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How Long It Takes To Digest Food? 5 Best Ways

Food is one of the life-sustaining mediums for all living beings, and it is important to know how long it takes to digest food. It is one of the basic elements that help continue human life. Different types of foods take different times to digest. The digestion process might be a little complex, and this is why it is important to know how long it takes to digest food.

However, it is not the food but the digestion of food that makes us derive the nutrition that plays a vital role in maintaining our health. One factor that affects the whole process of digestion is the rate of metabolism1. This rate of metabolism is different for different body types. 

How your digestive system works - Emma Bryce

People with low metabolism take a longer time to digest food and gain body weight easily, and they have to take steps for weight loss. On the other hand, people with high or good metabolism take less time to digest food fully.

The digestion of food depends on various factors. But have you ever thought about how digestion takes place in the body or how long it takes to digest food? It is better to know how long it takes to digest food to lead a healthy lifestyle.

 1. Knowing About Digestion

Digestion is the central process that is pivotal in deriving nutrients from food. Biologically, digestion can be defined as a process by which your body breaks down food into nutrients essential for maintaining health conditions.

Food passes through various parts of the digestive system called the digestive tract2. In the process of food digestion, various healthy bacteria and enzymes 3help. Physical activity also plays an active part in digestion.

how long it takes to digest food
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With the help of digestion, the food is broken down into small components. The necessary nutrients like fats, carbohydrates4, proteins, and vitamins are broken down into easy compounds and stored in various parts of the human body.

The waste left after digestion is excreted out of the body to keep it healthy and safe. Doctors advise eating only certain types of food for easier and faster digestion. It includes fruits and green vegetables, and one has to avoid oily and spicy food to have a good digestive system.

After eating food, it takes almost six to eight hours to pass food through our stomach and small intestine. After that, it enters the large intestine for its further breakdown. After this step, the broken-down elements pass through the colon and the waste material is thrown out of the body. The whole process of digestion takes around thirty-six hours in approximation.

2. The Digestive System or The Digestive Tract

There are the following parts that primarily make up your digestive system or digestive tract, which will help us understand how long it takes to digest food: –

2.1. Mouth

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Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

When we start eating, the food is in a complex state, but with the help of teeth, tongue, and saliva, the food is broken down into small particles that can be swallowed easily. The tongue helps in pushing this simpler food down the esophagus. The epiglottis 5prevents the food from entering the wind-pipe and thus prevents choking.

2.2. Esophagus

how long does it take to digest food
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The esophagus is a pipe-like structure that connects the mouth to the stomach. It helps in the passing of food to the stomach. The lower end of the esophagus has a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter muscle6 that is usually closed to prevent the backflow of food from the stomach to the esophagus.

2.3. Stomach

When the food enters the stomach, stomach muscles mix it with the stomach acid and digestive juices and then convert it into an element called chyme. Chyme is then transferred into the small intestine. 

2.4. Small Intestine

The muscle of the small intestine plays a great role here; they mix the food with digestive acids and then pass it on to the large intestine for further digestion. The walls of the small intestine absorb the water and required nutrients, then pass it to the bloodstream. After this, the residual food is transferred to the large intestine.

The small intestine plays a great role in the absorption and transfer of all our food’s nutrients. It then transfers these restored nutrients into the blood, which transfers these nutrients to the various parts of the human body.

2.5. Large Intestine

Large intestines are very helpful in the breakdown of the food that comes unbroken from the small intestines. This intestine uses some beneficial bacteria that further break the processed foods and then take in the leftover nutrients.

After this process, the residual is turned into stools and passed further for excretion. This step marks the end of the processes of digestion.

 3. More About The Digestion Of Food

Studies conducted on how long it takes to digest food have shown that the amount of time taken to digest food depends on the kind of food that one eats or consumes, age, gender, amount of physical activity, and type of lifestyle.

For instance, meat, fish, and other heavy food might take as much as two days to digest completely. This is because they are composed of high fat and high protein. Hence it takes time to break up their complex nutrient arrangement.

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Similarly, fruits and vegetables take less time to digest and can be outlined completely in a day. This happens because they are considered high-fiber foods. Eating such fibrous food helps in the better and more efficient functioning of the human body’s digestive system.

