10% off €35 OR 15% off €45

Code:OFFER
 

10% off €35 OR 15% off €45

Code:OFFER

🏷️ 3 for 2 Mix & MatchOffersOffers Hub3 for 2 Mix & MatchOutletOnline Only OfferSave up to 1/2 priceBuy One Get One 1/2 Price1/2 PriceBetter than 1/2 priceShort DatedBuy 1 Get 1 FreeVitamins & SupplementsVitamins & Supplements HubVitamins & Supplements Shop AllCBDCollagen & SilicaHair, Skin & NailsShop all Hair, Skin & NailsHair GrowthFunctional MushroomsVitaminsShop all VitaminsMultivitaminsVitamin AVitamin BVitamin CVitamin DVitamin EVitamin KVitamin DrinksMineralsShop all MineralsMagnesiumIronZincCalciumSeleniumChromiumSupplementsShop all SupplementsFibre SupplementsAcidophilus & Friendly BacteriaPeppermint OilGrapeseed ExtractLecithinCollagen & SilicaOmega & Fish OilsPlant Sourced SupplementsSuperfood SupplementsArnicaApple CiderRaspberry KetonesAloe VeraChondroitin & MSMCo Enzyme Q10Evening Primrose OilGarlicGlucosamineGlucomannanSeaweed, Kelps and AquaceuticalsDigestive EnzymesSaw palmettoCharcoalWomen's HealthShop all Women's HealthMenopauseMenstrual SupportUrinary Tract HealthPregnancy & ConceptionMen's HealthShop all Men's HealthProstate HealthChildren's HealthConditionShop all ConditionCholesterolAllergy & Hay Fever CareAnxiety SupportBone & Muscle HealthMuscle Support & Joint PainBrain & Memory SupportWomen's HealthMen's HealthChildren's HealthCold & Immune SupportFatigueDigestive HealthHair, Skin & NailsHeart & CirculationLiver CareMood SupportSexual HealthSleep & RelaxationStress ReliefVisionHerbal & Licensed RemediesShop all Herbal & Licensed RemediesValerianRescue RemedyAshwagandhaEchinaceaMilk ThistleGinseng & GuaranaHomeopathic & Flower RemediesShop all Homeopathic & Flower RemediesRescue RemedyTissue SaltsFlower RemediesVegan Vitamins & Supplements3 for 2 Mix & MatchOnline Only OfferOutletHolland & BarrettVitabioticsSolgarNew NordicBetterYouNatures AidBioglanGrass & Co.PE NutritionNature's WayDairy FreeGluten FreeSesame Seed FreeCelery FreeCereal FreeCrustaceans FreeEgg FreeFish FreeKiwi FreeLupin FreeNew inFood & DrinkFood & Drink HubFood & Drink Shop AllVegan FoodHoney, Jams & SpreadsShop all Honey, Jams & SpreadsManuka HoneyHoneyJams & ChutneysNut ButtersSpreadsPateTeas & Hot BeveragesShop all Teas & Hot BeveragesTeaCoffee & Coffee SubstituteMushroom DrinksDried Fruit, Nuts & SeedsShop all Dried Fruit, Nuts & SeedsNutsDried FruitSeedsMixesSuperfoodsShop all SuperfoodsSpirulinaSuperfood PowdersGoji BerriesBaobabMoringa PowderChia SeedsSnacksShop all SnacksProtein BarsLow Calorie SnacksChocolate, Cakes & BiscuitsSavoury SnacksSweet SnacksSnack BarsCrisps & ChipsFlapjacksPopcornFood CupboardShop all Food CupboardCondiments & SaucesApple Cider VinegarSuperfoodsBreakfast CerealsHoney, Jams & SpreadsTinned FoodsRice, Pasta, Pulses & GrainsBreakfast CerealsShop all Breakfast CerealsCereals, Bran & FlakesGranolaMuesliOats & PorridgeBreakfast BarsDrinksShop all DrinksKombuchaNatural Energy DrinksJuicesSoft DrinksWaterAlcohol Free DrinksCookingShop all CookingCooking IngredientsApple Cider VinegarCondiments & SaucesSoya & Meat AlternativeSoup & Ready MealsRice, Pasta, Pulses & GrainsHerbs, Spices & SeasoningGravy & StockHome BakingShop all Home BakingBaking MixesBreadFlourSweeteners & Sugar AlternativesEgg SubstitutesDairy AlternativesShop all Dairy AlternativesOat, Rice & Hemp DrinksSoya DrinksNut DrinksCoconut DrinksNutritionally Complete Food3 for 2 Mix & MatchBuy One Get One 1/2 PriceOutletHolland & BarrettNaturyaPukkaHeath & HeatherGrenadeMeridianTwiningsOptimum NutritionNakdLinwoodsGluten FreeDairy FreeEgg FreeWheat FreeMilk FreeSulphites FreeCelery FreeKiwi FreeMustard FreeFish FreeNew inSports NutritionSports Nutrition HubSports Nutrition Shop AllProteinShop all ProteinClear ProteinProtein VeganMeal ReplacementsWhey ProteinMass GainersDiet ProteinCaseinBars, Drinks & SnacksShop all Bars, Drinks & SnacksEnergy BarsProtein BarsProtein ShakesProtein