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How Long Does It Take to Digest Pizza?

Food Guide

Pizza is one of the most popular foods around the world. The melty, gooey cheese, the zesty tomato sauce, and the chewy yet crispy crust – it’s hard to resist!

But because pizza is generally high in fat, carbohydrates, and protein, it can take quite a while for your body to fully digest it. Keep reading to find out exactly how long it takes to digest pizza and how you can promote healthy digestion.

Overview of Pizza Digestion

On average, it takes 6-8 hours to fully digest a pizza. However, the exact timing depends on a few key factors:

  • The size of the pizza – The larger the pizza, the longer it will take to digest. A massive 18-inch pizza will linger in your system much longer than a personal 6-inch pie.

  • Ingredients – Toppings like cheese, sausage, and pepperoni can make digestion slower due to their high fat content. Veggie pizzas may digest a bit quicker.

  • Type of crust – Thick, doughy crusts are tougher to break down than thin, crispy crusts. Gluten-free crusts may also digest faster than traditional wheat-based crusts.

  • Other foods eaten – Consuming pizza along with salads, sides, and dessert will extend your digestion time. Eating it alone allows your body to focus solely on the pizza.

  • Activity level – Remaining sedentary after eating slows digestion. Light walking or activity after a pizza meal can help move things along.

Now let’s break down exactly what happens during the 6-8 hour pizza digestion process.

The Pizza Digestion Process

Digestion begins as soon as you take the first piping hot bite of pizza. Here’s an overview of what goes on inside your body:


  • Chewing breaks the pizza into smaller pieces that are easier to digest.

  • Saliva starts breaking down carbohydrates and fats.

  • Enzymes like lingual lipase begin metabolizing fats.


  • The stomach churns the chewed pizza pieces into a liquid-like chyme.

  • Gastric juices contain hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin which further break down proteins.

  • The stomach continues churning the chyme for 1-2 hours.

Small Intestine

  • The chyme moves into the small intestine 2-6 hours after eating.

  • Pancreatic enzymes break down fats, proteins, and carbs into tinier particles.

  • Bile from the gallbladder emulsifies fats.

  • The walls of the small intestine absorb broken-down nutrients into the bloodstream.

  • Water and waste products are sent down to the large intestine.

Large Intestine

  • The remains of the pizza move into the large intestine about 6-8 hours after eating.

  • Water and electrolytes are absorbed.

  • Bacteria in the large intestine ferment fiber and other undigested materials.

  • After 8-72 hours, the leftover waste is stored as feces until it’s excreted.

Why Pizza Digestion Takes So Long

There are three main reasons why it takes 6-8 hours to fully digest pizza:

1. High Fat Content

One slice of a 14-inch pepperoni pizza contains around 10-15 grams of fat. High-fat ingredients like cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and certain meats make pizza digestion slower.

Why it slows digestion:

  • Fat digestion begins in the small intestine, while carbs and protein start breaking down earlier in the stomach. This head start prolongs the entire digestive timeline.

  • Bile emulsifies fat into tinier globules before the small intestine can absorb it. This is a lengthy process.

  • Fat molecules have large, complex structures so enzymes take longer to break them down.

2. Abundant Carbs

A single slice of 14-inch cheese pizza serves up 30-40 grams of carbohydrates. The doughy crust and high-carb tomato sauce contribute to pizza’s high carb count.

Why it slows digestion:

  • The stomach doesn’t produce carb-digesting enzymes, so carbs take longer to fully break down.

  • Bread and dough contain gluten, a protein that’s harder to digest than non-gluten carbs.

  • Pizza dough goes through fermentation and cooking processes that make it denser and take longer to break down.

3. High Protein Content

Along with all that cheese, most pizzas are topped with protein-packed meats like pepperoni, sausage, bacon, or grilled chicken.

Why it slows digestion:

  • Protein digestion begins in the acidic stomach environment. Pepsin breaks proteins into peptides which need further digestion.

  • Pancreatic enzymes then break down the peptides into amino acids in the small intestine, adding time.

  • Meat proteins also have tough, complex structures that take longer to digest than plant proteins.

Tips for Healthy Pizza Digestion

Here are some suggestions to make your pizza digestion a little smoother and prevent uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, heartburn, and gas:

  • Go lighter on the cheese as too much can bog down digestion.

  • Load up on veggie toppings like onions, tomatoes, spinach, and peppers to add fiber.

  • Request a thin, crispy crust or gluten-free crust option to decrease carbs.

  • Avoid greasy meats like pepperoni and sausage which can exacerbate digestive issues.

  • Limit pizza to 1 slice or opt for a personal pizza to prevent overeating.

  • Have a side salad to add fiber and aid digestion.

  • Walk after eating to stimulate digestion and bowel motility.

  • Stay hydrated by sipping water with your meal.

  • Wait 3-4 hours before lying down to prevent reflux and heartburn.

Signs of Healthy vs. Poor Pizza Digestion

How can you tell if your body is digesting pizza well? Signs of healthy pizza digestion include:

✅ No indigestion, heartburn, or acid reflux

✅ Little to no abdominal bloating

✅ Bowel movements within 24 hours

✅ No constipation or diarrhea

✅ Not feeling overly full or lethargic after eating

Meanwhile, symptoms of poor pizza digestion include:

❌ Abdominal pain or cramps

❌ Bloating and visible stomach distention

❌ Excessive gas or flatulence

❌ Diarrhea, constipation, or irregular stools

❌ Heartburn or acid reflux

❌ General discomfort lasting 6-8+ hours

If you regularly experience poor digestion after pizza, limiting intake and adjusting toppings and crust can help. See your doctor if digestive issues persist.

The Bottom Line

Pizza is a delicious fan favorite, but it can be heavy and hard to digest due to its carb, fat, and protein content. On average, you can expect a pizza to take 6-8 hours to fully digest. Making smart topping choices, requesting thin or gluten-free crust, avoiding overeating, and staying active can keep your pizza digestion running smoothly.


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