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Food transit time is a simple and often overlooked measure that reflects very well on a person’s gastrointestinal health. Studies show that most people have unhealthy long food transition time. Transition time can be adjusted by simple lifestyle changes.

How long does your food take to be digested? The total time it takes for food to pass through your stomach, small intestine and large intestine and then finally being eliminated from your rectum, is referred to as food transit time. You don’t need to  have a PhD in Medicine to know that  something is not exactly right in your body when food goes through the system too fast (diarrhea) or stays there too long (constipation). But what else can be said about a person’s health on the basis of their food transit time?

Research says that the ideal food transit time should be around 12-18 hours. Though it may vary from person to person, this is the range which is usually seen in healthy people.[1]
 

Measuring Your Transit Time

One can measure their food transit time by eating something that is easily visible in the stools. There are various methods by which it can be calculated, even at home.

  1. Try eating whole corn seed or sunflower seeds with a meal. Corn is usually not completely digested in the intestines and because of its bright color it can be easily seen in the stool. Notice the time of your meal and the time when you are able to view them in your stool.
  2. Eat beetroot with your meal. Try not to chew it completely before swallowing. You can easily see the red pigment of beets in your stool as a marker.
A short transit time, less than 10 hours, occurs when the gastrointestinal system does not have adequate time to digest and absorb whatever is eaten.

It could be due to an inflammation caused by an intestinal infection, any food allergy, extreme stress, anxiety, hyperthyroidism, and other causes. A person with a short transit time may suffer from malnutrition because of the malabsorption of nutrients, despite consuming large amounts of food.[2]

A long food transit time of more than 28 hours is commonly caused by eating too many refined and processed foods. It may also be caused by dehydration, a lack of fiber in foods, insufficient salt intake, low thyroid, and insufficient digestive enzymes.
 
If your food transit time moves between constipation and diarrhea, it may be because of an inflammation in the intestine either caused by a food allergy or due to the absence of healthy intestinal flora.

What Food Transit Time Says About Your Health

The ideal bowel transit time is between 12 and 18 hours or up to 24 hours. This also means that you should clear your bowel daily, but a daily bowel movement doesn't necessarily tell you about the health of your colon. Even if one is having a daily bowel movement, they may still be suffering from a slow transit time or constipation. Without a bowel transit test, you may not know whether you are eliminating something that you ate two or three days before.[3]

The longer a meal stays inside the colon, the more time the toxins and decayed waste have for inflicting damage to your body. A bowel transit time of more than two days increases the risk of all types of cancer (not only colon cancer) and bacterial infection, thus weakening the overall immune system.

A long transit time means toxins and wastes are re-circulating back to the blood stream, thus resulting in fatigue, headaches, acne, allergies, muscle pain, joint pains, gas, bloating and other unpleasant consequences.[2]

Similarly, a short transit time shows that the food is passing through the digestive tract very quickly without absorbing many nutrients. A short transit time with loose stools may lead to nutritional deficiencies along with electrolyte imbalances, anemia, osteoporosis, muscle cramps etc.

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