Multigrain bread, along with other fibrous foods, is off-limits before a colonoscopy.
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Getting ready for a colonoscopy takes longer than the procedure itself, as Harvard Health Publishing points out — and that's largely because of all the dietary do's and don'ts you have to follow. Some of the instructions are focused on what you should eat — but even more of them are about what foods you should avoid before a colonoscopy.
After all, the whole goal of colonoscopy preparation is to empty your intestines so the doctor will be able to see any abnormalities when they go in with the colonoscope.
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"Emptying increases visibility," says Cordialis Msora-Kasago, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "It allows your doctor to see the lining of your colon more clearly — and it also decreases complications." If the doctor can't see the lining of the intestine clearly, they could make a mistake such as inadvertently nicking it.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy
Fortunately, you should receive plenty of guidance from your physician ahead of the procedure. "Most people who are going to have a colonoscopy will receive instructions on what to do and will be offered a dietary protocol to follow," says Ruth Kander, RD a dietitian at The Fleet Street Clinic.
Different facilities have different guidelines when it comes to emptying the colon pre-procedure. "Colonoscopy prep and diet vary," says Msora-Kasago. "It's very important for individuals to follow the guidelines of their physician at the particular site they're going to."
That said, here's what you're likely to read in the instructions when it comes to the foods to avoid before a colonoscopy.
Foods to Avoid Before a Colonoscopy
1. High-Fiber Foods
Many colonoscopy centers will ask you to cut out high-fiber foods about three days before the procedure. "That means focusing on low-fiber and low-roughage foods to prepare your gut, to start cleaning it out so [your colon lining is] easier to see," says Msora-Kasago.
"Roughage is another term for insoluble fiber, which is the parts of food that cannot be digested," says Naila Arebi, consultant gastroenterologist at Princess Grace Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK.
"It is needed in our bodies to help food and waste pass through the intestines. However, residual roughage can remain in your colon, and conceal potential issues that your doctor is looking for."
A low-fiber diet may seem counterintuitive. After all, high-fiber foods — especially plant-based ones — are supposed to help prevent colon cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. (Fiber basically scrubs out the colon, clearing it of potentially unhealthy buildup, per the University of California San Francisco).
The problem is, high-fiber foods fill up your colon and take several days to clear. That's exactly what you don't want before a colonoscopy procedure.
Fibrous foods to stay away from before a colonoscopy include legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils, whole grains, fresh fruits and raw vegetables (cooked is OK), says Msora-Kasago. Raisins, popcorn, corn and potato chips are also on the list.
But these are the guidelines... for now. An October 2018 article in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy reported that restricting dietary fiber the day before a colonoscopy may not actually be all that helpful. "There's a debate about whether restricting diet is necessary," says Msora-Kasago. "The evidence is still evolving."
According to an April 2019 study in Diseases of the Colon & Rectum, folks who followed a low-fiber diet the day before their colonoscopy saw better prep results than those who only had clear liquids. For now, though, the main thing to remember is to closely follow whatever instructions your own doctor gives you.
2. Seeds and Seedy Bread
You should also be aware that some foods will need to be eliminated for up to a week before the procedure.
"All seeds, such as chia, linseeds, sesame, poppy, sunflower, flax, hemp, nigella and pumpkin seeds commonly found in multigrain bread should be avoided for at least one week prior to a colonoscopy," says Arebi.
"Not only do they linger in the colon but may also obstruct the suction channel of the colonoscope and prolong the procedure as the endoscopy team spends time clearing the instrument."
3. Foods Containing Dye
Although no official guidelines specifically recommend avoiding foods with dyes, most colonoscopy centers will tell you to stay away from them before the procedure. The concern is that red dye can stain the colon and make it difficult to see abnormalities, says John H. Ashcraft, DO, chief of colon and rectal surgery at the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City.
Dye in the colon can also provide potentially misleading information. "Colors such as blue, purple and red can appear as abnormalities, prompting concern," says Arebi.
