How to Digest Food Faster

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Digestion breaks down food into smaller parts, allowing your body to take full advantage of the energy and nutrients it contains. Different foods break down in different ways, some faster than others. Although the rate of digestion is dependent mostly on your body’s natural mechanisms, there are some things you can do increase the speed and quality of your digestion. Keep reading to learn how to digest food faster.


EditChanging Your Lifestyle

  1. Exercise regularly. Increased physical activity helps keep food moving through the digestive system. This can increase the speed with which food is digested, and assist in the overall digestive process.
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    • Exercise can prevent constipation and increase the speed of digestion by decreasing the amount of time food stays in the large intestine, thereby limiting the amount of water absorbed from the stool back into the body.[1]
    • Movement also helps stimulate the natural contractions of the smooth muscle in the digestive tract, expediting the breakdown of food.[2]
    • However, it is best to wait an hour or so before exercising, in order to allow the body’s natural blood supply to concentrate in the digestive system, rather than fueling the heart and other active muscles.
  2. Get rest. Sleep gives the digestive organs the time needed to rest and repair, increasing their ability to digest food quickly and efficiently.[3] Making some changes to your sleep will have digestion benefits that are far-reaching.
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    • Don’t fall asleep immediately after eating, wait two to three hours to ensure your body has had adequate time to digest.
    • Try sleeping on your left side. Some studies have shown that sleeping on the left side increases digestive capability.[4]
  3. Drink fluids. Drinking fluids, especially water or tea, during or after a meal aids in digestion. Fluids help your body break down food, and water can help by hydrating you.[5]
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    • Being hydrated is key to maintaining the appropriate levels of saliva production and fluid in the stomach.
    • Water also softens stool, helping prevent constipation.
    • Additionally, water is crucial to your body’s effective use of dietary fiber, a crucial component of digestion.[6]

EditEating Foods that Promote Digestion

  1. Eat high-fiber foods. Fiber-rich foods aid digestion in a variety of ways. Eating these foods can speed digestion by reducing constipation and maintaining general bowel health.[7]
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    • Fiber works by absorbing water, adding weight and mass to your stool. For this to work, adequate (and sometimes increased) water consumption is also needed. Otherwise, constipation can occur.
    • By adding bulk to your stool, these fiber-rich foods regulate digestion. This can also help reduce gas, bloating, and diarrhea.[8]
    • Some high-fiber foods include: whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  2. Eat yogurt. Yogurt is a great natural source of probiotics, and other live cultures that are essential to digestion.[9] The digestion benefits of yogurt are thought to come from the way that yogurt:
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    • Encourages the growth of good bacteria, due to its naturally occurring live cultures.
    • Decreases the length of time it takes to recover from infections, as well as lessens the immune system response in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
    • Speeds the time that food takes to go through the bowel.[10]
  3. Eat ginger. Ginger has been used for thousands of years as a digestive aid, and its popularity has continued to the present day. Ginger is thought to stimulate the release of enzymes in the digestive tract that increase the efficiency and ease of digestion.[11]
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    • Ginger has been shown to increase muscle contractions in the stomach, helping to move food to the upper small intestine faster.[12]
  4. Choose low-fat foods and avoid fatty, fried foods. Foods high in fat and fried foods can cause acid reflux and heartburn because they overwhelm the stomach’s ability to properly break down its contents.[13]
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    • Your stomach finds these foods hard to digest, and slows the entire digestive process.[14]
    • Examples of high-fat and fried foods are: processed meats, french fries, ice cream, butter, and cheese.
  5. Choose mild foods and avoid extra spicy foods. Spicy foods can irritate the throat and esophagus, leading to acid reflux and heartburn.[15] Additionally, these foods can upset the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, slowing down digestion and causing diarrhea and other digestive ailments.[16]
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  6. Limit or avoid dairy. Yogurt, in general, helps people. However, if you have any symptoms of lactose intolerance, yogurt should be avoided along with all other dairy. Although the exact mechanism by which dairy causes indigestion and constipation is unknown, it can definitely hamper the digestion process.[17] Intolerance to lactose can cause bloating, gas, and indigestion, all of which can be the result of slowed or impaired digestion.
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  7. Limit or avoid red meat. Red meat can make you constipated, and prevent the regular bowel movements necessary for speedy digestion. There are a variety of reasons for the negative effect of red meat on digestion.
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    • Red meat is high in fat, so the body takes longer to process it.
    • Red meat is rich in iron, which can also lead to constipation.

