Normal preparation instructions for a colonoscopy call for clear liquids the day before the test.  But are they really necessary for doctors to get a clear view of the colon?

A small randomized study reported in a poster at the American College of Gastroenterology 2011 Annual Scientific Meeting found that a full liquid diet including milk, yogurt, pudding, fruit, and veggie juices -- even ice cream -- was just as good as a more restricted clear liquid diet in finding polyps.

Doctors doing the exams didn't know which patients had clear liquids only and who got to eat a full liquid diet but rated them equally effective in satisfactorily cleansing the colon

In addition, the number of patients where polyps were found wasn't different in the two diets.  One patient on a clear diet wasn't able to finish the prep -- which also included 2 liters of MoviPrep.

Researchers, led by Ellen Gutkin, DO at New York Hospital Queens, randomized 34 patients preparing for a colonoscopy the next day to either a traditional clear liquid diet or a full liquid diet that included milk, milkshakes, creamed soup, pudding, cream, fruit and vegetable juices, yogurt, and ice cream.

Strangely, even with more food choices, there was no difference in patient satisfaction.

The team concluded,

"Our study demonstrates that a full liquid diet does not worsen bowel preparation, decrease the ability to detect polyps, or increase total colonoscopy time, when compared with a clear liquid diet. Patient’s overall satisfaction scores were similar for full and clear liquid diets."

SOURCE:  Gutkin et al., Poster #P412, ACG 2011 Scientific Meeting.

What This Means for Patients

Does this mean you can chow down before your next colonoscopy -- or even have some creamed asparagus soup or ice cream?

Probably not.  The study was small and needs to be repeated in larger, randomized groups of patients preparing for colonoscopy.

However, if results hold up, this could provide an easier experience getting ready for that test, particularly for patients with diabetes or other illnesses that make very restricted diets hard.

Until we have more information, follow the instructions from your doctor to be sure your colon is shiny clean!

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2 thoughts on “Clear Liquids Before Colonoscopy — Really Necessary?

  1. Thanks for pointing out that clear liquids are recommended for the day before your colonoscopy. You also mentioned that some doctors think that ice cream, pudding, yogurt, and milk might be just as good as a liquid-only diet. I think it’s important to follow the advice of the doctor that is performing the colonoscopy so that they can better detect anything out of place.

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