So don't be surprised if you're asked to forego fluids, Jell-O, ice pops and any other foods or drinks that are red, purple or orange.
If you're not sure what foods contain dye, Kander advises checking the nutritional label for the following:
- Sunset yellow FCF (E110)
- Quinoline yellow (E104)
- Carmoisine (E122)
- Allura red (E129)
- Tartrazine (E102)
- Ponceau 4R (E124)
These are all dyes and should be avoided ahead of your procedure.
4. Solid Foods
Even more painful than restricting fiber and avoiding food containing certain dyes is stopping all solid foods during colonoscopy prep. Even something as seemingly innocent as mashed potatoes must be avoided.
"This is to ensure that there is no residual food in your digestive tract at the time of the colonoscopy and that all the lining of the colon is not obscured," says Arebi.
If you're having difficulty discerning what counts as solid food, Kander says it includes everything that isn't liquid at room temperature. That means "softer" solid foods like cheese, mashed potato and yogurt are all out of bounds.
What to Eat Before a Colonoscopy
So what does that leave? In short: clear fluids, gelatin and ice pops. Specific items that can be enjoyed include bouillon, tea, clear fruit juice without pulp (apple, white grape, white cranberry, lemonade), clear sports drinks and yellow or green Jell-O and ice pops.
Black coffee is fine as well, even if it contains sugar — but not coffee with creamer or milk.
An exception to the clear-liquids rule? Alcohol. "Even though alcohol is clear, it tends to be dehydrating," says Msora-Kasago. It's also not a good idea to have alcohol in your system before a colonoscopy when you're going to be sedated.
Should You Fast Before a Colonoscopy?
As certain foods are out of bounds ahead of a colonoscopy, you might be tempted to fast 24 hours beforehand. Arebi says this isn't necessary.
"24 hours before a colonoscopy, liquids can be consumed including broths and most drinks, provided that they don't contain red, blue or purple food dye," she says.
Two hours before the procedure, it's important not to drink anything at all as this can impair the exam.
Other Colonoscopy Preparation Tips
There are a few other ways to ensure your procedure runs smoothly. If you have opted to have a sedative for the procedure, you should arrange for someone to collect you after your colonoscopy and stay with you overnight.
"This is because some people can have a reaction to the sedative used," says Arebi.
Fatty, fried foods, such as chips, should also be avoided for 2 to 3 days before the colonoscopy as these can digest slowly, along with tough meats.
People with diabetes on insulin may have a separate protocol to follow.
What to Eat After a Colonoscopy
What foods should be avoided before a colonoscopy? ›
- Avoid nuts, seeds, dried fruits, dried beans and peas.
- Avoid whole grains and cereals.
- Choose cooked or canned fruits and vegetables over fresh ones.
- Choose white bread, white rice and products made with refined flour.
- Drink juices without pulp.
OK to eat:
- Breads and grains made with refined white flour (including rolls, muffins, bagels, pasta)
- White rice.
- Plain crackers, such as Saltines.
- Low-fiber cereal (including puffed rice, cream of wheat, corn flakes)
- Well cooked, lean (low fat) beef, lamb, ham, veal or pork.
- Fish, shellfish or poultry.
- White rice, noodles or white pasta.
- Cereal including cornflakes and crisped rice cereal, but not bran.
- White bread or toast.
- Rich tea or other plain biscuits.
- Eggs, especially boiled or poached.
- scrambled eggs.
- vegetable purees and soups.
- soft fruits, like bananas.
Remember, you can't drink anything for at least 2 hours before your procedure. You must have someone to take you home after your colonoscopy and stay with you for at least two hours. Do not use alcohol, marijuana, or other substances that could impair your thought process prior to your appointment.Are bananas OK before colonoscopy? ›
Foods to avoid:
Raw fruit (bananas are OK) Canned pineapple, oranges, grapefruit sections, mixed fruit. Dried fruit. All berries, melons.