SnacksNutritionally Complete FoodMeal Replacement ShakesPre Workout & EnergyShop all Pre Workout & EnergyPre WorkoutAmino Energy DrinksAmino Energy PowdersIntra WorkoutKetoPost WorkoutAmino AcidsShop all Amino AcidsBCAAL-LysineGlutamineArginineCreatineShop all CreatineCreatine PowderSports SupplementsShop all Sports SupplementsTestosteroneSports CollagenRehydrationShop all RehydrationElectrolytesEnergy GelsVegan Sports NutritionShop all Vegan Sports NutritionVegan ProteinVegan Protein BarsVegan Pre Workout & EnergyVegan Amino AcidsVegan CreatineSports AccessoriesShop all Sports AccessoriesBottles & ShakersFitness GoalShop all Fitness GoalRecoveryMuscle & StrengthLean MuscleEnergy & EnduranceDiet & Weight LossKetoSave up to 1/2 price3 for 2 Mix & MatchOutletPE NutritionOptimum NutritionUSNGrenadeApplied NutritionPhDFoodspringSiSHuelYfoodDairy FreeGluten FreeSugar FreeCelery FreeCereal FreeCrustaceans FreeEgg FreeFish FreeKiwi FreeLupin FreeNew inBeautyBeauty HubNatural Beauty Shop AllAromatherapy & HomeShop all Aromatherapy & HomePure Essential OilsBlended Essential OilsBase & Carrier OilsHolisticSkincareShop all SkincarePremium SkincareFace CareBody CareSun CareTanning & BronzingEye CareLip CareFoot CareHand & Nail CareCBD BeautyHair Skin & NailsShop all Hair Skin & NailsNail ConditionsSkin ConditionsCollagenWashing & BathingShop all Washing & BathingShampoo & ConditionerBathing AccessoriesShower Gel & Body WashDeodorantDentalHand WashSoapBath Soak & OilBody ScrubBath Bombs & SaltsFeminine CareIncontinence SupportHair CareShop all Hair CareShampoo & ConditionerHair ColouringHair MasksHair Oil & SerumHair Spray, Gel & MousseHair AccessoriesMother & BabyShop all Mother & BabyBaby Skincare & ToiletriesMakeupElectrical WellnessSexual Wellness3 for 2 Mix & MatchOutletOnline Only OfferDr OrganicFaith in NatureWeledaNaturtintTisserandMiaromaQ+AEthiqueTrilogyChilds FarmAlcohol FreeParaben FreeSLS FreeParfum FreePalm Oil FreeGluten FreeCelery FreeCereal FreeCrustaceans FreeEgg FreeNew inWeight ManagementWeight Management HubWeight Management Shop AllSlimming TabletsFat Burners, Binders & Appetite SuppressantsShop all Fat Burners, Binders & Appetite SuppressantsFat BurnersFat BindersAppetite SuppressantsShakes & Weight Management ShotsShop all Shakes & Weight Management ShotsMeal Replacement ShakesWeight Management ShotsDiet Food & DrinkShop all Diet Food & DrinkDiet FoodLow Calorie SnacksSlimming TeaExercise SupportSave up to 1/2 price3 for 2 Mix & MatchOnline Only OfferOptimum NutritionGrenadeHolland & BarrettPulsinPhDEat WaterUSNNatures AidSlimExpertNew NordicDairy FreeGluten FreeSugar FreeWheat FreeNew inHealth & WellnessShop all Health & WellnessJoints Bones & MusclesGut HealthShop all Gut HealthGut Health FoodGut Health SkincareHair Skin & NailsShop all Hair Skin & NailsNail ConditionsSkin ConditionsCollagenStress AnxietyShop all Stress AnxietyEnergy SupportSleep & RelaxationShop all Sleep & RelaxationRelaxationFood & DietShop all Food & DietKeto FoodMenopause3 for 2 Mix & MatchOnline Only OfferOutletHolland & BarrettVitabioticsDr OrganicNaturtintWeledaSolgarNew NordicHeath & HeatherOptimum NutritionEthiqueDairy FreeGluten FreeParaben FreeSLS FreeAlcohol FreeParfum FreeWheat FreeSugar FreeCelery FreeCereal FreeNew inShop for your WellnessImmunityGut HealthMenopauseWomen's HealthFood & DietMuscle & Joint PainSleep & RelaxationStress ReliefHealthy HeartEnergyLow Mood & DepressionConcentration & AlertnessEye HealthSexual HealthChildren's HealthLearn about WellnessWomen's HealthPeriod & Cycle HealthMenopauseImmunityGut HealthFood & DietJoints, Bones & MusclesSports & FitnessSleep & RelaxationHair Skin & NailsAll articlesHealthFood & nutritionGut healthImmunityJoints, bones & musclesWomen's healthWellnessHair & skinMental wellbeingSeasonalSleep & relaxationSports nutritionRecipesAll recipesGluten freeLow sugarVeganDairy freePodcast
Woman eating spaghetti, good digestion

