How many tons of food will pass through your body in a lifetime?

The Transit Time it takes for food to pass through the digestive system.

Typically, we eat three times a day, plus snacks

How much do you think that generates?

It’s estimated to be 70 tons of food in a lifetime!  

That’s about the size of a whale or Tyrannisaurus Rex!

Completely digesting the average meal, from the time the food enters the body until the waste leaves, takes an average of three days. This means that every minute of every day, we are digesting foods. Not a second passes that our digestive system is not working at breaking down foods, delivering nutrients and expelling waste.

  • It takes between 12 to 24 hours to digest one meal.
  • A healthy digestive system eliminates within 24 hours.
  • Eating a standard Canadian/American diet, will take much longer and can cause digestive and elimination complications
  • On average, we eat way too much food a day! Think about our ancestors!
  • Proper digestion happens in a relaxation state
  • Chewing food well each bite to a liquid form, makes all the difference!

The types of foods we eat and the transit time from when it is digested effects our ability to detoxify and eliminate food daily!

What goes in must come out!

Considering, that you eat three full meals a day plus snacks, that’s a lot of food going through your system! Let’s say you’ve eaten a dinner of salad, a piece of salmon some rice and a piece of fruit pie for dessert with coffee to wash it down. You might even have a glass of wine or two during the meal and some good sour dough bread.

The standard American diet can take much longer to digest and eliminate:

  • Carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits digest the quickest because they have the highest water content, and your body recognizes those foods.
  • Other carbohydrate foods such as sugar, pasta and baked goods are simple carbohydrates, (including perseravtives and additives) they are digested quickly as well but the stomach works harder because it’s not familiar with processed foods.
  •  Whole grains are complex carbs and they are absorbed slower.
  • Proteins digest much slower than carbs
  • Fats are the slowest keeping you satiated the longest.
  • When you eat a full meal, a healthy digestive system will eliminate within 24 hours.

A higher carbohydrate diet, will take much longer and can cause digestive and elimination complications because each type of food has a different transit time to digest.

Chronic stress leaves food lingering in the stomach longer than those two to four hours. Acute stress usually shortens the time. That’s why when you’re nervous, food seems to pass right through you. This is because in times of acute stress, we produce more stomach acid (fight or flight), but during chronic stress, we produce less affecting transit time.

The graphic above explains the transit time of food passing through your gut. Notice how long it takes for the colon, the large intestine to process digestion? It is the last stage of the digestive process. It removes waste and restores bile to the gallbladder. At this point, most of the nutrient absorption has happened, but water, fat soluble vitamins and minerals are absorbed in the colon as well.

Some tips:

  • Keeping yourself hydrated is key for elimination
  • Maintaining good gut flora is key to breaking down waste and its removal.
  • The balance of good and bad bacteria protects you against harmful bacteria
  • Stool is first liquid but them turns to solid mass to leave the body.  It is made up of food debris and bacteria
  • Pooping three times a day is normal!
  • It takes about 36 hours for stool to get through the colon, and when the colon becomes full, it empties its contents into the rectum, which begins the elimination process.

That’s an overall picture of the food transit process.

The digestive system consumes four times more energy per day than all other systems combined and the biggest stress factor put on your system each and every day.

Lastly, eating mindfully, being conscious when you eat slowly and chewing your food well to a liquid form improves the process of digestion.

From another presepctive… think about the waste of food on our planet. A fast-casual restaurant creates 25 to 35 tons of food waste in a year, while a full-service restaurant generates 55 to 70 tons of food waste. Mind-blowing!

Start your mindfulness practice with the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program beginning Thursday May 19th

A few spots are left.  We meet Thursday’s on zoom from May 19th to July 7th, 4 to 6 pm.

Find out more about the curriculum here

If you have any questions, contact Rani at 415 452-4836 or

My Best In health,


Rani Glick is Mindful Nutritionist Specialist bringing awareness about body and brain health for those living with stress or chronic illness The mindfulness based stress reduction eight-week program is also available for the workplace. To book a consultation or find out more about Rani.