Foods and beverages like plain water, tea, soda, and clear juices take less time to digest. Even sugar candy bars take less time to be digested, which is why we feel hungry quickly after eating such items.

Simple carbohydrates like plain rice and pasta and whole grains. It may take approximately one hour to digest completely. On the other hand, complex drinks, like protein shakes, may take a little longer to get digested.

4. What Is Poor Digestion

7 Warning Sign That You Have a Bad Digestive System | Healthy Habits

Sometimes people might experience a condition of poor or slow digestion when food might take a little longer than usual. They might develop one or the other digestive issues due to the type of food they eat and their lifestyle.

Common digestive problems include irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, and other medical conditions. One such disease is constipation, marked by fewer or fewer bowel movements. One might also develop inflammatory bowel movements, leading to more serious diseases like diarrhea, colon cancer, malnutrition, and weight loss.

5. Ways To Improve Digestion

After knowing how long it takes to digest food, it is important to know certain ways to improve our digestion. A sedentary lifestyle and not taking care of your gut damage your digestive health. After knowing how long it takes to digest the food, we now need to know when your digestive system needs medical attention.

1. Various ways can be used to take care of our digestive system. Cut on the high fat or complex food like red meat, as these foods take several hours to digest.

How to Improve Digestion Naturally? | Digestive System | Digestive Problems | Digestion of Food |VAS

2. One of the best ways to develop a good digestive tract is to eat many green vegetables and fruits. Using gastric juices, these kinds of food get digested quickly, and it also improves the health of our digestive system.

3. Eating food rich in fiber will be very helpful in the healthy functioning of the digestive system. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, oats, avocados, and lentils.

4. Apart from eating healthy food, doing some physical exercise is also required as they are very helpful. It also includes doing certain types of yoga that will help properly function the digestive system.

how long does it take to digest food
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5. Avoid packaged food as much as possible as it is considered harmful because it uses a lot of preservatives. Maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is also required for the healthy working of the digestive system.

6. Conclusion

Although it might seem difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it will become easier with a little dedication and hard work. It is always better to try to maintain a proper lifestyle and avoid harmful food so that we stay safe from digestive diseases.

To maintain a healthy digestive system, it is important to eat a balanced diet rich in fiber, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, manage stress, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Additionally, it is helpful to eat smaller, more frequent meals and chew food thoroughly to aid digestion.

All you have to do is to follow a proper routine. Eat a lot of green vegetables and fruits. Avoid eating junk food. Drink a lot of water. And lastly, you have to be physically active and do exercises and yoga. This is how one can keep the digestive system healthy and effective. 

FAQ

1. What is the role of enzymes in digestion?

A. Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts to speed up chemical reactions. In the digestive system, enzymes help break down complex molecules such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into smaller molecules that can be absorbed by the body. 

2. How does the liver contribute to digestion?

A. The liver plays a crucial role in digestion by producing bile, a substance that helps break down fats. Bile is stored in the gallbladder and released into the small intestine when needed. Additionally, the liver processes and detoxifies nutrients and drugs absorbed from the small intestine.

3. What are some common digestive system disorders?

A. Some common digestive disorders include acid reflux, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and gallstones. These conditions can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn.

Read more

  1. Leone, Robert D., and Jonathan D. Powell. “Metabolism of immune cells in cancer.” Nature reviews cancer 20.9 (2020): 516-531. ↩︎
  2. Bosetti, C., et al. “Aspirin and the risk of colorectal and other digestive tract cancers: an updated meta-analysis through 2019.” Annals of Oncology 31.5 (2020): 558-568. ↩︎
  3. Copeland, Robert A. Enzymes: a practical introduction to structure, mechanism, and data analysis. John Wiley & Sons, 2023. ↩︎
  4. Yki-Järvinen, Hannele, et al. “Dietary carbohydrates and fats in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” Nature reviews Gastroenterology & hepatology 18.11 (2021): 770-786. ↩︎
  5. Dowdy, Regina AE, and Bryant W. Cornelius. “Medical management of epiglottitis.” Anesthesia progress 67.2 (2020): 90-97. ↩︎
  6. Nelson, Melissa, et al. “Lower esophageal sphincter muscle of patients with achalasia exhibits profound mast cell degranulation.” Neurogastroenterology & Motility 33.5 (2021): e14055. ↩︎

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