Digestion: The only overview you need

23 May 2023 • 9 min read

From feeling butterflies to stomach ache, your digestive system has a big impact on your wider wellbeing. Understanding how it works is the first step to staying well.

From the boom in friendly bacteria supplements to ‘free from’ supermarket aisles, we’re increasingly interested in our digestive wellness.

And no wonder – 40% of us have at least one digestive issue, such as indigestion, at any one time.1

Yet, how many of us really know what’s going on in the full nine metres of our digestive tract.2

It’s time to find out!

What is the digestive system?


Although we eat food, our digestive system doesn’t absorb food – it absorbs nutrients.

So, our food has to be broken down into amino acids from proteins, fatty acids from various fats, and simple sugars from carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.

Your digestion is a complex network of organs that manages this process, breaking down food into different compounds, and passing out what we don’t need as waste.

The whole process takes on average one to three days.3

Digestion times also massively depend on whether you are eating solids or liquids, with soups and juices taking less time to process than hard foods.

Regardless of what you eat and in what form, everything you consume makes its way from your mouth and into your bloodstream or rectum via the same route (more on this below).

The part of the digestive tract known as the gut also contains trillions of various microorganisms, or beneficial bacteria, many of which help support our immune system4.

Plus, it has over 100,000 nerve cells and is closely linked to our emotions, which is why we tend to get butterflies or diarrhoea when we’re feeling nervous or stressed.5

Why is digestive health so important?


The digestive system takes the food that we eat and breaks it down into nutrients.

Once the nutrients are small enough, they can be absorbed by the body into the bloodstream.

Keeping the digestive system healthy makes sure the process is efficient and that we get the most from our food as possible.

However, digestive health also influences the health of other physiological systems in the body.

healthy gut can also lead to a healthy immune system, heart and brain, as well as good quality sleep and maintenance of a healthy weight.

