How long does it take to digest food?

Many people wonder how long it takes for the process of food digestion in the body. This would vary based on various factors such as type of food consumed by the person. The entire procedure has various sub processes which can be understood better when segregated sequentially.

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The process of eating and digestion actually starts with eye. First the eyes see the food. This stimulates the brain causing it to make the stomach ready for accepting food. This is done by increasing the gastric acid secretion. We then consume food. Carbohydrate breakdown occurs in the mouth itself as the saliva contains the ‘amylase digestive enzyme’ which helps in carbohydrate breakdown. When we chew the food it breaks food further into smaller granules that provide for more surface area in the intestine. Increased area in small intestine helps in absorbing nutrients better from the food through enzymes. This is what makes chewing food important. After chewing the food the food enters the stomach.

 

The stomach then does the further processing of biologically breaking down the food. Pepsinogen is a chemical present in stomach which causes break-down of protein in peptide chains. The fats from the food are processed by another chemical called ‘gastric lipase’. It is said that any term with ‘ase’ in the end usually denotes enzyme associated with digestion. When the food passes through the stomach it turns into chyme. Chyme is an acidic blend of stomach’s hydrochloric acid, lipase, amylase and pepsinogen. Pyloric sphincter regulates the entrance of the food from stomach to small intestine. Pyloric sphincter can be considered as a controlled gateway that avoids excessive amount of chyme from entering in the small intestine.

 

The first portion of the intestine that food goes through is said to be duodenum. The job of duodenum is to ensure that acidic chyme is neutralized before it is processed through remaining regions of the small intestine. Neutralization is done through pancreatic juice and bicarbonate. After undergoing neutralization process, the food then goes into jejunum which is a part of the small intestine which takes care of major nutrient absorption functioning. Carbohydrate, fats and peptides are then further broken into minute pieces. These minute units are tiny enough to be transferred to the targeted organs through bloodstream. Glucose is said to be the primary fuel which is required by the body in order to function properly. Thus considerable amount of food is broken down and then recombined forming glucose.

food digestion

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The entire aforementioned phenomenon takes around 30 minutes to 2 hours in the stomach and around 2 hours to 6 hours in the small intestine. During this process, approximately 90% of the nutrients have been extracted and absorbed. The material that is left-over contains excessive amount of water as well as sodium in it. In the large intestine it takes around 72 hours for the food to process. It is here in the small intestine that water as well as sodium is reclaimed from the food. There are also healthy bacteria present in the large intestine which are used to ferment fiber which are not been digested yet. The fermentation supplies nutrients to ensure healthful status of cells in the large intestine. Fibers that are not digested add bulk to the waste matter to help with excretion.

People may assume that digestion is a fast daily process but in fact digestion process takes around 75 hours to 80 hours for process food from the moment it enters into the mouth to the time it is excreted from the body in form of stools.

How to ensure healthy digestion

There are various ways in which one can ensure healthy digestion. First of all you should consume foods that are cooked and not raw. One should not eat cold food, it is always better to have heated food. This is because cold food can weaken the process of digestion. People who suffer from digestion issues should avoid consuming cold stuffs and raw items. For fruits you need no cooking but for certain vegetables, soup and other items one should always go for hot consumables.

 

Eat at moderate pace and chew well

One should eat at moderate pace and do not gobble food.  It is said that chewing a mouthful of bite for at least 30 times is the ideal chewing process that breaks food into small particles. This would allow enzymes in the saliva to begin digesting food. It is suggested that one should completely chew and swallow the first bite before taking another one. This will help you reduce the pace of food if you are habituated to gobbling- up.

 

Eat is a relaxed environment:

A comparative test helped in determining that food are better consumed and digested in quiet and peaceful environment. While you are eating, you should be focused on eating and avoid multitasking such as watching TV, reading books, arguing, etc.    

 

Simple eating:

Do not consume mix of various foods; it is like experimenting with your digestive system. Having two to three different types of items at a time is sufficient and does not take a toll on your stomach’s digestion.

 

Other methods

One should not eat fruits immediately after meal or with meal. In fact, a proper time to have fruits is between two meals. Raw fruits can weaken the digestive fire. Also one should drink lukewarm water or herbal teas. There are especially herbal teas that can promote digestion. These are some methods that can help in avoiding digestion issues.

 

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