EditChanging Your Eating Habits

  1. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Rather than overburdening your digestive system with a large meal, eat smaller meals throughout the day to help speed your digestion. Aim for 4-5 evenly spaced small meals throughout the day. Try to eat every three hours to prevent excessive hunger.[18][19]
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  2. Choose whole foods over processed foods. Foods that are highly processed are more difficult for your body to digest. Instead, choose whole foods that are not full of preservatives, additives, and other chemicals. Eat fruits, vegetables, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, beans, nuts, seeds, and other whole foods throughout the day to ease the digestive process and help make it more efficient.[20]
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  3. Chew your food well. Chewing starts the engine of the digestive train, but is often under-emphasized. Proper chewing multiplies the surface area of the food particles many times and allows your enzymes to access more of the food you have put into your body. Exposing huge surface areas of food to your saliva is a great start in achieving smooth, efficient digestion.[21]
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EditUsing Supplements

  1. Consider taking probiotic supplements. Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of microorganisms in the intestines.[22] There are some indications that consuming additional probiotics in supplement form can aid in digestion by bolstering the amount of beneficial bacteria found in the intestines. Probiotics are also in many different types of foods, so if you’d rather not take a supplement, you can get the benefits of probiotics by incorporating probiotic foods into your diet.
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    • Since the FDA does not regulate probiotic supplements as a drug, there are certain things that you should look for when choosing a probiotic supplement. Make sure that you can find the following information on the label:[23]
      • genus, species, and strain of the probiotic (such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG)
      • number of organisms that will be alive by the use-by date
      • dose
      • company name and contact information
    • The types of different probiotic strains within the supplement are vary important. Some people react to certain bacteria strains better than others. For this reason, a probiotic with several different strains should be chosen.
  2. Take digestive enzyme supplements. Over-the-counter digestive enzymes may aid in digestion by supplementing the body’s naturally occurring enzymes. Enzymes break down food into its component parts, allowing the body to absorb it more easily. If these enzymes are effective, they could aid in the efficiency and speed of the digestive process.
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    • Digestive enzymes are created by four glands in the human body, primarily the pancreas.[24]
    • Although some alternative healthcare specialists and producers of nutritional supplements argue for the benefits of enzyme supplements, many doctors say more human studies are necessary to determine their potential effects.[25]
    • Some commonly sold supplements are:
      • Lipase. Lipase aids in the digestion and absorption of fat.[26]
      • Papain. Papain is said to be useful in the digestion of proteins.[27]
      • Lactase. Lactase aids in the digestion of lactose, the protein found in dairy products. Individuals who have low natural levels of lactase are considered lactose-intolerant.[28]
  3. Take bitters. Bitters are tinctures (often alcoholic) derived from a variety of herbs, bark, and roots, that are thought to aid in digestion. Alcohol can act as a solvent for the botanical extract and helps to preserve it. Taking bitters before, with, or after a meal can aid in speeding digestion.[29] However, bitters are not proven to have a positive effect on digestion, and there has been very limited research done on their efficacy.
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  • Avoid sitting for a long period of time after heavy meals because it reduces metabolic processes.
  • Try peppermint oil supplements. Some studies have suggested that peppermint oil capsules may help improve digestion, but there is no conclusive evidence to support these claims.[30]


  • Don’t exercise intensely after eating, as this may lead to cramping and other unpleasant sensations.

EditSources and Citations

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