How Long It Takes To Digest Food: The Science Behind Digestion

Ever get a bloated feeling in your stomach after eating? Most of the time, this is normal. With every meal, your digestive system is hard at work breaking down your food. Digestion is a complicated process. It takes a lot of work to break down food, extract nutrients, and then get rid of the leftovers.

Knowing the science behind digestion can help you understand why you feel bloated after eating, or why you can’t eat certain foods, like dairy. It also helps you understand why eating certain foods at certain times can make you feel a lot better.

What is Digestion?

What Is Digestion?

First of all, what exactly is digestion? Digestion is the combination of the eating process and the expending of energy. When you eat food, you’re literally giving your body food. The word digest is actually derived from the Greek root dyr, which means “to eat.” When you eat food, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re eating.

You want to eat the right amount of food in order to break down the food and release the nutrients into your body. Once you eat, you need to let your stomach take the food in. This part of digestion is called the “first pass.” In other words, you are passing the food through your stomach. After the stomach is done with the first pass, it passes it through your small intestine.

How Digestion Works

How Digestion Works

The human stomach, stomach cavity, and small intestine are all involved in indigestion. Your stomach and small intestine each contain stomach acid. This is the active digestive acid that breaks down the food. This process is called hydrolysis. Your stomach is divided into two compartments – the esophagus and the stomach.

The latter, the stomach, is where hydrolysis occurs. Hydrolysis is the first step in the digestion process. The food particles break down into smaller molecules called amino acids. These amino acids, and some fats, are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins are used for both the building and maintaining of tissues. Without these building blocks, your body wouldn’t be able to perform many of the functions it does.

Why Digestion Happens

We know that digestion happens because our bodies need a break. This breaks down our food so that it’s ready for our blood cells. The digestive process is what causes gas in the digestive system. Digestion has several stages: Acid Reflux: Acid helps with acidity and smells good. Gasses that are produced when foods are broken down are released. Smells good. Gasses that are produced when foods are broken down are released.

Sugar Acidosis: The next stage is sugar acidosis. When foods are broken down, large sugars like sucrose and lactose are released. Smells good. Gasses that are produced when foods are broken down are released. Fruit: As the breakdown process continues, undigested fibrous material and other food components are also broken down, along with some vitamins and minerals.

How Long It Takes To Digest Food

How Long It Takes To Digest Food

Before any of the digestive processes can take place, the food needs to get into your intestines. Here are some more details about how long it takes for food to get into the gut: “The average adult digestive process takes 2.5 hours,” says Christopher Miller, nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), when you eat, you have a mass of material called food in the stomach. It takes 20 minutes for this mass to move into the small intestine. “That mass is called the bolus. Once in the small intestine, the bolus is broken down into smaller pieces called peptides, which move into the bloodstream,” Miller says. “After peptides are digested, they travel through the colon where the fiber is broken down.

How Digestion Affects The Body

How Digestion Affects The Body

When we don’t digest our food properly, it can lead to serious problems. Digestion can cause cramping and bloating. It can also cause more serious health problems like hemorrhoids and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). There are a lot of different ways to keep your digestion in check. Below, you can learn about the most common problems associated with digestion.

Why People Burp After Meals One reason people get bloated after meals are due to gas. Most people will burp after eating at least once during a meal. But there are two main types of burping after a meal: silent burping and flatulence. Silent burping is caused by eating too fast. The digestive tract breaks down food at a relatively fast pace.

How can I make my stomach digest food faster?

How can I make my stomach digest food faster?

Digestion usually starts as soon as the food enters your stomach. The stomach lining takes on the job of breaking down the food, then secretes enzymes into the gastric juice (which, in your stomach, is called “gastric juice”). These enzymes break down your food into individual nutrients and then release them into your bloodstream.

You can speed up digestion by eating small meals throughout the day. This helps your stomach cells get the nutrients from the food they need to work faster, meaning less of it is stuck in the stomach lining.

If you can eat less, or even better, avoid eating, you can speed up digestion even more.

Try incorporating a lot of digestive enzymes into your diet, by eating fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, eating eggs, oatmeal, and yogurt, and drinking.

How Long Does It Take For Your Stomach to Empty?

Food is broken down into tiny molecules called monosaccharides (which are your carbohydrates) and disaccharides (like sugars and starches). These molecules take just a tiny bit of time to leave your stomach, but the rest of the time they are stuck in our digestive system. 

How Long Does It Take For Your Stomach to Empty?

Unfortunately, we have no control over when these molecules leave our bodies. As you may have heard before, the last thing that happens to food when we eat it is that it goes straight down into our drains. We have to manage our food waste somehow, and that involves the action of our digestive system. 

Food that is undigested goes directly into our intestines, and we then have to push it through our colon, which is where the bulk of our waste gets sorted out. This is where all the toxins and bad stuff get thrown out, along with household waste and everything else that isn’t toilet paper. 

The main work of our digestive system is to take the food we ate and turn it into basic molecules that are then distributed throughout your body like any other part of your body. What looks like a long chain of chemical reactions is actually very simple. 

Every time we consume food, our digestive enzymes work on all the food we just ate until they are perfectly combined to form one original, perfect molecule. These molecules get passed through the walls of our digestive system and into our bloodstream.

Tips to Speed Up Digestion

There are many things that can affect the speed of digestion. For example, your diet, the amount of food you eat, and your activity level can all affect how quickly your body digests food. To address digestion speed, you should look at the foods you eat, the amount of food you eat, and the amount of physical activity you get.


