On Thanksgiving, I will be surrounded by 40-50 family members. After we share our feast from appetizers to desserts, several of us will find a spot in front of the television to watch football and doze through commercials. Although I would like to see the Lions hand the Titans another loss (I am a true blue Colts fan!), surrendering to “turkey-daze” is part of the holiday, right? It is commonly believed that the tryptophan in turkey induces sleepiness; however, there is more to our holiday drowsiness than this one chemical.
Tryptophan is one of ten amino acids that the body cannot manufacture on its own and must be supplemented through diet. Tryptophan aids in the production of the B-vitamin niacin which then assists the body’s production of serotonin. Serotonin helps us regulate mood, aggression, anxiety, impulsiveness, body temperature, appetite, and sleep. However serotonin cannot cross the blood brain barrier, meaning we cannot create more serotonin in our bodies. Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) medications work by trapping the available serotonin between neuron receptors to elevate
mood. Tryptophan is the only way to increase the amount of serotonin available to your body. The stuffing may be just as important as the turkey for your Thanksgiving nap; carbohydrate-rich foods increase the absorption of tryptophan in the brain. In fact, tryptophan alone works best on an empty stomach.
Other foods that contain tryptophan include: chocolate, oats, bananas, mangoes, dates, milk, yogurt, cottage choose, red meat, eggs, fish, sesame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts.
On Thanksgiving, you are probably already relaxed with a break from work and the nearness of loved ones. A large meal, including tryptophan, is only one variable that helps create our holiday drowsiness.