measure and manage your bowel transit time

A simple, do-it-yourself way to measure bowel transit time.

Knowledge is power, and knowing your bowel transit time can empower you to improve your digestion and elimination functions. Ideally, it should take between 12 and 24 hours for the food you eat to pass through your GI tract. If it’s moving through too quickly, you’re probably not absorbing all the nutrients. And if it takes longer, toxins can be released into your bloodstream and you’ll feel constipated, uncomfortable, bloated, and lethargic. 

So head out to your grocery store or farmer’s market, buy two large beets, and follow the instructions below.

Instructions

“Bake two beets and call me in the morning.”

  1. Wash the beets and bake them in the oven like potatoes. Don’t overcook them. 
  2. When they’re soft, eat them both at one sitting. 
  3. Record the date and time. 
  4. Over the next three days, observe the color of your stools under a bright light. You’re looking for a reddish color to show up. 
  5. Note when you first observe red, but keep paying attention. 
  6. When the deepest red appears, record the time and calculate the number of hours that elapsed from the time you ate the beets. This is your transit time. 
  7. Of course, if you later observe an even redder color, revise your calculation.

How do I slow down my transit time?

One of the best ways to slow down the progress of digesting food is to supplement with specific fibers like psyllium and apple pectin. We recommend Dynamic Fiber at 1 TBSP 2 x a day for a week.

Then conduct another beets measurement. If you don’t see an improvement, try increasing the dose. You should also keep a food diary and note whether certain foods seem to be causing diarrhea or loose stools. Obviously, if you are experiencing severe diarrhea or persisting loose stools, you should seek immediate care and talk to your practitioner. 

You can also take Dynamic Fiber to your tolerance level at a maintenance dose for daily bowel regulation. 

Note: for some people, fiber supplementation may actually increase transit time speed. Pay attention to your own individual response. Obviously, you can raise or lower the dose, or discontinue it altogether. 

How do I speed up my transit time?

If your transit time measured over 24 hours, there are two easy ways to speed it up. See the instructions below!

FYI, Magnesium Citrate supplementation is a relatively simple process. The vitamin C strategy is slightly more complicated, but it comes with potential benefits that magnesium citrate supplementation doesn’t offer (i.e. immune support).

In the long term, you may need to take maintenance doses of these supplements. However, people usually need higher doses at first to get the bowels moving, and much lower doses in order to maintain a healthy transit time on a daily basis. 

Note: a small percentage of people may need to follow both the magnesium citrate and vitamin C recommendations in order to speed up transit time.

Magnesium Citrate Recommendations

1. Purchase a high-quality magnesium citrate supplement.

2. Take four capsules [1200 mg] twice a day for three days. You may notice that you have more frequent stools or that their consistency changes. If you start to have stools that are TOO loose, reduce your Mag Citrate to 2-3 capsules twice a day. 

3. A week after starting the Mag Citrate, use the beets measurement test again to see if your transit time has improved.

4. If your transit time hasn’t changed, increase the dosage to five capsules twice a day for another week and re-test with beets. If there is still no improvement, increase the dosage to six capsules twice a day. 

Note: Be VERY careful to keep hydrating and supplementing with electrolytes (like Dynamic Hydrate). 

Talk to your practitioner before starting the Mag Citrate recommendations in order to get their input on the process and how it may affect you personally.

Vitamin C Strategy and Recommendations

1. Purchase a high-quality, highly-alkalized, powdered vitamin C (such as C Aspa Scorb) in order to best affect bowel motility. 

2. Choose a day when you’re home and don’t have anything important planned. You’ll need to take the powdered vitamin C in water every half hour, and you’ll need easy access to your bathroom.

3. When you wake up and before you eat, take 1300 mg. of powdered vitamin C (or approximately 1/3 of a tsp of C Aspa Scorb) in two ounces or more of pure water. Let the powdered vitamin C dissolve entirely (the “fizz” or effervescent reaction should disappear) before drinking to reduce symptoms of temporary bloating. Record the time and amount.

4. Every half hour, take an additional 1300 mg dose of vitamin C in at least two ounces of water and record the amount. You may eat and drink lightly after the first dose, but eating or drinking too much during the flush procedure may cause discomfort. Make sure to drink the required amount of liquid to avoid dehydration. Keep drinking fluids throughout the day and supplementing with electrolytes (like Dynamic Hydrate).

5. After eight doses, you may begin to hear gurgling or rumbling in your gut. This is a good sign that the vitamin C is doing its job. If you don’t have gurgling or rumbling, begin taking 1300 mg  (or 1/3 of tsp of C Aspa Scorb). every 15 minutes. Be sure to record the time and amount of each dose.

6. Continue taking vitamin C in water until you have a watery bowel movement. Then discontinue taking vitamin C for the remainder of the day and proceed to step 8.

7. If you’ve reached the eight to ten-hour mark and haven’t had watery stool yet but feel extremely uncomfortable due to gas and bloating, discontinue the vitamin C and restart the next day. You’ll probably have a bowel movement soon. Repeat step 5 the next day. 

8. Calculate the quantity of vitamin C used. Add up all the dosages to determine how many milligrams you consumed. Multiply that number by 75% (0.75). That’s the amount of vitamin C you should take on a daily basis. Beginning the day after the flush, take that amount each day in four divided doses.

As you continue to take this level of vitamin C, your transit time should normalize. After a week, you can do the beets test again to confirm that your food is being digested and eliminated in a timely manner. 

Oh, and about those benefits: The vitamin C flush may provide a “jump start” for your immune system if you’re coming down with a respiratory illness or if you’re feeling burnt out.

If at any point your stools start to become too loose, back off the vitamin C a bit. Your vitamin C needs change with your stress and general health status. Illness, exercise, exposure to toxins, emotional stress, chronic disease, and chronic inflammation can all increase your need for vitamin C. When you begin a regular vitamin C regimen, it’s generally not a good idea to stop it abruptly. Discontinuing your vitamin C all at once could possibly cause what’s known as a rebound effect, which could result in your catching a cold or other illness. If you need or want to stop taking it, taper the dosage downward over a period of several days.

Note: it is normal to experience some mild bloating and gas and mild discomfort during the process.. 

This vitamin C cleanse plan is adapted from the Ascorbate Calibration “C Cleanse” protocol developed by Dr. Russell Jaffe, MD, PhD, CCN. The above strategy is adjusted for easier bowel tolerance, but some people may need a stronger approach. 

Talk to your health practitioner before starting the vitamin C strategy in order to get their input and advice on whether or not the protocol may be right for your body. This strategy is definitely not recommended for everyone. In particular, people with inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, and some people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome should not follow the above strategy.

Bowel transit time changes as your life changes - so keep paying attention!

Whether you choose to use vitamin C or magnesium citrate to help improve your transit time, you’ll want to continue paying attention to this important part of your health. When you get to know your body better, you can tweak your vitamin C or magnesium citrate dosage every so often to help keep your digestive tract performing well. 

AND don’t forget that your diet influences transit time. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can shorten your transit time. Sugar and refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, can slow it down.

Also, move! Like . . . your body . . . in whatever way you are physically able. Do things, go places, and laugh with friends and family. 

If you’re stuck at home or limited in your capability for movement, play with your pet, stretch, and breathe. BREATHE. Stress (and physical tension) is a huge factor in digestion, so fight that urge to obsess over things you can’t change. Let your body be free to do what it does best.