Why do I have such bad food coma?
May 20, 2005 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Over the past year, right after I eat lunch at work (no matter what I eat) I get back to my desk and can't think straight, concentrate, or focus on what I'm doing. I get really really tired and sometimes even dizzy. Basically, I can barely function. It's got to be something more than the average food coma. Same thing happens when I drink soda or other caffeinated products too. I don't drink coffee or coke cause it screws me up. What's wrong with me and how can I get rid of this problem?
posted by freshness to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you had your blood sugar checked?
posted by caddis at 12:07 PM on May 20, 2005

Same exact thing happens to me. I am pretty much in one chair all day, hunched over a keyboard in front of a screen and I don't get to move around much. The only thing that has helped with it is shortly after eating, getting outside and taking a walk to reinvigorate my body. The fresh air and movement does wonders. Unfortunately you need the time to spare for the walk, but if that time was otherwise unproductive, then...
posted by lovejones at 12:08 PM on May 20, 2005

I felt this way myself - the two things that helped were eating extremely light lunches (no more than 250 calories, usually less than 200) and taking two walks - one right after lunch and one about an hour afterward. Increasing my protein intake in the morning helped as well.

On the calorie note above - I'm a small-boned 5'2" female, so ymmv on that part.
posted by annathea at 12:16 PM on May 20, 2005

You're eating a too-big lunch and having a blood sugar crash. I like to eat two light meals at work, one around 10 and another at 3 or 4. In general, the human body was designed to eat five or six small meals a day, and two or three big meals make screw with your blood sugar levels.

And a walk is a good suggestion.
posted by Specklet at 12:20 PM on May 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'm not a doctor and I can't say that I have experience with the exact phenomena you describe. However, it really does sound like you're experiencing high blood sugar levels.

You can test your blood sugar levels with a monitor (such as the kind that B.B. King shills for), but I think you need a doctor's prescription in order to get one. You'll probably pay a hundred dollars for it; they're not cheap. And there are other supplies needed as well, including testing strips and needles, if I recall correctly.

I think "normal" blood sugar levels are supposed to be between 70 and 120. Anything higher than that and I'm betting your doctor will sit up and take notice.

Something else, though. When it comes to low blood sugar levels - i.e. hypoglycemia - there's some debate about exactly what we should be looking at. Some folks feel all the symptoms of blood sugar drops but their sugar levels read as being within the normal range. It has been argued that, in these cases, the blood sugar is there but the body isn't capable of using it properly. (I think this is what they're calling 'insulin resistance,' but maybe I'm confusing two different issues.) So maybe the same thing can happen in (apparent) cases of high blood sugar; all the symptoms are there but the readings are normal.
posted by Clay201 at 12:23 PM on May 20, 2005

I 2nd caddis. (and B.P.)

Any other symptoms??

Do you sleep ok? Do you exercise? Any family history of anything? When you say you can't focus - do you mean concentrate or do you get visual disturbances? Does the dizziness happen when you stand up? Are you on any meds? Do you smoke/drink? Much in the way of past illnesses? Did anything particular at work or in your life or health change 12 months ago?
*sorry...but your description only suggests more questions to me* [and otherwise 2nd the walk suggestion]
posted by peacay at 12:23 PM on May 20, 2005

Same thing happened to my mom. The dizziness was diagnosed as vertigo, but when she had her blood sugar checked, it turned out that she had diabetes, which was what was triggering the vertigo. The food you eat directly affects your blood sugar levels and what you may be attributing to caffeine in sodas and caffeinated drinks may actually be caused by the sugar. See a doctor ASAP, have your blood tested.
posted by Lush at 12:23 PM on May 20, 2005

and what you may be attributing to caffeine in sodas and caffeinated drinks may actually be caused by the sugar

It's entirely possible that Lush is completely on target here, but I wanted to add...

Caffeine is probably going to stimulate your adrenal gland and the release of adrenaline will, all by itself, cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Add to that the food and/or sugar you're consuming and... yeah.
posted by Clay201 at 1:10 PM on May 20, 2005

Like everyone else says, you may be having blood sugar level issues. I wouldn't recommend buying a glucose monitor like Clay201 suggested, as they require some training and can be expensive. Pay a visit to your doctor instead. They have specific tests they can do to determine how your body handles sugar. If you're eating a high-carb lunch, it may be making your blood sugar levels go crazy.
posted by geeky at 1:14 PM on May 20, 2005

I had a similar problem. I suspected blood sugar at first too, and followed this route:

A blood sugar monitor isn't that expensive. A really good one will run you about $100. Store brand is around $50. You don't need a prescription to get one.

Measure your blood sugar when you wake up, and once every 30 minutes after you eat until your blood sugar comes back down. That'll give you a good idea of what's going on blood-sugar wise. Super high spikes (1.75x resting) can indicate a problem.

