A colonoscopy is a screening test, typically done under general anesthesia. It’s used to detect potential health problems in the colon, such as polyps (small growths which may become cancerous), and colorectal cancer.
What you eat and drink after the procedure is important. The preparations you went through to prepare for the colonoscopy are dehydrating, so putting fluids and electrolytes back into your system is vital. Your doctor may recommend that you eat sparingly, or not at all, in the hours immediately following the procedure. For the rest of that day and the day after, you’ll be advised to drink lots of fluid and to eat soft, easily digestible foods which won’t irritate your colon.
These dietary safeguards are typically required for one day only, but everyone is different. If your system can’t tolerate your usual diet immediately, continue to eat soft and liquid-based foods for an extra day or two.
Foods you can eat after a colonoscopy
After a colonoscopy, you’ll eat and drink things that are gentle on your digestive system. Drinking lots of fluid and fluid-based foods will help you avoid dehydration. Your doctor may also recommend you follow a soft, low-residue diet immediately after the procedure. This consists of a limited amount of dairy, plus low-fiber foods which are easy to digest and produce less stool.
Foods and drinks to have the day after colonoscopy include:
- drinks with electrolytes
- fruit juice
- vegetable juice
- herbal tea
- saltine crackers
- graham crackers
- scrambled eggs
- tender, cooked vegetables
- canned fruit, such as peaches
- mashed or baked potato
- white bread or toast
- smooth nut butter
- soft white fish
- apple butter
What not to eat after a colonoscopy
A colonoscopy only takes around 30 minutes, but your system may still need recuperation time. This is partly due to the procedure itself, and partly due to the bowel prep you went through before it.
To aid healing, avoiding foods that are hard to digest the day after is beneficial. This includes anything which might irritate your bowels, such as spicy foods and those high in fiber. Heavy, greasy foods may also increase feelings of nausea after general anesthesia.
Air is introduced into the colon during the procedure, so that it can remain open. Because of this, you may expel more gas afterwards than you normally do. If so, you may wish to avoid carbonated beverages, which add more gas to your system.
If you had a polyp removed, your doctor may recommend additional dietary guidelines for you. These include avoiding foods, such as seeds, nuts, and popcorn, for an additional two weeks.
Foods and drinks to avoid the day after colonoscopy include:
- alcoholic beverages
- steak, or any type of tough, hard-to-digest meat
- whole grain bread
- whole grain crackers, or crackers with seeds
- raw vegetables
- brown rice
- fruit with the skin on
- dried fruit, such as raisins
- spices, such as garlic, curry, and red pepper
- highly-seasoned foods
- crunchy nut butters
- fried food
Best practices for taking care of your colon
Your colon (also known as the large intestine, or bowels) is a vital part of the digestive system. Keeping it healthy includes getting a colonoscopy every 5-10 years, starting at age 50. Most people only need this screening done once per decade.
Taking care of your colon requires more than just regular screenings. It also means eating healthy, keeping your body mass index in a healthy range, and avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices. Less than 10 percent of all colon cancer is based on heredity. Healthy habits have a large impact on colon health.
As reported in Gut in 2006, obesity, too-high insulin levels, and abdominal fat are all risk factors for colon cancer. Having a diet high in refined sugar and low in fiber is cited within the article as increasing this risk.
Healthy foods to eat include:
- lean protein
- whole grains
- low-fat dairy, such as yogurt and skim milk
Unhealthy foods to avoid include:
- desserts and high-sugar foods
- foods high in saturated fat, such as fast food
- red meat
- processed meat
Smoking cigarettes, or using other tobacco products, aren’t advisable for good colon health.
Staying active by exercising is also important for colon health. Exercise helps reduce insulin levels. It also helps keep weight down. A meta-analysis published in 2009, which analyzed the results from 507 studies, found that physical activity reduced colon cancer risk by 24 percent.