How Long Does It Take to Digest Food?
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
When your gut is working well, you probably do not think about digestion. When things are out of control, you may wonder what is causing your digestive issues and how to improve them. Digestion can appear to be a mysterious process. Once you eat something, it disappears into your body and becomes completely different on the other end.
How long does digestion take, and how does it work?
The short answer is, “It can take anywhere from 10 hours to 3 days for food to be fully digested.” This time range is so wide because digestion involves many different systems to move food from your mouth through your digestive system. Your unique metabolic rate and the specific foods you consume are a factor.
The digestion process begins before you even take a bite because when you see and smell food, your body responds by secreting more saliva. Once you start chewing food, your saliva helps break down starches and fats, helping the food pass through the esophagus into your stomach. That is where the digestion process takes place.
Food stays in your stomach for two to five hours. During this time, your stomach squeezes food and mixes it with acid and enzymes to break it down. The food mixture moves through the small intestine, where the majority of the nutrients from food are absorbed. The next stop is the slowest one (10 to 60 hours), where the large intestine absorbs water and a few more nutrients and then turns the remaining food products into stool. That stool is stored in the rectum until your body can pass it.
How is food digested?
Several types of digestion happen throughout your gastrointestinal (GI) tract:
Factors that influence how extended food stays in your stomach
The amount of time food stays in your stomach before moving to the small intestine is called the "gastric emptying time." The time it takes to empty your stomach of food depends on:
What foods are best for digestion?
The foods you eat can affect how quickly your body can digest them. Some foods are more accessible to break down than others. But speedy digestion is not always a good thing. Foods that are digested quickly can lead to unwanted side effects, like gas and bloating or spikes in blood sugar.
Foods that are slow digestion
Some foods are hard to break down into nutrients your body can absorb. These foods will generally take longer to get through the digestive tract.
Foods that speed up digestion
Some foods move quickly through the digestive tract and speed up digestion.
Can supplements improve digestion?
Many people are curious whether supplements can help with digestion. Before we talk about the science of digestive health, it is worth noting that some supplements help speed digestion, and others help make it more comfortable to digest food. If you are constipated, speeding up digestion can be helpful. If you have gas or bloating, supplements that help with absorption might help you more.
The following are some of the more popular options and what the science shows:
Lifestyle tips to improve digestion
Many things can affect your digestion beyond the food and supplements you take. Some of these simple changes may seem insignificant, but they can make a big difference in your gut health:
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