My problem turned out to be sleep related, though. I wasn't getting enough sleep at night, and though I was fine for a few hours after waking up, I would regularly get super sleepy around 1PM. I dealt with it by 1) getting enough sleep, and 2) sipping on a caffeinated beverage between 12:30 and 2.
posted by Laen at 1:26 PM on May 20, 2005

Most HMO and PPO plans will cover a blood sugar meter and supplies if your doctor recommends them, even if you are not diabetic.
posted by luriete at 2:13 PM on May 20, 2005

A visit to the doctor is a wise move. But for a bit of an explanation of what's going on with blood surger with respect to diet, get a copy of the South Beach Diet book; it discusses this in layman's terms.
posted by Doohickie at 4:32 PM on May 20, 2005

For what it's worth, when I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I went right out and picked up a monitor, the generic version, at a Walgreen's or CVS - $15. I had to wait a bit for the insurance company to send me a name brand one, which was more expensive.

What are you eating for lunch that tips you into the coma?
posted by cajo at 4:46 PM on May 20, 2005

As others have said: get thee to a doctor. Around 1/3 of the people who have diabetes don't know it. I have no idea how long I was diabetic before diagnosis (Feb 2000). It really isn't something you want to mess around with. It can cause all sorts of nerve damage, amputations, blindness and it's the third cause of death in the US (IIRC).

I'm in Canada so YMMV: the monitors don't cost much ($40 and up CDN), it's the testing strips that are insanely expensive (approx. $1 per strip). However, a new monitor comes with a few strips. You don't need a prescription - you can buy them off the shelf in your favourite pharmacy. They're easy to use, just follow instructions.

Should it be diabetes, feel free to email me (it's in my profile).
posted by deborah at 5:04 PM on May 20, 2005

Just a few things about diabetes from the husband of a diabetic:

BSL meters are cheap (relatively), especially the non-name brand ones. They are also very easy to use. The readings can vary wildly from meter to meter, as well as from where you prick. The arm doesn't give you as good a reading for low BSL as the fingertip, for instance. The fingertip is a good starting point to prick. Whenever my wife goes to her diabetes educator, they check her bsl on a few meters to get a good idea of an average reading. The doctor's BSL checks are, naturally, more accurate.

Your bsl should be between 70 and 100 after eight hours of fasting. Food will affect your bsl in a variety of ways. High fat foods, for instance, will cause a bsl spike in a few hours. Alcohol affects bsl differently in different people.

Are you urinating more than usual? How's your vision? What is your weight? How old are you? Your symptoms seem (to me) to point more to situational bsl problems that can be fixed with diet rather than full-on diabetes.

Either way, go doctor! I wouldn't bother with buying a meter or reading books or asking more questions. This is the kind of thing that can be cleared up right away with a visit to the doc.
posted by incessant at 5:21 PM on May 20, 2005

I have this exact thing, and have since I began working as an adult. I just gave up eating lunch as a result. It should be noted that the symptoms do NOT occur over breakfast or dinner. My other response to this has been to make absolutely certain dinner contains enormous quantities of protein, protein, protein.

The very very light lunch approach has proved tolerable and non-debilitating, preferably something starchy such as ramen.

Additionally, while I concur that whatever it is is blood-sugar related, my wife is diabetic and we are both aware of hypoglycemia and diabetes and there's no way this is either of those.
posted by mwhybark at 6:04 PM on May 20, 2005

It may not be diabetes, but it could be insulin resistance.
posted by SoulOnIce at 8:07 PM on May 20, 2005

I'd suggest the 'going to a doctor' bit, but see if you can also get a referral to a nutritionist. They may be able to help you sort out the food issues, and help you plan a diet that's both doable and won't make you sick.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:42 PM on May 20, 2005

Don't buy a meter. It usually only takes one test by a nurse or nurse practitioner to indicate if you have a problem with diabetes. I go through what you are talking about every day. I take insulin when I get up but have never liked eating in the morning. My blood sugar drops to about 70 and then I figure out that maybe I ought to eat something! In my case it is not the a high blood sugar that bothers me, but the quick transition from a low to a high, and when it happens I go brain dead and can't think very well.

A normal person will move from a high blood sugar to around 100 in about thirty minutes, even after a fairly large meal, and for normal folks you sugars stay in the normal range most of the time. If you are having trouble with your blood sugars, it is a whole nother story.

By the way, you would be amazed how many diabetics there are around. You might ask around and see if someone could check you blood--a whole lot cheaper.

And, if you are having real swings in blood sugars, a low blood sugar can be dangerous. Go see a doc.
posted by phewbertie at 3:30 AM on May 21, 2005

I'm going to break from the herd and suggest you may be having a reaction to MSG. I get many of the same symptoms, and MSG is found in sources not as obvious as Chinese Take-Out. Just about any fast food (esp. Taco Bell), lunchmeats, and ramen are packed with it.
posted by sourwookie at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2005

(MSG is essentially a sugar that goes to your blood rather quickly and therefore can cause large swings in blood sugar levels, if I remember what my South Beach book says.)
posted by Doohickie at 9:35 AM on May 27, 2005

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