If you’ve recently had a colonoscopy, it may be difficult to determine what foods and drinks are best for you. Choosing the wrong ones can result in cramping, bloating, gas or diarrhea. Fear not. This guide will provide helpful advice on what to eat after a colonoscopy and which post-colonoscopy diet is right for your individual needs and preferences so that you can make wise food choices and get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
Colonoscopies serve important screening, diagnostic, and preventative purposes. Doctors may recommend a colonoscopy if someone:
- Needs colorectal cancer screening, especially if they have risk factors
- Has symptoms like rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, or change in bowel habits
- Has inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis
- Needs monitoring for polyps or other growths in the colon
During the procedure, your doctor will:
- Examine the lining of your rectum and colon with the colonoscope
- Take a biopsy of any abnormalities or remove polyps
- Take images of your intestinal lining for diagnostic purposes
The procedure itself usually takes 30-60 minutes. You will be given intravenous sedation and pain medication to keep you comfortable.
Diet to Follow Immediately After a Colonoscopy
Once your colonoscopy is complete, your colon needs time to recover from any inflammation or irritation caused by the procedure.
For the first 1-2 hours after the procedure, stick to clear fluids including:
- Ice chips
- Clear sodas and sports drinks
- Clear broths like chicken or vegetable broth
- Popsicles without pulp or fruit pieces
- Clear juices like apple juice or white grape juice
Consuming clear liquids will help replenish fluids and electrolytes lost during bowel preparation before the colonoscopy. The liquids are easily digested and won’t bother your sensitive colon.
Transition to Low-Residue Foods
After tolerating clear liquids, you can gradually add in low-residue soft foods over the next 1-2 days. Low-residue foods are easy on your gastrointestinal tract because they leave behind minimal solid waste.
Low-residue foods to choose include:
- White bread and plain bagels
- White pasta, rice, oatmeal or cream of wheat
- Crackers like saltines
- Canned or cooked fruits like applesauce and peeled pears
- Tender cooked vegetables like carrots and asparagus tips
- Skinless chicken or turkey
- Milk, yogurt, pudding, ice cream
- Mashed potatoes
- Noodles or soup with soft ingredients
Foods to Avoid After a Colonoscopy
After a colonoscopy, it’s also important to avoid foods that may be difficult to digest. Fibrous, fried, spicy, or gas-producing foods can further irritate your colon. Foods to avoid include:
- Whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and bran cereals
- Raw vegetables and salads
- Dried fruits and nuts
- Red meats
- Fried and greasy foods
- Foods that cause gas like beans, cabbage, fizzy drinks
- Dairy products if you are lactose intolerant
- Any food that you know causes loose stools or diarrhea
Follow these dietary restrictions for 1-2 days after your colonoscopy. Your doctor may extend this diet if you had large polyps removed or are experiencing side effects like abdominal pain.
Specific food suggestions for each stage after colonoscopy
Immediate Recovery (1-2 hours)
|Water, broth, clear fruit juices, sports drinks (electrolyte-rich)
|Sip slowly, small amounts at a time
Reintroduction (2-6 hours)
|Bland, easily digestible solids
|Crackers, toast, yogurt, applesauce, soft-cooked eggs, mashed potatoes
|Start with small bites, avoid dairy if sensitive, monitor tolerance
Progression (6-12 hours)
|Low-fiber, low-residue foods
|White fish, chicken, cooked vegetables (no skins), white rice, pasta
|Gradually increase portion sizes, introduce fruits cautiously
Full Diet (12+ hours)
|Regular diet with some caution
|Reintroduce whole grains, nuts, seeds, and high-fiber foods slowly
|Monitor digestion, avoid gassy or spicy foods, stay hydrated
|Protein, carbohydrates, electrolytes, fluids
|Limit initially, gradually increase as tolerated
|Reintroduce cautiously, watch for bloating or discomfort
|Focus on balanced meals, avoid processed foods, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
|Follow doctor’s specific dietary advice
|Adjust diet based on pre-existing conditions
|Choose foods you enjoy to aid dietary compliance
- Texture: Soft, smooth, liquid
- Taste: Bland, mild
- Nutritional Value: Protein, electrolytes, carbohydrates
- Fiber Content: Low, moderate, high
- Cooking Method: Steaming, baking, poaching
- This is a general list and may not be suitable for everyone. Always follow your doctor’s specific instructions after a colonoscopy.
