Gastric emptying: how quickly does the stomach empty?

Gastric emptying how quickly does the stomach empty

Gastric emptying helps move food out of the stomach and regulates its arrival in the small intestine. A more or less long process depending on the type of food consumed, the position, the caloric content and the action of digestive hormones.

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When we eat, food is first stored in the proximal stomach, which expands with swallowing and distension. When the limit of this distension is reached, it contracts to ensure the gradual migration of food bowl towards the distal stomach (lower part of the stomach) then towards the pylorus (at the mouth of duodenum). As it progresses, the food is crushed into smaller and smaller fragments.

Gastric emptying speed

Complete emptying of the stomach takes an average of two to three hours. The caloric content of the meal is the essential element that regulates the debit food evacuation. The higher the food density, the more slowly the stomach empties (hence the impression of “heaviness” after a meal rich in fat and sugars). On average, it takes a discharge rate of about 150 kcal / hour, but every nutrients are not evacuated at the same speed. The evacuation of lipids, for example, depends on the position: when you are lying down, they evacuate with the phase liquid, but when sitting they leave the stomach last. The dietary fiber, undigested, leave the stomach only after digestion finished.

Other factors affecting the speed of digestion

  • The composition of the food bolus: a fruit juice will be evacuated from the stomach in 15 to 20 minutes, compared to 30 to 40 minutes for cooked vegetables, 60 minutes for starchy foods and three to five hours for protein animal.
  • Physiological conditions: a state ofhypoglycemia for example will speed up gastric emptying, while high blood sugar slows it down.
  • The activity physical : sedentary lifestyle slows down digestion.
  • Hormones: cholecystokinin slows down digestion and stimulates secretion ofenzymes and bile. Motilin triggers contractions ensuring the evacuation of non-digestible residues. The serotonin may stimulate or slow gastric emptying depending on the receptors involved.

Gastric emptying is only the beginning of the digestion process: the food will then progress in the duodenum then the intestine, in order to be cut up and assimilated or eliminated. In total, the digestion process lasts between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

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