to a buildup of free radicals and other toxic metabolites that can, over time, contribute to a host of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and depression. An unhealthy diet may also be high in refined carbs, which are quickly digested, giving you that sugar rush and subsequent crash.

If you want to be able to enjoy the rest of your evening after you eat, it’s helpful to consume a dinner of mostly vegetables. You can keep dinner small and simple by having a large vegetable salad, a bowl of vegetable-bean soup (or bean dish) and one fresh fruit for dessert. Beans, which are a “good” carbohydrate, rank low on the glycemic index (a measure of how much a food raises your blood sugar) and are considered among the most “diabetic favorable” foods. Any fruit—fresh or frozen—is a vast improvement over a conventional baked or sugary dessert. When you remove these highly sweetened foods from your diet, your taste buds get stronger and fruit tastes even better in a few months. (More than one fresh fruit, which has natural sugar, can boost your glucose levels at night.)

My advice: If you want to add other foods, such as an animal product or heavier starchy foods, it’s best to consume them with lunch and not with dinner. Aim to keep your meal at dinner lighter so that you go to bed on an empty stomach—I consider this is the secret to preventing (and even reversing) diabetes…and it helps slow the aging process!

Most people won’t feel sleepy after a nutritious veggie-rich meal, but if you do, you should talk to your doctor about diabetes. Risk factors for the condition include being overweight or obese, having a family history of diabetes and not being physically active. If you’re concerned that you may have this condition, ask your doctor to test your blood sugar (glucose). Glucose normally increases after a meal and can cause drowsiness if it climbs too high—the telltale sign of diabetes.

A simple blood test, HbA1C (hemoglobin-A1C), can determine your average blood glucose circulation over the last three months. Type 2 diabetes typically develops not because people do not produce enough insulin, but rather because their level of body fat and their poor diet make the insulin they are producing not work properly. Once they change their diets, eat healthfully and lose weight, their blood sugar levels can return to normal.

Important: Another type of test, which involves taking a single blood sample for glucose—ideally after fasting for at least eight hours—can be used to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes. When considering the results of a fasting glucose test, prediabetes is defined as 100 to 125 mg/dL…and diabetes is 126 mg/dL or higher (in some cases two separate tests may be given). An oral glucose tolerance test, which involves drinking a sugary liquid and then having your glucose measured at intervals for up to three hours afterward, can also be used for diagnosis. In most cases, however, the simple HbA1C or fasting glucose test suffice to motivate people to change their lifestyles and reverse the problem.

My take: Using medication for diabetes is a last resort and not the ideal way to deal with this problem.

Source: Joel Fuhrman, MD, family physician and nutritional researcher in Flemington, New Jersey. He is the author of several books, including The End of Diabetes and, most recently, Fast Food Genocide. “Eat to Live with Joel Fuhrman, MD” is a PBS special based on his Nutritarian Diet, DrFuhrman.com. Date: September 12, 2018 Publication: Bottom Line Health
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