A colonoscopy can help diagnose gastrointestinal disorders and diseases.
Because a colonoscopy involves your gastrointestinal system, there are some considerations you’ll need to take into account when it comes to your diet.
The good news is that you won’t need to modify your diet for very long after a colonoscopy.
By adjusting your diet for a few days (longer if required, of course) and following post-colonoscopy care tips, you should be feeling back to normal in no time.
Keep reading to find out what to eat after a colonoscopy.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure where a doctor (usually a gastroenterologist) uses a scope to look inside your rectum and colon. A colonoscopy can show irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers, polyps, and colon and rectum cancers.
Colonoscopies are most often done preventatively as colon cancer screenings but can also be done to investigate unknown bowel bleeding, abdominal pain, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Before a colonoscopy, you’ll be given a “bowel prep,” which usually involves drinking laxatives to clear your colon before the procedure. You’ll usually be sedated for the procedure, which typically lasts around 30-60 minutes.
Considerations for your diet after a colonoscopy
You may be advised to eat a low-fiber diet for a few days before your colonoscopy, in addition to taking laxatives to clear out your bowels. Because of this, you might notice some changes to your bowel habits for the first few days after you have a colonoscopy, such as constipation or diarrhea.
It’s common to have minor symptoms after a colonoscopy, including stomach cramping, gas, and bloating. These symptoms will typically go away within a day or two of your colonoscopy.
If you had polyps removed during your colonoscopy, it might take you a week or two before you recover completely.
You might feel tired and not up to preparing meals like you normally would. Ideally, you should stock your pantry and refrigerator with the foods you want ahead of time, so you don’t have to put as much work into it after your procedure.
Foods you can eat after a colonoscopy
Your healthcare provider may offer specific guidance in terms of the type of diet you should follow post-colonoscopy. Otherwise, the following suggestions may be helpful after you come home from your procedure.
For the first day or two post-colonoscopy, it’s advised to eat soft, bland foods that are easy to digest and aren’t likely to worsen stomach upset like nausea or diarrhea.
Here are some great foods to have on hand:
- Chicken (skinless)
- White fish (tuna, tilapia, etc.)
- Soft/cooked vegetables
- Canned fruit/applesauce
The bowel prep used before a colonoscopy can be dehydrating if you don’t keep up with your fluid intake.
To support hydration after your colonoscopy, sip on clear liquids such as apple juice and sports drinks if you are not drinking enough plain water.
If you’re feeling nauseous or have an upset stomach, consider natural nausea remedies such as ginger (ginger chews, ginger ale, etc.) and peppermint teas.
Foods to avoid after a colonoscopy
After your colonoscopy, you might experience gas and general stomach discomfort for a day or two. You might also experience diarrhea from using laxatives before your colonoscopy.
Fat takes a long time to digest. Avoiding fatty foods (think fried foods) after your colonoscopy can help reduce stomach upset and diarrhea that you might be experiencing.
Try to stick with lean protein instead of high-fat meat for the first day or so after your colonoscopy. While meat is a great source of protein, high-fat meat is more difficult to digest than softer, leaner protein like tuna, fish, or eggs.
If your stomach is sensitive after your colonoscopy, try to avoid foods made with a lot of spices. Spicy food can irritate your stomach, which will be empty after your bowel prep before the procedure.
Start with bland foods and then increase the variety of spices you include in your diet as tolerated.
Fiber is an important nutrient, but it isn’t always easy on your digestive system. Your body doesn’t absorb fiber, so by the time it reaches your colon, it’s fermented by bacteria. This process releases gas, which can worsen the expected increase in gas after your colonoscopy.
If you’re experiencing diarrhea after your colonoscopy, you’ll also want to avoid high-fiber foods since some types of fiber can worsen diarrhea.
Some examples of high-fiber/gas-forming foods include:
- Vegetables (especially vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower)
- Fresh fruit with skin & seeds (canned fruit can be lower in fiber)
- Whole grains
Avoiding alcohol for at least 24 hours after your colonoscopy is advised.
The main reason for this is due to the sedatives used during the procedure, which can linger in your system for 24 hours afterward and cause tiredness, sleepiness, and confusion. Drinking alcohol on top of that could impair your ability to think clearly and could be dangerous.
When can I start eating normally after a colonoscopy?
You likely won’t need to follow a low-fiber diet for very long after a colonoscopy. A high-fiber diet is healthy for your colon. It can help prevent constipation, which you might suffer from initially after a colonoscopy (due to sedation and bowel prep before the procedure).
Once you’re feeling well and don’t have any lingering symptoms from your colonoscopy, aim to regularly include high-fiber foods in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
What is the fastest way to recover from a colonoscopy?
- Give yourself plenty of time to recover after your colonoscopy. Some people take a bit longer to bounce back after anesthesia, so don’t expect to return to your normal activities the same day as your colonoscopy.
- Avoid heavy lifting and other strenuous activities for the first couple days after your colonoscopy.
- Ask for help when you need it. You’ll need someone to drive you home after your colonoscopy, and you might want to have someone around for the first several hours after you get home to make sure you’re doing okay.
- Drink plenty of fluids. You might be slightly dehydrated from the use of laxatives before your colonoscopy. Drinking fluids can help your digestive system return to normal.
- Take any medications as recommended by your healthcare provider. You might be encouraged to take over-the-counter pain medication as needed, as well as stool softeners to help with any constipation.
- Notify your healthcare provider if anything seems off. If you’re not feeling well after a few days, or if you have any alarming symptoms like significant bleeding after a bowel movement, you should touch base with the office where you had your colonoscopy done.
A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure most commonly used to screen for colon and rectal cancer.
After a colonoscopy, you might experience mild stomach symptoms like stomach upset, diarrhea, and constipation. To help your digestive system bounce back after a colonoscopy, you may want to eat soft, bland foods and drink plenty of clear liquids.
If you’re experiencing stomach upset, avoid high-fiber foods that cause gas, high-fat foods, and spicy foods. You also shouldn’t drink any alcohol for 24 hours after your colonoscopy.