 

Summary

  • Our digestive system is a complex network of organs that breaks food down into different compounds and passes out what we don’t need as waste
  • On average, this process takes one to three days
  • Keeping the digestive system healthy makes sure the process is efficient and that we get the most from our food as possible

How does the digestive system work?


Let’s take a closer look at digestion from start to finish...

The mouth

 

The oesophagus

 

The stomach

 

The small intestine

 

The liver, gallbladder and pancreas

 

The large intestine

 

How long does it take to digest food?

The time it takes for food to move through the full gastrointestinal tract (GI) depends on the type and amount of food eaten.

Generally speaking, it takes six to eight hours for food to pass through both the stomach and the small intestine before reaching the large intestine.

Once it’s in the large intestine or colon, it remains there for between ten and 59 hours while it’s broken down further.

The whole process takes anything between ten hours and three days.

What foods are hardest to digest?

According to our in-house nutritionists, food that’s more complex in structure is generally more difficult and takes the body longer to digest.

For example, protein, some processed foods, and high fat foods tend to take the longest to digest because the process doesn’t begin until they reach the small intestine.

Meanwhile, other food may not be difficult for the body to digest but can potentially impact digestive health through irritation and inflammation of the GI tract. This includes food with high acidity levels, spicy foods, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol.

Foods high in fibre take longer to digest as they aren't fully broken down until they reach the large intestine. This can be beneficial for gut health.25

Can food stay in your stomach for days?

Food should only take two to four hours to move out of the stomach.

However, as we’ve just mentioned above, depending on what you’ve eaten, it can remain in the large intestine for anything between ten hours and three days.

Summary

  • The time it takes for food to move through the gastrointestinal tract depends on what’s been eaten and the amount
  • High fat food tends to take the longest to digest
  • Food can sit around in the large intestine from anywhere between ten hours and three days

Lifestyle tips for better digestion

Is there anything you can do to improve your digestion? Most definitely! Here are 5 ways to get started:

  1. Minimise stress - stress is one the major lifestyle factors that impacts digestive health. Higher stress levels reduce the diversity of the gut bacteria and increase the risk of digestive disorders. Where possible, take regular breaks, spend time outside, establish a good work-life balance and explore aromatherapy and breathing techniques.
  2. Sleep well - sleep quality and gut health are connected. Sleep deprivation can lead to changes in the gut microbiota, affecting digestive health.
  3. Exercise regularly - exercising helps enrich the diversity of bacteria in the gut and reduces the risk of putting on weight, which can cause digestive disorders.
  4. Reduce your alcohol intake – alcohol causes inflammation in the gut and can have an adverse effect on your health and wellbeing.
  5. Drink plenty of water - staying hydrated helps to regulate bowel movements. Speaking of bowel movements…..

How many times a day should you poop?

We put this question to our nutritionists, and they told us there’s no generally accepted number of times a person should poop.

Anything between three times per day to three times a week is considered healthy.

However, anything more or less than this (constipation or diarrhoea) is potentially a sign of an unhealthy gut.

Summary

  • There are several lifestyle changes you can make to improve your digestive health. They include: sleeping well, reducing stress and upping your water intake
  • The frequency of your bowel movements is determined by how your body functions
  • Constipation and diarrhoea are both signs of poor gut health

When to see your GP

See your doctor if any of the symptoms above continue for longer than is normal for you.

If you also experience loss of appetite, black or bloody stools, or unexplained weight loss, make an appointment straight away.26

A final few words about the digestive system

A final few words about the digestive system

The power of the digestive system isn’t to be underestimated, yet most of us can be guilty of overlooking it and not giving it the TLC it needs from time to time.

The first step towards achieving good digestive health is recognising the important role it plays in our body, from extracting nutrients from food to determining how regular our bowel movements are.

We hope you’ve found this overview useful, and that it inspires you to think about your digestive system that little bit more and tune into what it’s telling you about your body.

You’ll be surprised at how easy keeping tabs on your digestive health can be, especially when there are so many digestive health tablets and supplements available to help boost your system.