You will usually be asked to avoid eating all solid foods the day before your colonoscopy, including eggs. However in the week preceding your colonoscopy, you can eat eggs.What can you not eat 6 days before a colonoscopy? ›
Approximately five days prior to your colonoscopy, start eating a low-fiber diet. This means cutting out whole grains, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried and raw fruit. You'll also want to eliminate foods that are hard to digest like fried foods, tough meats like steak, popcorn, and vegetable skins.Can I eat mac and cheese 2 days before colonoscopy? ›
Instead of the traditional clear liquid diet the day before, colonoscopy patients can enjoy mac n' cheese, cookies and chips. “Our food kit makes the colonoscopy process more bearable for patients,” said Jeff Scott, M.D., the board-certified gastroenterologist who created Happy Colon Foods.Can I have a banana 2 days before colonoscopy? ›
Three days before your colonoscopy eat low fiber foods: Soft fruits, like bananas. Well-cooked vegetables without skin. Fruit without skin or seeds.
What kind of broth is best for colonoscopy prep? ›
Clear broth or bone broth is also helpful in keeping nutrients in the body without solid food intake. These can be prepared with chicken broth powder, bouillon, or bought premade. Any broth is acceptable as long as it contains no noodles or solids.Can you eat strained chicken noodle soup before colonoscopy? ›
Maintain a CLEAR LIQUID DIET ALL DAY the day before your test. This includes: non red Jell-O without fruit, apple juice, broth or strained soup, gatorade, popsicles, tea and coffee without cream or sugar.Can I eat scrambled eggs the day before my colonoscopy? ›
1 Day Before Your Colonoscopy (Prep Day)
Before 10:00 am, you may have a small, light breakfast. Examples of a light breakfast are: eggs, soup or broth with noodles (no meat or vegetables), white crackers, white rice, white potatoes, white bread, Boost® or Ensure®.
Patients who can afford to skip more meals should stop solid food intake at 24 hours prior to colonoscopy. However, for patients who are not able to fast for long, they should be allowed to take solid food up to 14 hours prior to the procedure, thus reducing the need to over-starve them.Can I eat mashed potatoes 2 days before colonoscopy? ›
Avoid products containing Olestra (a fat substitute found in some fat-free and low-fat foods) for one week. A few examples of foods you may eat are dairy products, meats, poultry, fish, pasta, white rice, white bread, eggs, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots or squash.What time of day is best for colonoscopy? ›
Studies have indicated that colonoscopies done during the morning hours have actually contributed to more accurate findings due to a number of varying factors. Although it might not be a thrill to wake up earlier than usual, it could just help your overall health.What is the best thing to take before a colonoscopy? ›
At 6 p.m., take 3 tablets of Dulcolax® laxative pill with water by mouth. At 8 p.m. the evening before your colonoscopy start drinking the Gatorade®/MiraLAX® solution. Drink one 8-ounce glass every 10 minutes until completed.What should you not do after a colonoscopy? ›
The effects of the sedation could last up to a day, so you should not drive or operate any machinery until the following day. You may feel gassy or bloated for a while after the procedure because of the air that was injected into your intestine during the colonoscopy.Is oatmeal OK before colonoscopy? ›
Do not eat high-grain/ high-fiber bread, rolls, pasta, crackers or cereal with nuts or seeds. This includes granola, raisin bran and oatmeal. If you have any medical contraindications to anything on the recommended foods column, please avoid them entirely or consult your doctor.Is avocado OK before colonoscopy? ›
Don't eat these foods
Avocado, mushrooms Beans, nuts, peas, lentils – all other vegetables including salads. Fish, chicken, tofu, eggs, oils Red meats, processed meats; ham, sausage.
