Now, I am not talking about public transit ☺ I’m am however talking about something that most people never openly talk about because… well, our culture does not encourage it. We find it offensive or embarrassing. The definition of transit time, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “The time required for a particle to traverse the distance between two specified points.” Transit time, as it relates to health and nutrition, refers to the amount of time it takes food particles to traverse the distance between the mouth and the last sphincter of the large intestine. The definition can be made even simpler:
Transit time is the time it takes food to travel from consumption to evacuation.
Maybe, you have heard the phrase “Death and life begin in the colon”. Then again, maybe you haven’t. I’m here to tell you that, that simple statement could not be more correct! The health of your digestive tract from beginning to end has more of an impact on your overall wellbeing than most would like to admit. You could experience mood swings, heartburn, acne, headaches, arthritis, (and the list goes on) and a poorly functioning digestive tract could be to blame. Deceivingly though, no matter how simple I make the definition, transit time is a very complex and intricate process. Over the next couple of posts I plan to share with you a more in depth look at the digestive process along with some strategies to help you identify/remedy health challenges caused by a less than perfect digestive tract. My suggestions, however, are not meant to cure or treat any disease and you should always consult your healthcare practitioner. There are many variables that affect transit time. For example: how thoroughly food is chewed, stress levels, activity levels, diet, how much hydrochloric acid is produced in your stomach, how heavy or complex a meal is, vitamin deficiencies, poor organ function, and adequate water consumption are all pieces to the transit time puzzle.
To start things off you need to determine your personal transit time. The transit time test is an easy way to discover the amount of time it takes food to reach the evacuation stage after consumption. The first step is to decide on a marker. A marker is going to be a food that will appear in the stool with either a prominent color or will be an undigested part of the stool. If you typically have a darker stool, consume a lighter marker. Corn kernels or sesame seeds would be ideal. Likewise, if you tend to have a lighter colored stool consume a marker of a darker nature. Beets are a great option. To perform the transit time test you will need to decide on a time of day to ingest the chosen marker and then wait for the marker to present itself in the stool. After the initial test you will need to make note of the transit time and then experiment with moving the marker either forward or backwards by a few hours. Let’s imagine that you normally have a daily bowel movement around 10am and therefore, decide to ingest your marker at 11am. The next morning you have your daily 10am bowel movement and notice your marker. This would mean you had a transit time of 23 hours. Now, in order to test if you actually have a 23 hour transit time you should push the time you ingest your marker back by a few hours. We will pretend you decided to ingest your marker at 1pm and your marker still shows up at the next day at 10am. That would mean that you actually had a transit time of 21 hours. Doing the transit time test a total of three times will allow you to come up with an average transit time. Please, realize that faster is not always better. If you have a transit time that is too fast your body might not be absorbing enough nutrients from the food you consume. Likewise, a prolonged transit time means your body will be reabsorbing the toxins it is trying to expel.
The transit time procedure in detail:
Select a marker. A marker is an edible substance that when ingested, will move through the digestive tract and be visible in the stool upon evacuation.
- If the stools are typically light colored, choose a dark marker, such as 2‐3 beets, 1 gram of charcoal tablets or 2 tablespoons of liquid chlorophyll.
- If stools are typically dark, choose a light colored marker such as a tablespoon or two corn kernels or sesame seeds. (of course never consume a food that you have a known allergy to and always consult your healthcare practitioner if you are currently taking medication)
Ingest the marker after the first bowel movement of the day.
Record the time the marker was ingested.
- Keep a diet, activity and stress record. These are factors that can significantly influence bowel transit time.
- Observe the next bowel movements and record the time the marker is first noticed. If the marker appears again in a subsequent bowel movement, record that time as well.
Normal transit time is in the range of 12-72 hours. However, the optimal range is between 16-40 hours. This time is going to be greatly affected by the types of foods eaten. If you consumed primarily fruits, vegetables, and water the transit time will be much less than if you had consumed processed foods, and high fat meats. You will need to record these seven details for each one of the three transit tests. The details will help you identify patterns in your transit time.
- Choice of marker used
- Date and time ingested
- Date and time marker first appeared in the stool
- Transit time (How many hours passed between #2 and #3)
- Diet details
- Exercise details
All in all, I really hope y’all will attempt the transit time test. Even if for no other reason than out of curiosity. In the weeks to come I will lend suggestions on how to improve transit time and urge you to keep your transit time results handy. It will be really interesting for you to compare your first round of transit time testing with a second round after you have implemented a few changes. Until next time, I pray the Lord will continue to bless you as you seek to heal and restore His beautiful Temple.
(Transit time test taken from Hawthorn University NC3 course)