How long does digestion take?



Digestion is how the body breaks down nutrients from food into energy. Your body needs energy from nutrients to function properly on a daily basis. Digestion is a complex organization of different organs functioning together to break down food, absorb the nutrients from that food and then dispose of the waste. Striving to maintain healthy digestion is important. Digestion that is too fast or too slow can impact your overall health if not taken care of. 

For many people in the U.S., unhealthy digestive processes may seem like a normal part of their everyday lives. In fact, about 72% of Americans reported experiencing gastrointestinal issues several times a month. Digestion can be prolonged or shortened for a number of reasons, all of which have an impact on your gastrointestinal health. So, how long should digestion take? How can this relate back to your GI health?

What is there to know about how long digestion does take?

  1. Foods can take hours to digest — Food can sit in the stomach for about 40 to 120 minutes. The same amount of time goes for how long it can take to go through the small intestine, and even then it can be prolonged if it’s a food high in protein or fat. The food must travel through the large intestine; during this stage, nutrients and water are absorbed. At the end stage, the material that hasn’t been broken down into useful energy for the body is eliminated via bowel movements. The process in total can take up to 36 hours.
  2. Liquids digest differently than foods — The amount of time it takes for liquid to process through the GI tract is a lot different than the amount of time necessary for food. Liquids usually pass through the system a lot quicker because there are fewer nutrients that need breaking down. If you consume a thicker liquid like a smoothie, however, that will take a little bit longer to break down than if you were to drink water.
  3. Several factors can affect your digestion time — There are several different kinds of things that can affect how long digestion takes for your body. Examples of these factors include certain types of medications, certain foods, different kinds of metabolism, exercise and stress.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Center for Digestive Health with any further questions!

Still wondering what other things you should know about how long digestion takes? Check out another of our blog posts with interesting facts about digestion. Are you looking for more information, or have other digestive health questions? Please don’t wait to reach out to one of our team members for help. Our team of GI specialists has the training and experience to answer any questions you may have. They can also help you find the most effective treatments for your conditions and for common GI issues.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment. 

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