A colonoscopy is a test that allows a gastroenterologist to examine the interior lining of the colon. The results of this procedure are used to diagnose colon abnormalities such as colon cancer, colon polyps, ulceration and areas of inflammation and bleeding. While people undergoing this procedure are usually given preparation instructions which include a clear liquid diet, the post-procedure diet is less clearly defined. In general, however, doctors recommend most people resume eating their normal diet within the day of the procedure, although based on symptoms and tolerance, in some people the transition to regular foods may need to occur more slowly.
Fluids are typically the first food item given after a colonoscopy. The preparation for the colonoscopy draws extra fluids into the colon to help empty the bowel, allowing optimal visual inspection. This can lead to minor dehydration and make you thirsty. Water, sports drinks, jello or ice pops are often tolerated well shortly after the procedure. If you are nauseated from the pain medication or sedation, you may need to slowly sip fluids, and wait to introduce solid foods until you feel better. If anesthesia was used, alcoholic beverages are not recommended at least 24 hours after the procedure, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).
Advancing Your Diet
If you are feeling well after drinking some fluids, you may be ready to transition to solid foods as your first meal after the procedure. According to AANA, after sedation, well tolerated foods include light or easy-to-digest foods such as soup, crackers, toast, rice, soft fruit and yogurt. If you have any nausea, spicy foods or high fat foods such as steak, pizza or fried chicken may worsen your symptoms. Everyone is different, though, and some people can eat a usual diet -- without restrictions -- as their first meal after the procedure.
In some cases your doctor may recommend you transition more slowly to your usual diet, or even prescribe a special diet if eating regular foods will aggravate any symptoms. For instance, if you have any complications after your colonoscopy, such as bleeding, pain or cramping, your doctor may want you to advance your diet more slowly. If you have any medical problems that require a specific diet or the avoidance of certain foods, these restrictions will need to be in place as you resume your usual diet.
Your food choices after your colonoscopy will be influenced by your symptoms, your hunger level and your doctor's recommendations for the post-procedure diet. But most people should be able to resume their usual diet within a day of the procedure. Contact your doctor if you have ongoing nausea, vomiting or poor appetite that makes it difficult to eat. Also, let your doctor know if you have any signs of infection, such as chills or fever, severe abdominal or chest pain, black or tarry stools, abdominal distention or bleeding.