It’s like a commute time… but for your food.
Here’s something you probably don’t consider often. After you eat something, how long does it take your body to process it and move it on out? And what can it tell you about your health? It turns out, quite a lot, actually. Meet your transit time.
What’s transit time?
If it sounds a bit like a shipping term, that’s because it’s not far off… The transit time definition in nutrition is the amount of time it takes for ingested food to travel through the body and be eliminated. In layman’s terms: how long it takes for your food to become poop! Our digestive tracts are about thirty feet long and include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. It can take food about 24-72 hours to fully move through our bodies. That means something you ate three days ago may just be making its way out of your system today.
So, what is a short transit time versus a long one? Transit time can vary from person to person. In fact, even men and women have different bowel transit times. Why? Well, women actually have a longer distal colon than men. Who knew?! For that reason, the average transit time for a woman is 47 hours while men average at 33 hours. This discrepancy could explain why women tend to have a higher rate of IBS than men.
What can impact transit time?
There are many things that impact the rate at which food moves through your body. Some of the more common things that can impact transit time are stress, the foods you eat, and an imbalanced microbiome.
Stress can decrease transit time as it causes the body to produce fewer digestive enzymes. With fewer enzymes, food isn’t broken down as efficiently and can sit for a longer time in the digestive tract.
Eating foods that your body is sensitive or allergic to can also decrease or increase transit time. Typically, a food sensitivity or allergy will irritate the gut lining, which can cause digestive distress like constipation and diarrhea. If you experience such digestive issues for more than three days, you should go to a doctor to get it checked out.
Finally, an imbalanced microbiome can also impact transit time. In a healthy gut, bacteria primarily break down carbohydrates, but when these strains of bacteria are lower, they begin to break down proteins. This process can slow down the rate at which food moves through the digestive tract for a much longer transit time.
How to Time It
Here’s a little trick to check your transit time: Eat corn! And then… er… keep an eye out. It’s a little gross, but you should be able to spot corn in your stool. From there, you can then calculate how long it took to travel through your system. All things considered, it’s a pretty simple way you can check in with your digestive health at home to know what’s going on inside.
Again, two days is the average transit time for women. If you do find that your transit time is lagging, you might benefit from supplemental support. Check out HUM’s Flatter Me, a digestive enzyme that can help your body break down large food particles, or Gut Instinct, a probiotic that can support a healthy microbiome.
To ensure your gut is healthy and you have an optimal transit time, you can also aim for these important signs for healthy digestion:
- Pooping daily.
- Your poop is well-formed and doesn’t break apart upon flushing.
- Your poop sinks to the bottom of the toilet and doesn’t float.
- You don’t experience any painful bloating.
- Not having visible pieces of food in your poop (aside from corn for transit-time testing).
If you can check off all of the above, then you’re on your way to optimal digestive health!