When you’ve eaten too much, it seems to take an eternity for your stomach to empty. How long does food stay in your stomach – and can you speed things up?
Have you ever eaten too much and felt bloated and miserable afterwards? You probably wished there were something you could do to move the food out of your stomach a little faster so you could get some relief. How long does food stay in the stomach – and is it possible to speed things up?
How Long Does Food Stay in the Stomach?
When you eat a meal consisting of mostly solid food, it takes, on average, four and five hours for all of the food to move out of the stomach into the small intestines. Liquids move faster than solids, and they usually empty out of stomach twice as fast as solid foods.
The composition of what you eat also affects how long food stays in your stomach. A high-carb meal, especially carbs that don’t contain a lot of fiber, move out of the stomach the fastest followed by proteins – and then fats. High-fiber foods move the slowest, so it’s not surprising that fiber-rich foods keep you full longer.
Can You Reduce How Long Food Stays in Your Stomach?
Wouldn’t it be nice to speed up how fast food moves out of your stomach when you’re too full and bloated? Some unfortunate people, particularly diabetics, suffer from a condition called gastroparesis where the muscular contractions that push food out of the stomach into the small intestines are weak. This delay in stomach emptying causes unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal distension and problems eating large amounts of food.
The focus of treating gastroparesis centers around moving food out of the stomach faster, but most treatments haven’t been very rewarding with the exception of a few prescription medications that have serious side-effects.
There are some natural ways to reduce how long food stays in your stomach. One is to eat fewer fats and high-fiber foods if you have a tendency towards bloating. It also helps to take a brisk walk after eating a large meal rather than taking a nap in an easy chair.
For people who suffer from gastroparesis and don’t want to take prescription medications, two alternative remedies may have some benefit. Supplementing with ginger and acupuncture both show some promise according to small studies. Unfortunately, research in this area has been limited.
How Long Does Food Stay in Your Stomach: The Bottom Line?
The average meal is cleared in four to five hours, but it varies depending upon how much of your meal was liquid and the ratio of carbohydrates to fats and proteins. To empty your stomach quickly, limit higher-fiber food and fats, and drink more liquids.
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.
Colorado State Education Site. “Gastrointestinal Transit: How Long Does It Take?”