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What should I eat after a colonoscopy?

Bowel Cancer Australia

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After a colonoscopy, it is common to be hungry and thirsty as you would have been asked to fast and completely empty your bowel before the procedure. However, a high calorie meal may not be such a good idea as it may cause you pain and discomfort.

Post colonoscopy the bowel needs to get used to having food in it again, therefore it is recommended that you begin with some easily digested foods. This is particularly the case if you have had a polypectomy (polyp removed) or a biopsy (piece of tissue removed) where the tissue may still be sensitive. 

Soft, low residue diets are helpful for the first two days to avoid upset. Then on day three after the procedure, you can start to eat your regular healthy diet.

What does this diet look like for me?
Hydrate well – this is very important as you will have spent 12- 20 hours without liquid and also have lost a volume of liquid in the bowel preparation.

Drink up to 8 glasses of water in your day or substitute with cups of herbal tea – great hot drinks in winter, and have other liquid-based foods, soups, stews, bone broth and stewed fruits and jellies.

If you drink tea or coffee keep it to a minimum for the first day or two to allow you to hydrate first.

Other options to increase your hydration are:
1. Sports drinks are a great option too as they often contain essential electrolytes in a tasty and easy to drink bottle.
2. Vegetable and fruit juices are nutritious and also contain electrolytes with additional plant nutrients, some top picks from patients are coconut water, apple juice and pear juice.
3. Ice blocks and crushed fruit juice ice drinks, this is great in summer and an easy way to hydrate. Try freezing fruit juice and adding the ice blocks to a blender to make a refreshing iced drink.

First foods

1) Crackers, plain and salted to help sodium levels, choose from water biscuits, gluten free varieties and rice crackers

2) Add some smooth nut butters to your crackers to boost calories. Nut butters are easier to digest if they do not have chunks of nuts in them so choose the well-blended varieties, tahini hulled, peanut butter smooth, cashew butter and ABC spread.

3) Scrambled eggs, a rich source of nutritious protein that will fill you up with easily digested nutrients

4) White non-oily fish, fish is easy to digest and poached or baked is a top protein source and is generally well tolerated in delicate post procedure stomachs

5) Chicken breast, the white meat of chicken poached or baked (skin off) can be added to lunch or dinner to increase your sensation of fullness

6) Mashed peeled potato or white rice, add one of these to a meal to help your energy levels throughout the day and your sleep at night

7) Stewed and blended fruit such as peaches, apples, apricots and pears, or canned in their own natural juice, add some plain yoghurt for additional calories and probiotic benefits to the digestive system

8) Slow cooked or well steamed vegetables such as zucchini, carrot, pumpkin and baby spinach with chicken or fish in a stew style meal. Slow cooked food is easier to digest

9) Rice and gelatin puddings, these can be tasty, providing hydration and nutrients to sooth the gastric system after a colonoscopy

10) White toast or bread, bagels, flat bread, pita pockets, Lebanese bread, sourdough are an easy to digest snack for the first two days of recovery

Avoid these foods for the first two days and slowly introduce on day three

  • Foods with pips and stalks, hard vegetable or fruit skins as they are hard to digest and may cause wind pain and gas.
  • Spicy foods are best left for day four to five to avoid gastric upset. If you have been told to eat a low fibre low residue diet, continue with tips 1-10 for the first week before returning to your normal diet – unless otherwise guided by a dietician or nutritionist.
  • Beans, legumes, corn, coconut shreds, popcorn, nuts and seeds, peas and sprouts.
  • Carbonated fizzy drinks and alcohol.
  • Deep fried and oily foods, such as chips, spring rolls, dumplings, fried meat and chicken schnitzel and battered or tempura style meals.
  • Whole grain, high fibre and seeded bread, baked biscuits, cake, muffins and cereals

With a bit of care and planning, you will be able to avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort post-colonoscopy.

For more information and support, lease don't hesitate to contact Bowel Cancer Australia's friendly, qualified Bowel Care Nutritionist and is herself a bowel cancer survivor.