What Happens When You Eat Too Much Turkey at Thanksgiving? This Video Has the Answer

The turkey coma is a time-honored tradition of Thanksgiving — but have you ever stopped to wonder what’s actually happening when you eat too much? What’s going on in our bodies to give us that feeling of being not only full, but uncomfortably full? A lot, it turns out — but luckily, we’ve got the scientists of the American Chemical Society to explain it to us. And even better, they’ve done it in an easy-to-understand video. Isn’t that nice of them?

The latest entry of the American Chemical Society’s Reactions web series, the video explains exactly what happens inside us when we overeat (which, let’s face it, most of us are guilty of during our Turkey Day festivities). It turns out that there’s not just one answer; there are a few. Four, in fact — and maybe if we pay attention to what our bodies are telling us, we can stop ourselves from overindulging to the point of feeling icky. After all, food is awesome; but feeling like your stomach might burst after eating too much is decidedly less awesome.

Here’s the short version in a series of pictures; scroll down to watch the whole video.

1. The Physical Limitations of Your Stomach

Your stomach can stretch to a volume of about one liter, so when you overeat, you pack it so full that it hits its limits and starts to squeeze against your other organs (ouch). That’s what makes your abdomen feel a little like it’s going to explode.

2. Gas Happens

Additionally, your stomach and intestines fill with gases like carbon dioxide when you eat — more so if you’re drinking something fizzy, like soda or beer. These added gases contribute to that “OMG I’m sooooo full” feeling — although luckily, we’ve got a built-in method of relieving some of the pressure: Burping.

3. Heartburn and Its Side Effects

In order to break down the food inside it when you eat, your stomach produces hydrochloric acid. More food to break down results in more acid being produced, which can then creep up your esophagus and create that burning sensation in your chest. But here’s where it gets really interesting: If you take antacids to counteract the heartburn, it can actually increase the feeling of being full.

Antacids use bases to neutralize the hydrochloric acid causing the heartburn — and when that reaction occurs, it creates more carbon dioxide. That brings us back to item two on this list, so burp away.

4. 50 Percent of the Game Is Half Mental

The last piece of the “I’m stuffed” puzzle comes from the brain. When you’ve had enough to eat, messenger molecules tell your brain that you’re all set, prompting you to stop. The hormone your intestines release during a high-calorie meal (peptide tyrosine-tyrosine, or PYY) that binds with receptors in your brain to give you the feeling that you’re full — and sometimes even nauseous. Hence: Feeling so full you think you might throw up.

Watch the full video below. Happy feasting!

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Images: Roadsidepictures/Flickr; ACSReactions/YouTube (6)