Make today the day you start paying closer attention to your digestive system, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the widespread benefits it may provide you with!

Understanding the importance of a healthy gut

Ever suffer with bloating or discomfort but don't know why? Despite having 100% the same DNA, Lisa and Alana Macfarlane (The Mac Twins) only have 30-40% of the same microbiota. In this episode we look at:

  • Why gut health is so important?
  • How your gut health impacts more than just your digestion
  • Ways to fit wellness into your day

Disclaimer

 

Sources

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/common-digestive-problems-and-how-to-treat-them/
  2. https://gutscharity.org.uk/advice-and-information/health-and-lifestyle/diet/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24840380/
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41422-020-0332-7
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/digestive-system/sls-20076373?s=2
  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gas-and-gas-pains/in-depth/gas-and-gas-pains/art-20044739
  8. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5797634/  
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4977331/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9198082/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535425/
  13. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stomach-ulcer/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9283866
  15. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zwqycdm/revision/6
  16. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lactose-intolerance/causes/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459366/
  18. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/non-alcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/
  19. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-related-liver-disease-arld/
  20. https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/5-facts-about-the-liver/#:~:text=The%20liver%20is%20the%20largest,and%20sits%20above%20the%20stomach.
  21. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/constipation
  22. https://loveyourgut.com/getting-gut-healthy/lifestyle-tips/
  23. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/tests/bowel-transit-time#:~:text=The%20average%20transit%20time%20through,up%20to%20around%20100%20hours.
  24. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(73)91294-4/fulltext
  25. https://loveyourgut.com/gut-problems/when-to-see-a-doctor/
 
ro-huntriss

Ro Huntriss

Author

Registered Dietitian

MRes Clinical Research - University of Manchester, 2016

Ro Huntriss is a UK-based Registered Dietitian. Ro has over 10 years of experience working as a dietitian and has worked across many different sectors including NHS, private practice, research, digital health, health technologies and supporting commercial businesses.

Ro is a specialist in a variety of areas to include weight management, diabetes, women’s health, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health. Ro expanded her expertise to a number of areas as she believes that health is not one dimensional and health should be considered from several angles. 

In her spare time, Ro enjoys yoga and netball, playing the piano and is an avid Tottenham Hotspur fan! 

Education

Qualifications/Training

Professional Accomplishments

  • Community Nutrition Professional of the Year 2021 - CN Magazines 

Affiliations/Memberships/Governing bodies

Publications 

  • Kumar, K.D., Huntriss, R., Green, E., Bora, S. and Pettitt, C. (2022). Development of a nutrition screening tool to identify need for dietetic intervention in female infertility. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, doi: 10.1111/jhn.13055.
  • Huntriss, R., Haines, M., Jones, L. and Mulligan, D. (2021). A service evaluation exploring the effectiveness of a locally commissioned tier 3 weight management programme offering face-to-face, telephone and digital dietetic support. Clinical Obesity, e12444. 
  • Huntriss, R., Boocock, R. and McArdle, P. (2019). Dietary carbohydrate restriction as a management strategy for adults with type 2 diabetes: Exploring the opinions of dietitians. Journal of Diabetes Nursing, 23: JDN104. 
  • Huntriss, R., Campbell, M., and Bedwell, C. (2018). The interpretation and effect of a low-carbohydrate diet in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. European journal of clinical nutrition, 72(3), pp. 311–325.
  • Huntriss, R. and White, H. (2016). Evaluation of a 12-week weight management group for people with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes in a multi-ethnic population. Journal of Diabetes Nursing, 20, pp. 65-71. 
  • Visa
  • MasterCard
  • AmericanExpress
  • PayPal
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
Copyright © Holland & Barrett Limited, 2023. All rights reserved. hollandandbarrett.ie is a trading name of Holland & Barrett Limited. Registered office: 45 Henry Street, Dublin, Dublin 1, D01 E9X8. Registered in Ireland: Company no. 79819. Registered VAT no. 4682002U.