I've read the the stomach must secrete HCl and pepsin to break down food. If I have an empty stomach, then drink a large amount of liquid, I wonder if the liquid passes quickly, or gets processed in the same amount of time as solid food.

So how does the stomach handle an environment of pure liquid, versus an environment of solid foods.

  • Is the beer just an example, or are you asking specifically about alcoholic liquids? Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 3:46
  • If there is a difference, then both. Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 0:09
  • @Dude2TheN If you think my answer suffices, feel free to award the bounty. :)
    – Dave Liu
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 22:58
  • @DaveL there's 24 hours of time after the bounty ends for that. There's no rush ;-)
    – YviDe
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 9:22
  • So vegdtable juices instead of a solid would pass through quicker Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 22:16

1 Answer 1


More stuff = More time

The stomach has sensory capabilities that help determine the nutritional content of what it receives. This allows it to "taste" and decide what it needs to add to the "stirring pot" to get cooking. When the stomach receives traditional foods like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, it adds protein-digesting enzymes such as pepsin and hydrochloric acid (HCL) to break down the nutrients for absorption in the intestines.

(This is why we consume fluids and light carbs on an upset stomach- we want to prevent the stomach from getting aggravated and overworked or even inflamed.)

The more complex the food, the longer it stays in the stomach. So protein can take hours while simple carbohydrates like white bread or sugar could take just half an hour or less. Liquids like tea, juice, and alcohol tend to be even less complicated, water least of all- taking possibly just minutes to start passing into the blood stream if there is no food in the stomach and fully entering the blood stream within 1-2 hours.

If there happens to be food already in the stomach, the liquid must wait until the stomach finishes digesting the food to enter the small intestine along with the broken-down food. This is why health centers often advise alcohol consumption with food. Food will slow the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine, where alcohol absorption is very rapid.

References are respective to order of mention.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stomach#Stomach_as_nutrition_sensor
  2. http://www.uhs.wisc.edu/health-topics/digestive-system/upset-stomach.shtml
  3. http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=275
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21997675
  5. http://www.brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/alcohol,tobacco,&_other_drugs/alcohol/alcohol_&_your_body.php
  • Do you know the content of the stomach while it's empty? Is an empty stomach completely empty, or does it have a pool of acid in it at all times? Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 4:26
  • So after the food is digested the stomach pretty much remains empty until the next meal? Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 4:41
  • Well, yes, but if it takes 3-6 hours to digest a large amount of protein, you may be consuming your next meal while still digesting the previous. That is possible.
    – Dave Liu
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 4:44
  • @DaveL when people throw up on an empty stomach, they throw up stomach acid. nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003883.htm this test is done on an empty stomach and normal results are 20 to 100 milliliters of stomach acid
    – YviDe
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 9:17
  • @YviDe, my mad. Thanks for the correction.
    – Dave Liu
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 21:15

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