Transit Time: Why it matters & How to Test it

Do you know your Transit Time?


Transit Time is the length of time it takes for food to pass from one end of your digestive tract to the other (aka the time it takes for food to pass through your bowel once you’ve eaten it).


In the world of natural medicine and gut health, we are always chatting about poop. But it’s not just about how often you go number two or what your bowel movements look and smell like; In fact, I’ve worked with many clients who are using the washroom once daily but I still consider constipated based on their transit times.


An ideal transit time is anywhere between 12 to 24 hours. Anything outside of this range can be an indicator that your Gut needs some work (& some love!).


Here's why:


A sluggish bowel (25+ hours) means that you are not efficiently eliminating toxins from the body, which can lead to them being re-absorbed in the bloodstream. This is called auto-intoxication and it puts strain on the remaining detox organs like the liver, kidneys and the skin. The body will also do what it can to get toxins out of the body one way or another, often pushing them out through the skin; This is where we see a link between skin health (acne, body odour, rashes) and sluggish elimination.

A sluggish transit time is most often an indication of impaired digestion (sluggish liver or pancreas), low stomach acid, dysbiosis, food sensitivities and chronic stress.


On the other side of the spectrum, a speedy bowel transit time (under 12 hours) may indicate inflammation in the colon. Inflammation causes food to pass too quickly, allowing less time for water to be absorbed in the bowel – This is why speedy transit times are most often accompanied by bowel movements that are looser in nature.


One of the major concerns with a speedy transit time is nutrient malabsorption - When food passes too quickly, it is not fully digested and absorbed. This is also why speedy transit times are often accompanied by undigested food.


So - How do you test your Transit Time?


The easiest way to test your transit time at home is by using the Beet Test:


  1. Eat at least 1 cup and make note of the time and date consumed.

  2. Wait and watch...

  3. Make note of the time and date you see red pigment (betalain) in your stool. This is your transit time!



Your transit time isn't within the 12 - 24 hour window... What to do?


Regardless of whether your transit time is sluggish or speedy, there are a few things to consider right off the bat:


  • Are you properly hydrated? Water draws water into the bowel and ensures things are moving swiftly. If things are moving too quickly, water is equally important as a faster transit time can result in dehydration.

  • How are your stress levels? Stress shuts down digestion, which can both speed and slow the bowels. It can also be a trigger for IBS. Implementing stress-reduction practices can be hugely supportive of bowel function. My favourites include evening baths, breathing exercises and daily meditation.

  • Are you eating enough Fiber? Fiber draws water into the bowel, bulks the stool and promotes regularity. Ideally, we be consuming 6 cups of fruits, veggies and other plant foods daily. Fiber also feeds the healthy bacteria in our microbiome, which support regular bowel movements.


If you answered YES to all of the above, I have a few additional tips.


For the Sluggish Bowel:

  • Increase your intake of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water and it helps the bowel stay regular. Think ground flax seed, green leafy veggies, kiwi fruit, apples, prunes and chia

  • Start using a Castor Oil Pack: Castor oil packs are incredible for promoting regularity. This is my favourite pack.

  • Consume fermented foods like Sauerkraut, kimchi and miso. Fermented foods contain live bacterial cultures (probiotics), which help to support regularity.

  • Consider introducing a probiotic supplement. Bifidobacterium strains are particularly beneficial for regularity.

  • Consume magnesium-rich foods or consider a Magnesium supplement. Magnesium Citrate is particular beneficial for constipation as it draws water into the bowel.

  • Practice daily movement. Lack of movement creates stagnation in the body. This can be as simple as going for a light walk or doing some stretching.


For the Speedy Bowel:


  • Focus on soluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, bulks the stool and slows the movement of food through the digestive tract. Think psyllium husk, black beans, banana, potatoes, lentils and oats or oat bran.

  • Consider a Probiotic supplement. The strains Saccharomyces Boulardii and Lactobacillus Rhamnosus can be particularly helpful for looser bowel movements, quicker transit times and diarrhea.

  • Cut back on your sugar intake. High-sugar foods draw too much water into the colon, which can loosen and stimulate bowel movements.

  • Introduce Electrolytes. Speedy bowels may result in dehydration, so upping the electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium) is key. Adding some high quality sea salt to your water will do the trick. You can also purchase electrolyte supplement powders or stock up on organic coconut water.