Special Considerations for Diet After a Colonoscopy
Some additional restrictions may apply after a colonoscopy depending on your personal health status:
If Polyps Were Removed
Follow a low-fiber diet for up to 2 weeks after large (greater than 1 cm) polyps are removed to allow healing of the tissue where the polyp was detached.
Avoid nuts, seeds, corn, and popcorn for 2 weeks after a colonoscopy if you have diverticulosis pouches since they could become stuck and cause diverticulitis inflammation.
Those with diabetes should resume normal meal spacing as soon as tolerated. Coordinate insulin needs with your doctor since bowel prep can disrupt blood sugar levels.
Eliminate any foods you are sensitive or intolerant to like lactose, gluten, or FODMAPs. Stick to foods you know are well-tolerated.
What to Expect After a Colonoscopy
It’s normal to experience side effects for a day or two after your colonoscopy as your colon recovers. Common symptoms include:
Bloating and Gas
Your intestines may produce more gas and you may feel bloated after the procedure. Walking helps release gas and moving your body promotes the digestion process.
Abdominal Pain or Cramping
Your doctor can prescribe pain medication to relieve abdominal discomfort as your colon recovers. Applying a warm compress can also help soothe pain.
You may have loose stools for a day after as your colon sheds the bowel prep solution. Stay hydrated by sipping clear fluids and rest to allow your colon to heal.
Bright Red Blood
A small amount of blood from a biopsy site or polyp removal is normal. If you have significant rectal bleeding though, contact your doctor.
It’s common to have a mild fever up to 100°F after a colonoscopy, but fevers over 101°F warrant a call to your physician.
Most side effects resolve within 48 hours. Call your doctor if symptoms persist beyond 2 days or suddenly worsen at any point after your procedure.
Medication and Supplement Guidelines After a Colonoscopy
Check with your doctor before restarting any oral medications, supplements, or probiotics after your colonoscopy. Here are some general medication guidelines:
- Pain medication can be taken as prescribed by your doctor for post-colonoscopy discomfort.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed if you have an infection like diverticulitis. Complete the full course as directed.
- Laxatives, stool softeners, or antidiarrheal medications should not be taken unless explicitly recommended by your physician to manage bowel symptoms.
- Blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or enoxaparin (Lovenox) should only be restarted when approved by your doctor, often 1-2 days after a colonoscopy with biopsies or polyp removal.
- Oral supplements and probiotics can usually be resumed a few days after the procedure once symptoms start to improve.
Always adhere to your doctor’s specific instructions on taking your usual oral medications after your colonoscopy.
Recognizing Complications After Your Colonoscopy
While complications are rare, be aware of concerning symptoms that may signal an issue. Seek prompt medical care if you experience:
- Fever over 101°F
- Chills or rigors
- Significant rectal bleeding
- Intense abdominal pain that worsens or doesn’t improve with medication
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Weakness, dizziness, or feeling faint
Complications like perforation (tear in the colon wall) or bowel infection can arise but are extremely uncommon when colonoscopies are performed by a qualified endoscopist.
Best Practices for Lifelong Colon Health
Colonoscopies play an integral role in colorectal cancer screening and prevention. Make sure to:
- Get routine colonoscopies starting at age 45, or earlier if you have risk factors like family history. Screenings may be needed every 5-10 years based on your individual risk profile.
- Live an active lifestyle and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Eat a high-fiber diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit red and processed meats which have been linked to colon cancer.
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products. Cigarette smoking doubles the risk of colon polyps and cancer.
- Moderate alcohol intake. Heavy alcohol use is an established risk factor for colorectal malignancies.
Conclusion: What To Eat After A Colonoscopy
A colonoscopy is a vital preventive procedure that requires some recovery time for your colon afterwards. By following dietary guidelines like sticking to clear fluids and low-residue foods in the 1-2 days after your colonoscopy, you can ease discomfort and let your colon heal faster. Report any persistent or worsening symptoms to your doctor. Adhering to follow-up care recommendations and living a healthy lifestyle will promote lifelong colon wellness.
Bobby Kelly is a bartender at Molly Magees, an Irish pub in Mountain View. He’s been working there for two years and has developed a following among the regulars. Bobby is known for his friendly demeanor and great drink specials. He loves interacting with customers and making them feel welcome. When he’s not at work, Bobby enjoys spending time with his friends and family.