What is a normal transit time?

Health and nutrition

Transit time is the time it takes for your food to move through your digestive system, from start to finish. When you have diarrhea it’s very fast and with constipation it takes a loooong time. Neither are good, as we know. But what is a normal transit time? And what affects the speed?

It starts with the stomach

Let’s say you eat your lunch. Normally half of the contents of what you ate will have left your stomach after 2.5-3 hours. Then it takes 4-5 hours for your stomach to become completely empty.

Your stomach is like a strong blender. Stomach acid is added plus an enzyme called pepsin. Those mainly take care of breaking down any proteins you eat. Do you often feel full for a long time after you ate a meal that was high in protein? Do you feel like you don’t digest meat very well? Then your stomach might not produce enough stomach acid or pepsin…

Next: small intestine

The main thing that happens in the small intestine is that your liver and pancreas release bile and more enzymes. Those break down your food even further, so that it can be absorbed. Absorption happens through the wall of the small intestine. This wall looks like shags on a rug. And every tiny shag absorbs a differen nutrient! I find that fascinating. So after leaving the stomach it takes again between 2.5 – 3 hours for 50% of the food to leave the small intestine. And around 5 hours for all of your lunch to move through.

The large intestine… and the toilet bowl 🙂

After it left the small intestine food takes quite a long time to move through the large intestine: another 16-40 hours! The main work of the large intestine is to remove and reabsorb water. But there’s also some absorption happening: of some really important minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron.

This is also the place where the trillions of micro-organisms of your microbiome digest whatever you couldn’t absorb in your small intestine.

What affects your transit time?

So in total it can take anywhere from 10 hours to 50 hours – and even several days when you’re constipated – for your food to end up in the toilet bowl. Some things that affect the speed are:

  • How much fat was in your meal. Fat stays much longer in the stomach – that’s why you can still feel very full after a rich meal.
  • How well you chew – it will take the stomach longer to process your food
  • Stress! Short term stress can speed up the process – remember when you got the runners before an exam? – but chronic stress slows everything down
  • When you eat your meal. During your sleep the whole process is halted. So your breakfast probably moves through much faster than the snack you had just before you went to bed
  • How much movement you get. When you walk, move around or exercise your intestines get a gentle massage and that can really help with constipation
  • How much water you drink: when you are dehydrated your body will want to absorb any water from the stool that is in your large intestine. That’s not great: it can make you more constipated, but it can also reabsorb some of the toxins your body is trying to get rid of. Yikes!

Red flags…

Are you struggling with either diarrhea or constipation? Those are red flags that your gut needs some attention. I can help you with that in different ways. Just book a free 30 minute call with me so I can hear a bit more and share what working together can look like. You can book yourself in or send me a message here


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