How to Get Over Your Chocolate Hangover

Chocolate might be Better than Sex, but What About when You’ve Overdosed?

Who doesn’t love chocolate? But how much did YOU eat by Valentine’s Day? According to Nielsen’s, we buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy during Valentine’s week alone, about $345 million worth. That’s just over 5 percent of total chocolate sales for the whole year.

Well, that’s only natural. As I say in my Truly Cultured book and nearly all of my talks, “Leave chocolate alone. It’s in its own food group.”  No question about it, this dark, rich delicacy is one of our absolutely favorite cultured foods.

Just about everyone knows that even small amounts of chocolate can be deadly for dogs, but what about for us? Is there even such a thing as too much chocolate for humans?

A Few Chocolate Facts..

Chocolate is Nutritious.   More and more research studies are proving that chocolate, especially the darker varieties with 65-85% cacao content are actually healthy, full of those free radical-quenching antioxidants. That includes resveratrol, which is also plentiful in red grapes and red wines. (The reason we drink them, of course.)

But most people don’t binge on unsweetened baking chocolate or cacao nibs. It’s the added sugar and fat that makes chocolate rich, decadent and irresistible to us. So, depending upon the type of chocolate, your little indulgence can be beneficial to your body, but just be aware that the milk and white chocolate varieties have more of the offending sugar and fat than the darker chocolates.

Chocolate is Strong medicine.   We eat it as a treat, but for most of the rest of the world, chocolate is considered a medicinal compound.    Remember Ex-Lax, the 100 year old chocolate laxative?  Oh yeah.  Wasn’t my favorite way to get it, but you get the picture here..

Chocolate double-edged Sword?   Does Chocolate equal Guilt?  Dark, milk or white, chocolate is like a weird, double-edge sword.  On one hand, it’s the most seductively irresistible thing you can put in your mouth, but on the other, it’s top of the list of “guilt-producing” foods.   

We’ve developed some very strange, warped attitudes about indulging in rich pleasures like chocolate. So, we have a choice of nurturing ourselves or beating ourselves up with it.

Chocolate is Stimulating.  Chocolate contains many strong stimulating compounds like theobromine and caffeine that can promote well-being and alertness or trigger a migraine, depending upon the individual.

Chocolate enhances Mood.   One of the reasons women find it irresistible is because chocolate compounds, like some opiates and amino acids, stimulate the feel-good neurochemicals in our system – dopamine and endorphins, serotonin, similar to ones  secreted during early love and sex. Is that why you always see boxes of chocolates adorned with those adorable little cupids? 

One Man’s Meat is another Woman’s Passion.   While chocolate can promote feel good well-being in many people, it can trigger headaches, even migraines in people who are sensitive. The arginine in chocolate was even shown to promote herpes outbreaks. 

Everyone is different.  But You know your body better than anyone, so listen to it when it comes to this, and everything else you consume, for that matter.

Chocolate Overdose?   While you’re more likely to hear about this in cats and dogs, the fact is if we eat enough chocolate, it can be toxic to us two-leggeds, as well.   It’s called chocolate poisoning and is an overdose reaction to the alkaloid theobromine found in chocolate, tea, cola soft drinks and some other foods.  

Not usually fatal, but consuming large amounts of chocolate can be stressful and uncomfortable, and can produce serious side effects, mostly in the elderly.  The first signs of theobromine poisoning are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased urination.

These can progress to cardiac arrhythmias, epileptic seizures, internal bleeding, heart attacks, and eventually death, according to the Hazardous Substances databank.. But this would require huge amounts, 2 oz to 1 pound for a dog, several pounds for an adult.

Chocolate can be Addicting.  Since it’s high in a lot of those strong alkaloids, smaller amounts can disrupt neural pathways and promote dependency. Craving for chocolate, just like cravings for coffee, sweets, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, are all a tip-off that neurotransmitters, the chemicals in the endocrine system, are out of balance.  

That’s your hormones, baby.  Who doesn’t have cravings for at least one of these?  What does that tell us about our overall health today?  Read more details in my Addiction Pandemic:  7 Reasons We're Addicted to Everything article here on YourTango.com

But this is more likely to happen when you're in marginal nutritional shape, when you’re in “drive yourself” mode, your digestive or endocrine systems are out of whack, you’re under acute stress or anxiety.

Ever get that “stuck accelerator” feeling, like your engine is running on overdrive, but you can’t slow down or relax?  This is a typical symptom of  “adrenal exhaustion.”  Another is rampant cortisol, producing belly fat. The sugars sweetening it can exacerbate this as much as the other compounds in the chocolate itself.

Okay, you had a wonderful, ecstatic, indulgent, chocolate-filled Valentine’s Day with your hubby or lover. Now you feel like crapola.  What can you do? 

Don’t be too hard on yourself, but try some of the following

to get yourself back in balance:

Stop spinning and start breathing.   When chocolate and other indulges have put you over the edge, help reset your overamped nervous system by just stopping and doing some long, slow deep breathing for 10 or 12 minutes. 

Balance your blood sugar.  The sugar, caffeine, theobromine and other stimulating compounds in chocolate can spike blood sugar.  Add in the champagne or wine love toasts and you’ve created a recipe for stressing the pancreas and the adrenals, putting your system into “fight or flight” overdrive and fat storing mode. 

Your best bet for rebalance:  Lay off the celebratory carbs, sugars, sweets and alcohol  and  have a salad with extra virgin olive oil and some good quality proteins like  fish, nuts, eggs, yogurt for dinner. Or better yet, take some readily absorbed amino acids, the building blocks of protein, to stabilize your blood sugar and rebalance your neurotransmitters.

Get trace Minerals.   Lack of trace minerals, like magnesium, calcium, selenium, and zinc, as well as vitamin C,  B vitamins especially Vitamin B5,  folic acid and choline are common deficiencies in addictions.    So, to help replenish these, get some minerals.  

Don’t have a mineral supplement around?  Try a quick pick-me-up beverage, stirring one tablespoon of mineral-rich blackstrap or other molasses and a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast into a cup of hot water.  Sounds weird, but it actually tastes good.  And it works!

Turn off the electronics.   We’re in a culture that literally hammers the mental, driving our sympathetic nervous system mercilessly without giving the parasympathetic system time to help us rest and recoup.  Get out of your head by turning off the computer and TV. Take a break.

Relax. Take a bath.   Cocoon yourself in the bathroom with candles, incense or aromas and soothing music and just shut out the world.  Let yourself relax by meditating or just staring at the candle flame until you can calm down and let your system come back into balance.

Smell some aromatics.    Calm your nervous system by inhaling some aromatic oils or soak in a tub with bath salts containing lavendar, chamomile,  rose, ylang ylang.  Rosemary herb or drops of oil in the water can help detox your body. 

Get more sleep.   Climb out of your bath, wrap yourself in a thick terrycloth bathrobe or warm flannel pj’s, drink a tall glass of water, close the curtains and climb into bed. 

Forget it for the night  and just get yourself some deep, relaxing, rejuvenating sleep, at least 8 hours and 10 if you can, for a change. Could I guess, you probably won’t be dreaming about chocolate... at least for tonight?