IST Health


How Long Does It Take to Digest Food?

How Long Does It Take to Digest Food?

The combination of the digestion, nutrient absorption, and excretion process takes between 2 – 5 days (roughly 48 – 120 hours). The exact time it does take the body to digest food is dependent on several things like age, sex, gut health, the kind and amount of food you eat, and a couple of other things.

We will shed more light on the subject in this IST health nutrition article. You should also read on to find out about other related facts.

Can a Person Speed Up the Digestion Process?

Very little can be done to speed up the rate at which digestion takes place. This is one of the peculiarities of the digestive system. And for the record, there is a huge difference between Basal metabolic rate (BMR) and digestion rate. So, the two should not be used in place of each other.

Besides the fact that very little can be done to speed up the rate of digestion, it is not advised as it is not usually a healthy decision. This is because of the problems that can set in as a result of this. If there is any time that there is a need to speed up the digestion rate, it should be noted and overseen by a doctor.

Body Parts Involved in Digestion

Body Parts Involved in Digestion

The digestive tract is the technical term for the organs and body parts involved in the digestion process. The body parts it is made up of include the:

  • Mouth
  • Throat (pharynx)
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • Small intestine
  • Colon (Large intestine)
  • Rectum
  • Anus

The mouth is where it all kicks off. With the help of saliva and the teeth (especially for certain foods like meat), food is broken down. Besides breaking down food, it is essential because the sense of taste is situated there. This helps people know how sweet, bitter, sour, or even tasteless a meal is.

Compared to other parts of the digestive system, food spends the least amount of time in the mouth. How long food stays here is determined by how fast and how much the person is eating. This could just be a few minutes.

The broken-down food goes to the esophagus through the throat. Thanks to its partly smooth and partly skeletal muscles, food makes its way to the stomach through the esophagus. At the tail end of the esophagus, there is a muscle that opens up for the food to make its way into the stomach.

This muscle closes once the food goes past the esophagus. Conditions that cause this muscle to open when food is in the stomach lead to acid reflux. This causes pain in the chest area and can be treated with antacids. You may want to read this article that discusses if women can take Tums antacid while pregnant.

Once food ends up in the stomach, it is time for stomach enzymes and acid to further break down the food. This is important so that problems with bowel movement do not happen as the food moves to other parts of the digestive tract.

The food makes its way to the small intestine and it is still not done being broken down. Enzymes from the liver’s bile and pancreas help out with this process. It is also in the small intestine that the absorption of nutrients happens. The absorbed nutrients make their way to the bloodstream. The absorption of nutrients in the small intestine is also aided by water which is digested in the walls of the small intestine.

Compared to other parts of the digestive tract, food spends the most amount of time in the colon (large intestine). It is also here that excretion is instigated. The large intestine fills up with stool before emptying it into the rectum (usually in a solid rather than liquid state).

The rectum is the chamber that houses the stool prior to when it is let out of the body through the anus. If problems do not affect its operations, the rectum sends signals to the brain when it is time to pass out excreta.

Diet Tips for Improving Digestion

Digestion is essential for gut health and other reasons. To ensure that food digestion is improved, here are some diet rules you should take seriously:

  • Your diet should be high in vegetables and fruits – They contain nutrients like fiber which support gut health. This is by preventing and managing constipation and other mild to severe disease that affects gut health
  • Avoid Dehydration – This simply means that you need to drink enough water as water aids digestion
  • Consume foods and products that have probiotics – Probiotics are good bacteria that will help improve your gut health and overall health
  • Eat whole grain foods – This is also because they have a high amount of fiber in them. Examples include oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice
  • Be mindful of sugar – This is because of the adverse effects on beneficial gut bacteria

We have other posts on our website’s nutrition segment that you will find helpful. For example, you can read this article that discusses how it is possible to slow down metabolism for weight gain.

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