Eating is fantastic, but overeating can turn that wonderful sensation into a sickening and very uncomfortable moment. But even if you have the best intentions to live a healthy life, you are likely to overeat sometimes. Especially on holiday when eating meals when everything is delicious and we can’t help but try a little of every dish.
Then, we typically feel full, bloated, and start feeling sick at some point. If you’ve been through these sensations in a holiday or after an all-you-can-eat binge, here’s what happens in your body and what you can do to feel better.
Digesting excessive food when you overeat
One of the main problems with overeating is handling excessive food by you gastrointestinal tract. The stomach usually holds around two cups of food, and overeating involves eating much more than that. Luckily, the stomach has the ability to stretch, but that is one of the reasons why people feel discomfort. It gets in the way and pushes other organs, causing a very uncomfortable sensation in the belly and nausea. If you do it often, the stomach will start expanding, and you will need more food to feel satiated.
The second problem with overeating is digestion, especially if you’ve eaten foods that are high in fiber or high in fat. These nutrients are very hard to digest, and you GI tract takes very long. They can even slow down the rate of stomach emptying. So, picture this: you’ve eaten too much, your stomach is full, and the fiber and fat in your foods are not letting your stomach empty its contents into the duodenum. No wonder why you feel terrible after a binge.
But what can you do?
Steps you can take right after overeating
One thing you can do right after overeating is drinking some tea. I know it does not sound easy when you literally can’t take another bite. But even sipping instead of drinking can help you. I personally recommend peppermint tea because it has a soothing potential for your gastrointestinal tract and relaxes your esophageal sphincter.
This will allow you to burp some trapped air that is taking extra space in your stomach. If you can, sip on hot tea instead of cold tea. The temperature can speed up the process. Still, keep in mind that stomach emptying takes one or two hours, depending on how much you’ve eaten and the type of food.
15 to 30 minutes after overeating, sit upright, and avoid the temptation of lying down or taking a nap. This will put some extra pressure upon your stomach and may even trigger a heartburn. If you can take a walk, it will help you in the digestion process. But if you feel really bad, you will probably find some relief in antacids and anti-gas drugs. You can also use some Pepto-Bismol to soothe your stomach, especially if you’ve had alcoholic beverages.
What to do if the uncomfortable sensation does not go away?
One or two hours after binge-eating, you are likely to feel a bit better. But do not use any strenuous movements just yet. If you still feel some discomfort, you can use some stretching techniques to stimulate your digestion and your stomach emptying even further.
The child’s pose and other twisting moves inspired by yoga can help a lot. However, keep away from anything that compresses your stomach and inversion movements that put your body upside down.
Only after two hours is that I recommend lying down, because at this point your stomach has probably emptied. If you do it before this time, chances are you will start suffering a heartburn due to acid reflux.
Can probiotics help me recover after binge-eating?
Probiotics are living bacteria that incorporate into your intestines after surviving the acid of your stomach. They are useful to stimulate bowel movements, keep your intestines healthy, improve your digestion, and treating inflammation. They are a great tool to improve digestive distress, and may also aid in digestion when you overeat.
To give you a clear example, we can talk about fermented milk, as in yogurt or kefir. These foods contain lactose, but they are more easily digested by your organism, and even some people with lactose intolerance are fine eating yogurt and kefir. That’s because probiotic bacteria break down lactose and speed up the digestion process. Something similar happens if you’ve been overeating dairy foods and use probiotics. They may not relieve the initial sensation of fullness in your stomach, because it is entirely mechanical, but they do speed up the digestion process that comes right after.
Besides a good digestion, it is well known that probiotics regulate the communication between the gut and the brain. They are behind many processes in your body and their influence in your mind. As such, probiotic foods and supplements may help you recovering your sleep, which is usually compromised after binge-eating. With probiotic supplementation, you can get back to an appropriate circadian rhythm that allows you to sleep at the right hour and avoid one of the consequences of overeating.
There are many strategies and things you can do after overeating. Sipping on peppermint tea can help right after the binge-eating episode. Pepto-Bismol and other anti-gas medications can help you if you still feel bad after some minutes. And walking and stretching are recommended instead of lying down to prevent acid reflux or heartburn symptoms. As for probiotics, they can improve your digestion and help you get back on track in your sleeping pattern.
But even if you have plenty of tools to overcome the sensation, try to avoid overeating and binge-eating. Remember this is not a healthy behavior, and may have long-term consequences if you keep it as a weekly or monthly eating habit. In some cases, professional help will be required to understand the roots of this practice and the reason why you do it so often.
Galland, L. (2014). The gut microbiome and the brain. Journal of medicinal food, 17(12), 1261-1272.
Oak, S. J., & Jha, R. (2019). The effects of probiotics in lactose intolerance: a systematic review. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 59(11), 1675-1683.
Fairburn, C. G., Wilson, G. T., & Schleimer, K. (1993). Binge eating: Nature, assessment, and treatment (pp. 317-360). New York: Guilford Press.