10 Common Health Issues Associated with Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for, well, being thankful and thinking about things you’re grateful for.

But if you are not cautious, Thanksgiving can be a health disaster. On #BlackFriday at #AFC #DoctorsExpress, we see and treat many of the illnesses associated with Thanksgiving. Cooks, do yourself, your family, and your friends a favor and prepare and preserve your meal the safe way so they don’t have to come see us the day after Thanksgiving.

Here are the 10 the most common health effects of Thanksgiving and suggestions for avoiding the cause:

1. Food Poisoning

Hosts and hostesses commonly make the mistake of leaving their Thanksgiving meal out for some time to let family and guests nibble throughout the day and evening. However, leaving food out for more than a couple of hours increases the risk for bacterial growth. It’s true that food-borne illnesses are sometimes attributed to bacterial growth before the sale, yet most often, food is contaminated in the home by well-meaning but uninformed cooks. According to the CDC and the USDA, some 48 million Americans get sick from food poisoning every calendar year. You can prevent food-borne illnesses by promptly refrigerating Thanksgiving leftovers. Also, you can prevent cross contamination by using separate surfaces and tools during food preparation.

2. Nausea

Nausea is a common side effect of eating a large, fat-laden meal, so it’s no wonder you feel sick after a Thanksgiving meal. Feelings of nausea can occur after eating 1,500 calories, which is what the average portion turkey meal contains. The nausea is attributed to hormones in your gut. While eating too much of any food can make you sick to your stomach, sugar and fat are common culprits. Refrain from eating large amounts of any one food no matter how good it is or how much the host/hostess pressures you to have seconds.

3. Indigestion

Digestion is a complex process that usually takes a couple of hours to complete. However, because of the fat content of most Thanksgiving meals, nutrionists and many medical experts say this process can take up to 12 hours. While your body is trying its best to accommodate large amounts of fat from the Thanksgiving meal, indigestion may occur. Try to eat small portions and stretch out the time time between that first helping and a second round. A walk around the block or some light exercise activity can help the digestion process and possibly help in avoiding a bad case of indigestion.

 tksgivign 34. Heart Overload 

Eating a large plate of Thanksgiving food can put strain on your blood vessels, which may aggravate preexisting cardiovascular conditions. At the same time, your heart works harder because blood flow in the body is directed to the stomach to accommodate for the digestion of large amounts of food. This event tends to occur whenever you binge on a meal, no matter what food it is. Try to avoid gorging and keep your plate to small helpings.

5. Increased Risk for Plaque Buildup 

Your triglyceride levels may increase after any fat-laden meal and Thanksgiving is no exception. If you already have high cholesterol, Thanksgiving can literally give you heart attack due to plaque buildup. This is primarily attributed to high-fat food, such as buttery mashed potatoes, gravy, and sausage stuffing. According to the “Wall Street Journal,” exercising hours before a large turkey dinner may decrease the effects of high-fat foods on the body. However, it’s still best to watch your portions and total fat intake no matter what your current health status.

6. Skyrocketing Blood Glucose 

Sleepiness is the most common complaint of a Thanksgiving Day meal. While people call it a “food coma,” and blame the turkey, your gobbler consumption isn’t the cause for post-meal fatigue. It’s excess carbohydrate and sugar intake from mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin or sweet potato pie. Did you know when you eat too many carbs, your blood glucose (sugar) levels skyrocket? This also increases the urge to take a post-meal nap. Avoid over carb-loading by leaving off the rolls and eating a smaller portion of the potato dish.

7. Dehydration

Traditional Thanksgiving Day meals are full of sodium. Turkey and stuffing or cornbread dressing are the obvious culprits, but there is also a large amount of sodium in any dish that utilizes canned or processed foods such as the green bean casserole made with canned soup and French onions. Don’t add table salt to your dishes. Drinking water before, during, and after your meal helps reduce and in some cases prevents Thanksgiving Day and the day-after dehydration.

tksgivign8. Flatulence

Yes, there are the kids who think it’s funny but to many people, it’s not just embarrassing; it’s physically uncomfortable. Avoid too much of the bean dishes and broccoli. Even a few bites may cause post-turkey meal flatulence. Much of the problem on Thanksgiving is attributed to how much you eat, and not necessarily what you eat. As you digest a large meal, some portions of it may break off in the colon and contribute to flatulent.

9. Irritability

Irritability is often associated with hormonal shifts. Surprisingly, your Thanksgiving meal may cause such changes. This irritability may also be an after-effect of a sugar-crash as your blood glucose levels plummet. High-carb side dishes and pies are often to blame so limit these or refuse them altogether.

10. Physical Injuries

At #AFC #DoctorsExpress #Memphis, the medical staff has seen and treated some of the same injuries on Thanksgiving weekend each year for the last 5 years. Remember, we treat only non life-threatening injury and illness. For life-threatening illnesses and injuries, immediately call 911. Otherwise, you can come see us for any urgent care needs. Also remember, Doctors Express Memphis is closed on Thanksgiving Day.

Here are the top urgent care illnesses and injuries we see on Thanksgiving weekends:

  • Cuts from kitchen prep while using knives, doing dishes, or digging into and pulling tops off metal cans
  • Burns from cooking
  • Sprains from two-hand touch football injuries (knee and ankle)
  • Falls from putting up Christmas lights

For more info on preparing healthy Thanksgiving meals and other Thanksgiving resources, check out these links and from our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving meal and proper turkey cooking time and temperature:


Brining your turkey:






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