I am a lightweight male - 6'0" and 140 pounds. I've been skinny my whole life and all of the men in my blood line are naturally thin (the heaviest at probably about 160). I've always just attributed it to a fast metabolism and never really thought anything else of it.
I have posted here in the past about stomach problems, reflux, and stomach pains that I get from time to time but this time I'm more interested in a question about general digestion. I have read that digestion should typically take about 24-72 hours. However last night my wife and I ate dinner at about 7:00pm. This morning when I went to the restroom (and I go nearly every morning around 9:00am - I could set my watch by it) I noticed corn in my stools, which we had eaten at dinner just 14 hours previously.
It reminded me about the day prior when I saw some red in my stool and immediately panicked. My dad was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon cancer last fall at the age of 60 (I am a 31) but after chemo and surgery has recovered pretty well. That's the only reason that I periodically check my stools for oddities... he found blood in his stools as his first symptom. Anyway - the red in my stool I am confident was some tomato skin from salads that we had the night previous which contained miniature tomatoes - and the digestion time frame would be consistent with that of the corn.
Is it normal for food to pass through the digestive system that quickly? Could this crazy-fast passage of food be part of the reason for my low weight? Is there anything that I can do to slow the process, or do I even need to?
There is some variability as to how fast food passes through the bowels. 14 hours can fall in the normal range for some people.
I would consider checking the thyroid level - an elevated number can increase metabolism. Another consideration would be malabsorption or celiac disease, each of which can lead to weight loss and digestive issues.
If colon cancer is a concern, especially with the family history, I would consider a colonoscopy which would be the most definitive diagnostic study.
This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice - the information presented is for patient education only. Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
Kevin Pho, M.D.
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