Can I have applesauce before colonoscopy? ›
Yes, you can have applesauce the day before your colonoscopy. However, the day before your scheduled procedure, you should stick to a clear liquid diet. This includes things like broth, tea, coffee (without milk or creamer), clear juices, and jello.Is yogurt OK before colonoscopy? ›
For Breakfast You may have a light breakfast consisting of plain or vanilla yogurt, 2 slices of dry or buttered toast, coffee or tea (with a little cream or milk) and clear liquids. After Breakfast Start on a clear liquid diet. Clear liquids are those you can “see through”. NOTE: CLEAR LIQUIDS ONLY.What should I eat for breakfast the day after a colonoscopy? ›
After a colonoscopy, eat foods that are soft and easy to digest to ease side effects such as bloating or gas. This may include eggs, white toast, and applesauce for breakfast. For lunch or dinner, choices could include lean chicken without skin, mashed potatoes, and soft-cooked carrots.What vegetables can you eat 2 days before colonoscopy? ›
- Any well-cooked vegetables without seeds (e.g., carrots, asparagus tips, green or wax beans, pumpkin, spinach, lima beans)
- Potatoes without skin.
- Strained vegetable juice.
NO tough meat with gristle
Three days before your colonoscopy, eat only low-fiber foods listed below. Two days before, continue eating only low-fiber foods. See the clear liquid chart for the day before, and day of, your colonoscopy.
Jell-O (no red, purple, or orange in color. We prefer that you have only light colors such as yellow or pink.) We require that you contact us at least 72 hours before your scheduled test if you wish to cancel your test.What not to eat 24 hours before colonoscopy? ›
The day before the colonoscopy procedure — Don't eat solid foods. Instead, consume only clear liquids like clear broth or bouillon, black coffee or tea, clear juice (apple, white grape), clear soft drinks or sports drinks, Jell-O, popsicles, etc.Is canned tuna OK before colonoscopy? ›
Low Residue Diet prior to Colonoscopy
Canned fish in brine, not oil. Fried or fatty meat, Fat on meat, skin on Chicken, rich gravy or sauce, anything Crumbed, spiced or Seasoned.
Two to Three Days before Your Colonoscopy
This means that you cannot eat: Whole grains: Including brown rice, whole grain breads and cereals, and high-fiber cereals and muffins. Nuts: Including peanuts, almonds, walnuts, chunky peanut butter, and breads or cereals that contain these or any other nuts.
Try eating cold Jell-O, then hot broth.
The warm liquid expands the gelatin in your stomach and presto! Your tummy is not growling anymore! Try to find interesting popsicle flavors like banana, green apple, or pineapple. The most popular flavors of popsicles are grape, cherry and orange—all no-no colors!
What kind of hard candy before colonoscopy? ›
Gelatin desserts without added fruit or topping (NO RED, PURPLE, OR PINK) Clear hard candies (example: Jolly Ranchers)Can I have a small breakfast the day before a colonoscopy? ›
You must not eat any solid foods the day before your colonoscopy. You may only eat a clear liquid diet.Is orange Jell-O OK for colonoscopy prep? ›
Avoid red, orange and purple colored Jell-O and Gatorade. This discolors your stool and interferes with the colonoscopy.What is considered a light breakfast before colonoscopy? ›
1 Day Before Your Colonoscopy (Prep Day)
Before 10:00 am, you may have a small, light breakfast. Examples of a light breakfast are: eggs, soup or broth with noodles (no meat or vegetables), white crackers, white rice, white potatoes, white bread, Boost® or Ensure®. At 10:00 am, begin a clear liquid diet.
Clear liquids include anything that you can see through including; beef, chicken, vegetable broth or bouillon, apple juice, white grape juice, white cranberry juice, sodas (colas or clear, diet or regular), Jell-O or popsicles (green or yellow only), and coffee or tea. Sweeteners are ok. Creamer is not.When should I start prep for a 7am colonoscopy? ›
Typically, bowel prep medication is a solution that you will need to drink starting one day before your procedure. You will be asked to take the colon prep in two doses: the first dose, 3-6 pm the night before your procedure; the second dose, 6-8 hours before your procedure.