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How Long Does It Take oatmeal to leave the stomach?

Oatmeal is a popular breakfast food that provides fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s made from oat grains that have been ground into a coarse flour, then boiled with water or milk. Compared to some other breakfast options, oatmeal has a relatively slow digestion time. This article will explore how long it takes for oatmeal to leave the stomach and the factors that affect its gastric emptying rate.

The Stomach’s Role in Digestion

The stomach plays an important role in the digestion process. When you eat food, it enters the stomach and mixes with stomach acids and enzymes that start breaking it down. The stomach acts as a temporary holding chamber, storing food for around 1-4 hours while it is broken down into smaller particles.[1]

As digestion progresses, the stomach contents are gradually released into the small intestine in a controlled manner. This regulated emptying of the stomach is referred to as gastric emptying. The rate of gastric emptying depends on the type of food eaten. Carbohydrate- and protein-rich meals tend to take longer to digest and empty from the stomach compared to foods high in fat and simple sugars.[2]

Average Gastric Emptying Times

Research shows that the average gastric emptying times for common foods are:[3]

Food Time to Empty Stomach
Fruit juices, low-fat meals 1-2 hours
Fatty foods, fried foods 3-4 hours
High-fiber foods, beans 4-5 hours
Meat, eggs, cheese 4-6 hours

As shown in the table, high-fiber plant foods like beans and oatmeal tend to take longer to digest and empty from the stomach compared to low-fiber, high-sugar foods like fruit juices. This is because fiber slows digestion, while fat and protein also delay gastric emptying.

How Long Oatmeal Stays in the Stomach

So how long does oatmeal stay in your stomach? On average, oatmeal takes about 4-5 hours to fully digest and empty from the stomach.[4] However, the exact time can vary based on several factors:

1. Fiber Content

Oatmeal’s high fiber content is one reason for its slow gastric emptying rate. The oat grains used to make oatmeal contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance when mixed with water, which slows digestion in the stomach.[5]

Steel-cut and old-fashioned oats contain more fiber and take longer to break down compared to instant oatmeal. In general, the more fiber an oatmeal contains, the longer it will take to leave the stomach.

2. Ingredients Added

What you add to your oatmeal also impacts its emptying rate. Oatmeal made with water is digested slower than oatmeal made with milk or other liquids. Some ingredients like fruit may speed up gastric emptying, while additions like protein-rich nuts and seeds can slow it down.

3. Portion Size

Larger portions of oatmeal tend to take longer to empty from the stomach compared to smaller bowls. This is because the stomach needs more time to break down and digest bigger meals before releasing them into the small intestine.

4. Other Foods Eaten

Oatmeal is often eaten with other foods like fruit, milk, eggs or muffins. High-fat foods in particular can delay the stomach from emptying. Combining oatmeal with yogurt or eggs may prolong the time it stays in your stomach.

5. Individual Differences

Genetic and health factors also influence gastric emptying rates. People with gastroparesis, a condition affecting stomach emptying, digest oatmeal slower. Those who regularly eat oatmeal may digest it faster than someone trying it for the first time.

In general, most healthy adults can expect oatmeal to take around 4-6 hours to fully digest. However, it’s normal for specific emptying times to vary.

Ways to Speed Up Oatmeal Digestion

Here are some tips if you want to speed up how fast oatmeal leaves your stomach:

Choose Quick or Instant Oats

Quick oats and instant oatmeal have been processed more than steel-cut or old-fashioned oats, so they digest faster. Opt for these over thick, hearty oatmeal varieties if you want quicker emptying.

Avoid Adding Fats or Proteins

Minimize fats from nuts, seeds or milk and proteins from eggs or Greek yogurt, as these slow gastric emptying. Stick to oatmeal made with water and limited mix-ins.

Add Fruit or Juice

Fruit, juice and other simple carbs digest faster than fiber, so adding berries, bananas or apple juice can help speed up oatmeal digestion.

Eat a Smaller Portion

Large bowls of oatmeal take longer to digest. Reduce your portion size if you want your stomach to empty faster.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water and staying hydrated supports digestion. Aim for 6-8 glasses of water per day.

Get Moving

Light activity can stimulate digestion. Going for a walk after eating oatmeal may help move it through your stomach faster.

Does Oatmeal Make You Feel Full?

Due to its slow gastric emptying time, oatmeal is very effective at making you feel fuller and more satisfied after eating. The beta-glucan fiber forms a gel that occupies space in your stomach, delaying the emptying rate.[6] This helps provide a prolonged feeling of fullness.

In fact, research shows oatmeal suppresses appetite and decreases calorie intake more effectively than ready-to-eat breakfast cereal. The sensation of fullness may last for several hours after eating oatmeal.

Benefits of Slow Digestion

While a long gastric emptying time may not sound appealing, there are actually several benefits to foods like oatmeal that empty from the stomach slowly:

Keeps You Fuller for Longer

The prolonged feeling of fullness from oatmeal means you’re less likely to snack between meals or overeat at your next meal.

Provides Sustained Energy

Slowly digested carbohydrates in oatmeal provide a steady release of energy over several hours rather than a quick spike and crash.

Lowers Glycemic Response

Oatmeal results in a lower and slower rise in blood sugar compared to rapidly digested carbs. This helps control blood sugar levels.

Promotes Gut Health

The prebiotics in oatmeal may stimulate growth of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system and improve gut health.[7]

Suppresses Appetite Hormones

Eating oatmeal is associated with decreased levels of the appetite hormone ghrelin and increased levels of the satiety hormone peptide YY.[8]

Tips for Easier Oatmeal Digestion

Here are some suggestions to make it easier to digest a bowl of oatmeal:

Cook It Thoroughly

Make sure to cook oatmeal until thick and creamy. Undercooked oats can be tough to digest.

Chew Slowly and Thoroughly

Taking time to chew oatmeal helps break it down, making digestion easier when it reaches the stomach.

Avoid Overeating

Don’t overdo your portion size. Listen to your fullness signals and stop eating when satisfied to prevent stomach discomfort.

Minimize Add-Ins

Limit high-fat, hard-to-digest foods like nuts and seeds, which may make oatmeal harder to digest.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of liquids with oatmeal and throughout the day. Water and other fluids aid digestion.

Get Moving Afterwards

Going for a walk or doing light exercise after eating can stimulate digestion.

Allow Time for Digestion

Don’t plan strenuous exercise right after eating oatmeal. Allow your body around 4-6 hours to fully digest it before intense activity.


Oatmeal is a nutritious breakfast food that takes around 4-5 hours on average to fully digest and leave the stomach. Exact digestion times vary based on the type of oats, what you add to the oatmeal and other factors like portion size. While oatmeal’s slow gastric emptying rate results in prolonged fullness and sustained energy, you can speed up digestion by cooking oats less, limiting high-fiber add-ins and staying hydrated. Give your body time to digest a bowl of oatmeal before plunging into energetic activities.