Our gut motility is a great barometer of our gut health. Gut motility is how quickly (or slowly) food moves through our system, is digested, and then excreted via stool.
It’s a little bit of a goldilocks situation when it comes to motility — we don’t want it to be too fast, or too slow. It needs to be just right.
In this article we’re going to explore how you can do a gut transit test from the comfort of your own home, as well as what it could mean whether yours is too fast or too slow.
How to do a Gut Transit Test
There are a couple ways that you can test your transit time from the comfort of your own home. I’m going to be covering how you can do it using either cooked beets, or sesame seeds!
You can choose whichever you prefer, or whichever you have on hand at home, to do your transit test.
Here’s how to do it:
Eat 1-2 cooked beets, 1/2 cup corn or 2 tbsp of sesame seeds (I recommend mixing the seeds into a glass of water, and drinking it. Try not to chew the seeds!)
Take note of the time and date when you consumed them
Take a look at your stool when you have a bowel movement, and notice when you see reddish stool (from the beets), undigested corn, or speckled stool (from the seeds)
Take note of the time and date, and compare it to the time and date when you first consumed them
Ideally this timeline should be somewhere between 12-24 hours (less than 12 could mean you’re passing food through your system too quickly, and not properly breaking it down, and absorbing nutrients, and beyond 24 hours could mean you’re constipated)
What to do with this information
So you’ve done your at-home transit test, great. Now you might be wondering what you do with the results you’ve found!
If you’ve got “slow” transit time (beyond 24 hours)
If you did your transit test and found that you didn’t see the beets or sesame seeds come out the other end until beyond 24 hours (could even be as much as 72 hours or more in more severe cases!), you’re likely constipated. Note: beet pigment will absorb after about 36 hours so if you never see the pigment, it means your motility is slow.
Constipation is problematic for a number of reasons. Our stool is how we get rid of byproducts of food digestion, dead cells and microbes, excess cholesterol, estrogen metabolites, and other waste products. We don’t want this stuff hanging around in our gut for too long!
Besides stool hanging around in our intestines for longer than desired (which can lead to the recirculation of estrogen metabolites, hemorrhoids, etc.), slow motility and constipation can lead to a number of other digestive complaints.
Bloating and distention can result from constipation, due to the presence of stool in the intestines blocking the ability for gas to pass through. It can also lead to the development of various imbalances in the microbiome (like the overgrowth of opportunistic species).
Here are some tips to help you get started if you’re dealing with slow transit time:
Ensure you’re drinking enough water, and eating enough fiber to promote healthy bowel movements
Make sure you’re making time in the morning to have a bowel movement
Leave 3-4 hours between meals to promote motility (this supports the migrating motor complex, you can learn more about that here)
Drink dandelion root tea or ginger tea between meals
To learn more about constipation, check out this article here.
If you’ve got “fast” transit time (less than 12 hours)
Having “too fast” transit time isn’t ideal either! Our system needs enough time to properly break down our food, absorb nutrients from said food, create well-formed stool, etc.
When transit time is too quick, it could mean that there is an underlying cause contributing to fast motility, and that you’re not adequately breaking down food, and likewise not absorbing the nutrients from the food. This could lead to malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, which sets the stage for widespread imbalances in the body!
Fast transit time could also be a result of digestive diseases such as Celiac Disease, or IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease, like Chrons or Colitis). It’s imperative that you explore this with your physician. It could also point to various imbalances in the microbiome, such as a parasitic infection, or bacterial overgrowth.
Here are some tips to help you get started if you’re dealing with fast transit time:
Rule out any serious digestive issues with your physician
Slowly incorporate more soluble fibers (like oats, psyllium, apple pectin, etc.) to help bulk stool
Drink chamomile, ginger, or marshmallow root tea to help soothe the intestinal tract, and reduce intestinal spasms
Incorporate fermented foods, and try to consume cooked plant foods (versus a bunch of raw veggies)
Try a probiotic like Sacchromyces Boulardii (which is known to help with diarrhea)
If you want to dig deeper into your transit time, and what might be behind slow or fast motility, then definitely check out my Gut Rehab Intensive where we work 1:1 to address the root cause of your gut issues.