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Question : After I eat a moderate carb meal I feel very sleepy. I have a hard time concentrating, like a brain fog. Sometimes I get a headache, am thirsty and urinate more than usual. My sugar test and neurology tests were fine. Any suggestions?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Mary Pickett, M.D. is an Associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University where she is a primary care doctor for adults. She supervises and educates residents in the field of Internal Medicine, for outpatient and hospital care. She is a Lecturer for Harvard Medical School and a Senior Medical Editor for Harvard Health Publications.

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June 04, 2014
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Symptoms that come after eating can be hard to figure out. There are several conditions that could explain symptoms of fatigue and “brain fog” after eating:

Sugar high and “crash”
No matter what sweetener you use, a binge of sugar or carbs in the diet includes fructose and glucose. After your body breaks down sugars, many people notice a “crash” in energy. This is probably a real biologic process.  Metabolism of sugars can use up a needed energy compound called “ATP” that powers your cells. So if you are sensitive to sugar loads, avoid them.

Gastric dumping syndrome
Some people, especially those who have had stomach or intestinal surgery, empty stomach contents all at once after initial digestion. This is named “dumping syndrome.” When a large load of carbs is delivered to the intestine, this can cause two problems: low blood sugar and low blood pressure.

How does the low blood sugar happen? First, glucose (sugar) is absorbed into the blood, causing a high peak of blood sugar. The body responds to this high sugar by making insulin. But the sugar peak does not last, and the insulin lingers. So right after the glucose spikes, you may have a spell of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

How does low blood pressure happen? It results from a shift of fluid into the intestine. A load of concentrated sugar in the small intestine “draws in” water through the gut wall. This pulls enough water out of the bloodstream that it can cause low blood pressure.

Gastric dumping syndrome is treated by adjusting the diet. Eat small meals with limited “carbs.”
 

Food allergy
A severe food allergy can cause symptoms of anaphylaxis. These may include dizziness and lightheadedness from low blood pressure, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and chest tightness or wheezing.

Angina
Angina is a symptom that happens when your heart is not getting as much blood as it needs. For most people, angina creates pain or tightness in the chest. But for others, symptoms can be more subtle, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, flushing, sweating or fatigue. Right after eating, your circulation shifts to deliver extra blood to your digestive tract. For some people, this shift in circulation can cause angina after each meal.

 

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