Hangovers from food – is that even possible?

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Hangovers from food – is that even possible?

Hangovers tend to be associated with alcohol. The fuzziness we wake up with in the morning, the headache, dry mouth, nausea and generally feeling out of sorts. But is this the only type of hangover there is?

The word hangover can mean ‘something (custom, habit, feeling) that survives from what is past’, as well as the disagreeable physical effects from heavy consumption of alcohol or drugs. So in theory, hangovers could also apply to the effects of food we have eaten in the last day or so that leave us feeling not so great.

In recent years I have become aware that this hangover effect does not just belong to alcohol and drugs but actually does occur with food as well, and is definitely not just a theory for I have experienced a hangover – in fact many hangovers – from food! What I mean is that what I ate yesterday affects how I feel today and what I eat today will affect how I feel tomorrow, such that if I over-indulge, eat foods that are not right for me or eat a meal too late at night, I will wake up feeling not quite myself – out of sorts, maybe heavy headed, tired, brain fogged, bloated, thirsty and overall experiencing difficulty waking up and getting out of bed. Whereas if I eat light healthy food, without overindulging, and at a suitable time for digestion – I wake up refreshed, feeling light and clear-headed, ready for the day.

Having been someone who used to eat everything and anything and think it had no such effect, this has been a major revelation to me. I previously would have dismissed and pooh-poohed anyone who made such comments around the effects of food on our mood and state of being. So I understand others who think this is all crazy, wacky, weird and nutty as I used to do so myself. But I can no longer ignore what my body is clearly telling me – food matters. It doesn’t just pass through our bodies in a neutral way, it has a significant impact on our body’s health and our emotional health and overall wellbeing.

Food affects our mood much more than I ever realised or imagined. It has been quite shocking to find how much impact it has. For example, if I eat certain carbs I will become sleepy; too much sugar and I become more easily irritated and fractious; too much salt and I get a headache and withdraw. After eating certain foods I will be more emotional and easily upset – not just as a one off but this has been a pattern I have observed occurring consistently. So whilst I might think I love certain foods my body is clearly telling me otherwise: the few moments of delicious taste in the mouth are offset by the longer lasting detrimental consequences of what I have consumed – to the point I have to ask is it really worth a few moments of pleasure in the mouth to then feel so awful for much longer thereafter?! Will I listen to the wisdom of my body or overrule it again and again?? And to be honest, I have a penchant for over-ruling it. One part of me will say I love potato crisps – the crunch, the salt, the taste … mmm … and I can easily consume a family sized pack in no time at all. But my body tells another story the next morning: dry mouth, foggy head, bloated belly, yet I can persist in repeating this despite the consequences.

Of course I have come to realise that this is only part of the story, as my desire to eat certain foods is not just because of their taste but because I know they will knock me out, make me sleepy, numb or heavy, less focussed, distracted, racy and a host of other not so great feelings. But why would I choose that, you may well ask??

I am effectively anaesthetising myself, numbing myself in order to not feel something – maybe a hurt, sadness, loneliness, a feeling of not being good enough, a tension from the accumulated stresses and strains of the day. Rather than feel any of that I can choose one of the best numbing devices and vices we have – food!

It is remarkable the games we play and the things we do in order to not feel. The ways are many and varied – even within food alone we can play all kinds of tricks on ourselves. Sometimes I choose to cut out a food that I feel is having detrimental effects but it is amazing how I can find something else that is seemingly healthier yet is actually having the same numbing effect energetically! It is the temporary numbing effect I am choosing over and over again and to heal that I need to dig a bit deeper and be willing to feel whatever it is I am trying not to feel, whilst also realizing and knowing that I am not my emotions.

No matter what the issue is, be it sadness, frustration or any other emotion, there is always a deeper truth that knows I am love and not the emotion I happen to be feeling and trying to not feel by numbing myself with food! These emotions can be tricky because we get used to them, we can indulge in them, have a ‘pity me’ party and want the world to take care of us. We play small, perhaps even feel we are a victim of life where good things always seem to happen to other people but we get passed by. Sound familiar?

The fact is we have much more responsibility for the quality of life we experience than we like to think! It’s easier to blame God, the Universe, Other People, Life itself for happenings in our lives we do not like than it is to admit that if something is happening in my life then I must have a part to play in it. What is that part? And how can I change it? If I get back what I put out, what am I putting out?

When it comes to food it’s as simple as ‘eat crap, feel crap’! What we put into our bodies affects not just our weight, but our mood, our energetic state of being, our demeanour – its effects are wide ranging and far more than we realise.

If we want to feel light, healthy, vibrant, vital, joyful, steady and consistent in our mood and way of being then a great way to start is to really take stock (pun intended) of our diet, what we are fuelling our bodies with and to feel the impact the food we ingest has on our bodies and being.

The more we refine our diet, the easier it is to feel these effects: when I was heavy and used to eat everything and anything I denied that food had any of these effects, but as I became lighter, more aware, and dealt with the reasons for overeating etc., I was able to feel the effects different foods had more clearly. I had bludgeoned my natural sensitivity for so many years that it was easy to deny food could have such effects: refining my diet has allowed me to be more aware of my body’s natural sensitivity and to hear its messages. So whilst in the past I would have dismissed all of this easily – as woo woo, nonsense, quackery etc. – I can no longer deny (much as I try sometimes!) the messages and hangovers my body gives me when I feed it too much food or food that is not truly healthy for it. Food, (perhaps not so) glorious food, nothing quite like it for changing our mood!

Indeed, my efforts to overrule my body have given me plenty of experience of food hangovers and what happens when I don’t truly listen to and honour what my body needs, such that I do not need a scientific study to tell me if certain foods are healthy for my body or not.

My body is the most sensitive science lab there is – it knows and it speaks loud and clear – I just need to listen and pay heed to its messages.

Filed under

Over eatingBody awarenessHealthy diet

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    By Dr Eunice Minford, MBChB MA Dipl Clin Ed FRCS Ed

    Eunice Minford works as a Consultant General Surgeon. She has trained as an Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Counsellor and has an MA in Applied Spirituality.

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    Photography: Steve Matson, Electrical Engineer, Chef, Photographer, Forklift operator and student of life.

    I am someone that looks at something that is complicated and see the simplicity behind it. Life needs to be fun and lived. Making mistakes is an important part of this process.