Why You Can't Drink Alcohol Before a Colonoscopy

Don't drink beer or other alcohol before your colonoscopy — instead, sip hydrating fluids like water and sports drinks.
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A colonoscopy is a procedure where your doctor checks your large intestine for disease or abnormalities, and to make sure your colon is visible, you can only have clear liquids the day before your procedure. But can you drink alcohol before a colonoscopy? After all, some alcohol looks clear.

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The short answer? No, according to UCLA Health. Here's why you can't drink alcohol before a colonoscopy, including beer, wine, hard liquor and any other alcoholic beverages.

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1. It's Dehydrating

Though you may want to enjoy a cold beer before a colonoscopy to calm your nerves, beer and other alcoholic beverages can lead to dehydration, per UCLA Health. You'll already be losing a lot of fluids from your pre-colonoscopy laxative cleanse, so adding to this dehydration won't do you any favors.

Dehydration can cause unpleasant side effects that you'll want to avoid as you prepare for your procedure, per the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include:

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  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Mood changes like irritability
  • Thirst

Before your test, avoid alcohol and make sure to replenish fluids and electrolytes often by drinking plenty of water or other hydrating, clear beverages, according to the Mayo Clinic.

2. It Can Cloud Your Judgement

Another reason to skip alcohol before your colonoscopy is it can alter your thought process, per Kaiser Permanente.

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Being sober will help ensure you properly follow prep instructions the morning of your colonoscopy so you don't have to reschedule it. Having as clear a mind as possible is also important after your procedure to help you best communicate with your doctor and understand your colonoscopy results.

3. It Can Leave Residue in Your Colon

The goal of colonoscopy prep laxatives and the clear liquid diet is to empty you out so your doctor has an unobstructed view of your colon, per the Cleveland Clinic. Avoiding red, blue and purple foods and drinks in the day leading up to your procedure is an important piece of that puzzle.

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That's because staining from red, blue and purple products (like red wine) can look like blood and interfere with your doctor's ability to accurately detect any problems, according to the Iowa Clinic.

4. It Can Interact With Sedatives

Alcohol may interact with the sedatives you're given during your colonoscopy, according to the Iowa Clinic. For instance, drinking alcohol may mean you need a higher dose of anesthesia than you might otherwise, per the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Colonoscopy sedatives can also linger in your system, so wait to drink alcohol until at least one full day after your procedure, per Kaiser Permanente.

Alcohol can also mess with certain medications you might take in your everyday life, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This can lead to side effects or alter how well your medicine works, both of which can get in the way of effective colonoscopy prep, a successful procedure or your health overall.

Common types of meds that don't mix well with alcohol include:

  • Allergy medicine
  • Anxiety and depression medication
  • ADHD medication
  • Diabetes medication
  • High blood pressure medication
  • High cholesterol medication
  • Sleep aids
  • Anti-seizure medication

Can You Drink Alcohol Two Days Before a Colonoscopy?

You should stop drinking alcohol during the day leading up to your procedure, according to Kaiser Permanente. However, you shouldn't drink red wine two days before a colonoscopy (or any other red, blue and purple foods and drinks, for that matter) to avoid staining your colon.

What to Drink Instead

While alcohol isn't the best choice before a colonoscopy, there are plenty of other things you can sip. Here's what you can drink and eat on a clear liquid diet leading up to your procedure:

  • Pulp-free juice like white grape or apple juice
  • Electrolyte sports drinks
  • Clear sodas like ginger ale
  • Tea or coffee (without milk or cream)
  • Ice pops or fruit ice
  • Clear hard candy like lemon drops
  • Fruit-flavored gelatin or Jell-O (as long as it's not red, orange, blue or purple)
  • Clear soups and broths like vegetable, beef and chicken broth or bouillon

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Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.
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