Ask the Diva: How Long Does it Take to Digest Food?

Nutrition Diva discusses digestive transit time and why high fiber foods can cause gas within 3-4 hours of eating.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
February 10, 2013

Ask the Diva: How Long Does it Take to Digest Food?

Q. I get gas 3-4 hours after eating high fiber foods. How can fiber make it through my system in such a short time? I’ve read that it takes 45-60 hours for food to move through the digestive system.

A.  I don’t know what your sources are but 45-60 hours is a rather long transit time. (Transit time is the time it takes food to travel from end to end.) Although it varies from person to person—and day to day—36 to 48 hours would be more typical. (Want to know what your transit time is? Eat some beets and pay attention!) But regardless of whether it takes food 30 hours or 60 hours to move through your system, it will spend the vast majority of that time in the large intestine, where it arrives within 3-4 hours of eating. The large intestine is also where the gas is produced—so the timing you describe sounds about right. Mystery solved! And to solve the problem, see these related episodes:

How to Reduce Gas
How Chewing Affects Nutrition

High fiber grains photo from Shutterstock.