How Long Does It Take to Digest Food?

How long it takes to digest food may be different for every person. Just like your personality, your digestive process is different from everyone else. It all depends on how food passes from your mouth to your esophagus and then reaches your stomach and finally passes through your intestines to go out of your system. Getting a general idea of the digestion time may help you determine if you are taking longer to digest food and require some medical help.

How Long Does It Take to Digest Food?

Generally, food takes 24-72 hours to pass through your digestive tract, but it may change depending on the type and amount of food you have eaten. Many factors, like your metabolism, gender, and digestive issues can affect the rate of digestion.

It usually takes less time for food to move through your digestive system, as it usually moves through your stomach, small intestine, and large intestine within 6-8 hours. Partially digested chunks of food may stay in your large intestine for about a day. What you have eaten also plays a role here because fats and proteins require more time to digest. Therefore, it takes longer to digest fish and meat. Your body can digest fruits and veggies in less than a day because of their high fiber content. Sugar and processed foods are usually easier to digest, which is why you are going to feel hungry again in a matter of few hours.

Digestive Problems That Can Affect Your Digestion

How long does it take to digest food? It may depend heavily on how good your digestive system is functioning, and that function may suffer when you have a digestive problem. Here are certain digestive problems that can affect the rate of digestion.

  • Acid Reflux: You develop this condition when the lower esophageal sphincter fails to keep stomach acid from moving up into the esophagus. This also leads to heartburn.
  • Celiac Disease: In this disease, your immune system activates when you eat gluten and attacks your intestine.
  • Constipation: It means you have fewer bowel movements than normal. Your stool may become very hard that can cause abdominal pain and bloating as well.
  • Diverticulosis: It leads to the creation of inflamed pouches in your intestines and causes symptoms such as constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: It includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, both of which can cause inflammation in the intestines.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The condition causes several symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhea, gas, and constipation.

Natural Ways to Improve Digestion

How long does it take to digest food? It depends. When you suspect that your digestive system is not functioning properly, you may want to talk to your doctor. However, you can also try some natural ways to improve digestion. Here are some suggestions:

1. Include Probiotics in Your Diet

These strains of bacteria support your digestive system. These healthy bacteria live in your intestines and produce short-chain fatty acids and vitamins that contribute to a healthy gut flora. They promote digestion by breaking down foods. You can take probiotic supplements or eat raw fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut to increase your intake of probiotics.

2. Pay Attention to Diet and Eating Habits

It is important to eat in a relaxed environment with your focus on eating alone. Do not try to eat while watching TV and avoid eating when you are upset about something. Since there is a connection between your digestive tract and your brain, these feelings can affect the way your body digests food. Moreover, it is also important to chew your food thoroughly before you swallow it because it will make digestion easier.

3. Increase Your Intake of Water

Dehydration can affect digestion and hit your digestive system in a bad way. You should be drinking at least 80 ounces of water daily. Just ensure that you drink water between meals and not with meals. Drinking too much water with a meal can dilute stomach acid and affect digestion negatively.

4. Select Food Carefully

You should avoid eating anything that contributes to inflammation in the body. Your aim should be to eat whole, nourishing foods. Therefore, you should stay away from foods that include artificial sweeteners and limit your intake of processed foods because they only provide you with empty calories and no nutrient. It is a good idea to take gluten out of your diet because it is a gut irritant. Similarly, it is important to avoid processed soy because it affects the way your body absorbs nutrients from the food you eat.

5. Increase Stomach Acid

How long does it take to digest food? Your stomach acid has a role to play. Many people think that too much stomach acid is the cause of heartburn, but that is not the case. In fact, you notice these problems when there is too little acid in your stomach. When food enters your small intestine, it needs to be in a liquid state or your body cannot absorb nutrients properly. This is where stomach acid plays a role. If there is enough stomach acid, the food you eat will be converted into liquid state in no time. In the absence of enough stomach acid, your stomach will switch to "mechanical" digesting and have to squeeze to break down food, which takes longer to digest food. The longer the food stays in your stomach, the higher the chances of you dealing with gas and bloating, which can also lead to heartburn.

Here are a few tips to help boost stomach acid:

  • Add some lemon juice in the water and drink it between meals.
  • Include apple cider vinegar in your diet. Simply add a teaspoon of raw, unfiltered ACV to glass of water and drink it before each meal.
  • Chew your food thoroughly to ensure that it is already in a soft state when reaches your stomach.
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