How long does digestion take? Tips for better digestion

by | Oct 1, 2017 | Gastrointestinal | 0 comments

Digestion is a process where the body breaks down food into smaller particles to absorb them into the bloodstream.

Complete digestion of food takes anywhere between 24 to 72 hours and depends on several factors, including the type of food eaten and the presence of digestive issues.

This article looks at the digestive process and potential digestive problems and recommends ways to improve digestion.

Contents of this article:

  • The body typically digests foods within 24 to 72 hours.
  • Digestion begins from when food enters the mouth.
  • Once in the stomach, the food is mixed with stomach acid.
  • Once in the small intestine, the food remnants are exposed to digestive juices, bile, and enzymes from the pancreas and liver.

How long does it take to digest food?

Model of human digestive system being held up over where it is in the body by man in black shirt.
On average, food takes 6 to 8 hours to pass from the stomach and small intestine to the large intestine. From there, it may take over a day to digest further.

In many cases, the food moves through the stomach and small intestine within 6 to 8 hours. It then passes to the large intestine (colon).

However, the exact time varies and depends on factors such as:

  • Amount and type of food eaten: Protein-rich foods and fatty foods, such as meat and fish, can take longer to digest than high-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Sweets, such as candy, crackers, and pastries, are among the fastest foods digested.
  • Gender: A 1980s study found that the transit time through the large intestine alone was 47 hours for women and just 33 hours for men.
  • The presence of digestive issues: Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome are some of the conditions that may slow down digestion.

Once food reaches the large intestine, it may remain there for up to a day or more as it undergoes further breakdown.

How does digestion work?

It's a commonly held belief that digestion only takes place in the stomach. In fact, there are three separate stages of digestion:

Oral stage of digestion

Chewing food breaks it down into smaller particles and mixes them with saliva. An enzyme present in saliva, called amylase, acts on carbohydrates in the food to break them down. The food particles can then form a soft mass that's easy to swallow, known as a bolus.

Gastric stage of digestion

In the stomach, an enzyme called pepsin helps to break down proteins into smaller particles. Stomach acid also plays an important role in preventing food-borne illness as it kills any bacteria or viruses that may have been present in the food.

Intestinal stage of digestion

Nutrients and water that have been removed from the digested food pass through the walls of the small intestine....

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