  •  The amount of water you will consume when you drink a glass or two of water, for instance, is estimated to be 50 percent of its remaining in your stomach after 12 minutes, 
  • It is estimated that 30 to 50 million Americans lack this enzyme due to genetic defects.
  • About 20 percent of Americans suffer from chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • About 3 to 20% of Americans have some form of IBS, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Consuming all of your calories within a 12-hour period, a practice called “time-restricted feeding” could also be key to optimum digestive health
  • According to some research, normal stomachs should stay 90 percent empty for 4 hours . 
  • Nearly 90 percent of colorectal cancers can be cured if detected early.
  • It is recommended that you consume juices with at least 50% of vegetables to prevent an excess sugar content in the juice.
  • Try to avoid pure fruit juice and have at least 50% vegetables in your fresh juice to prevent it from having too much sugar in it.
  • While the stomach of a dog can empty completely within 1.5 hours, other research suggests it may take between 4 and 10 hours or closer to the 6 to 8 hours commonly described as the dog's digestion time.

How long does it take to digest Food | How long does it take for Your Food to digest

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Does it take 24 hours to digest food?

The answer depends on how quickly you're eating. It takes only about an hour to digest fatty foods, but if you eat slowly, it can take as long as six hours to digest a meal. The time it takes to digest food also depends on your age. It takes the body longer to digest food as you get older.

2. How long does it take for food to be digested and pooped out?

If you've ever been curious as to how long it takes for your body to digest food and poop it back out, chances are you're not alone.  Digesting food is one of the body's most basic functions, but how does it all work?  First, the mouth begins to break down food, and it continues to be broken down by the stomach and intestines. Digestion is the process of breaking down food into smaller components during which the food is changed into a form that the body can use, like simple sugars, amino acids, and fatty acids.  Here is how long it takes for food to be digested and pooped out.

3. Why is my stomach digesting quickly?

Digestion is the process by which your body converts food into energy and nutrients. It's divided into two phases: First, enzymes in your saliva and stomach break down starches into simple sugars. Next, enzymes in your small intestine and pancreas convert these sugars into glucose (blood sugar).  The time it takes for food to travel through your body is referred to as the "transit time" of your gut. The average transit time is 24 hours. However, some people digest food so quickly that they have a transit time of only 8 hours. On the other hand, some people have a transit time of 72 hours or more. Digestion is considered "fast" if it's less than 24 hours

4. What food digests fastest?

Generally, the more solid and fibrous a food is, the longer it takes to digest. Foods that are high in fiber, such as vegetables and legumes, digest more slowly in the stomach than foods that are low in fiber or that are high in fat and protein. In general, the more processed a food is, the faster it will digest.

5. What are the three worst foods for digestion?

The three worst foods for digestion are fried foods, dairy products, and processed foods. Fried foods are terrible for digestion because they contain oils that solidify at room temperature and coat the walls of our intestines. This coats the intestines with a plaque and reduces the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients from our food. The body then absorbs the oil and excretes it. What is left is toxins in your body and that's not good. The second worst food for digestion is dairy. Dairy products interfere with digestion by causing symptoms of indigestion. It also causes gas and bloating. The third worst food for digestion is foods that are processed. Processed foods are high in salt, sugar, preservatives, and additives

5. What causes slow digestion?

Digestion is the process by which your stomach and intestines break down the carbohydrates, fat, and protein in food. If the process is too slow, the food in your stomach is re-absorbed into your bloodstream, leading to an overgrowth of unhealthy microbes. This is what causes slow digestion.

7. What causes poor digestion?

Digestion is a process by which food is broken down and nutrients are extracted and absorbed into the body. The process is complicated and involves numerous systems working in concert with one another. In a healthy body, the process goes smoothly, but when something is out of balance, digestion suffers. Poor digestion can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn.

8. How Long Does It Take To Absorb Nutrients From Food?

4-5 hours is the average time it takes for our bodies to absorb nutrients from the food we eat. While that seems like a long time, it is actually an incredibly efficient, complex process. Some nutrients (carbohydrates, for example) are broken down into sugar and absorbed almost immediately. Protein is broken down into amino acids (building blocks of protein) that enter the bloodstream quickly.

9. How Long Does It Take Cats to Digest Food?

Cats have a unique physiology that makes them very different from other house pets.  They have a very high metabolism that keeps them in a constant state of “starvation”.  They are always looking for food as a result of this.  The digestive process of a cat is also very different than other animals.  Their bodies are able to digest large amounts of food in a short amount of time.  This is why you will often see a cat eat its food very quickly and then go to sleep.  Cats digest their food in much the same way that they hunt.

10. What's Causing My Stomach Pain at Night?

Digestive problems like stomach pain at night are frustrating, especially when you don't know what's causing them.

The majority of stomach pain you experience comes from the food you eat and the beverages you drink. One of the primary causes of stomach pain at night is drinking carbonated beverages, such as soda, beer, or sparkling water. The carbonation in these drinks creates air bubbles in your stomach, which can expand the stomach, causing pain and gas. Carbonated beverages can also irritate the esophagus and stomach lining, causing pain.

11. How long does the entire digestive process usually take?

The average time for the entire digestive process to take place, including digestion, absorption, and excretion, is between 30 and 45 hours. However, this is the average time that the entire process takes. For some people, the process can be much faster than this, and for others, it can take much longer.

Wrap Up!

Gut health is a huge component of overall health. Understanding how your gut health impacts your body and the foods you eat can go a long way towards keeping your body healthy. If you’d like to learn more about the inner workings of the gut, try these health-boosting gut-friendly foods. Click Here to see more.