Colonoscopies are exams used to check a person’s large intestines for potential changes which could indicate an underlying problem such as cancer. While many people understand that certain preparations are required ahead of the screening, not as many individuals are familiar with post-event care. Learning what foods to avoid, or when to reintroduce other items, can ensure proper recovery.
Why aftercare matters
While many people are aware of the preparations required before a colonoscopy, few know how taxing those steps can be on the body. In particular, people are required to fully empty the colon, which often requires taking strong laxatives such as magnesium citrate. Additionally, during this period, patients are encouraged to fast and adjust diets in favor of low-fiber and lighter foods that can leave the digestive system quickly. As a result, dehydration, as well as intense bowel movements, are common side effects.
Return to food slowly
Considering that fasting and intense laxatives are core aspects of the preparation period, returning to normal can’t happen immediately. Patients are encouraged to slowly integrate foods back into a daily routine immediately following a colonoscopy. But in some cases, people may be instructed to avoid food entirely the first day after the procedure. Typically, dietary restrictions are only suggested for the first day or two after the exam. But some people may need to delay the process.
Foods to prioritize
Initially, following a colonoscopy, soft foods or liquids are usually the most that a person can tolerate. Popular safe options include electrolyte drinks or water, fruit or vegetable juices, herbal teas, crackers, soup or applesauce, yogurt, pudding, popsicles, mashed or baked potatoes, toast, scrambled eggs, canned fruits, or cooked vegetables. Recovering patients should prioritize low-fiber foods that are gentle on the digestive system. Meanwhile, dairy should be avoided as these foods can be difficult to digest.
Foods to avoid
Individual experiences will vary, but most people recovering from a colonoscopy should avoid spicy foods. Additionally, hard-to-digest meats, raw vegetables, alcohol, whole grain bread or crackers, dried fruits or fruits with the skin still on, brown rice and corn, nuts, fried foods, and popcorn shouldn’t be consumed immediately after a colonoscopy.
Make colon health a priority
One of the main reasons a colonoscopy is recommended is to screen for colorectal cancer. Most people are encouraged to begin having routine screenings around age 45. In particular, doctors will look for polyps so that the abnormal growths can be removed before developing into cancer. While the preparation, exam, and aftercare are less than ideal experiences, the procedure is an important one. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the US. Timely screenings and treatment can help lower the chances of developing colorectal cancer.