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An end to "no eating" before your colonoscopy?

May 27, 2016 | John Murray
Bowl of scrambled eggs

It’s time for your colonoscopy.

You know you need it. You may even know that colonoscopy is the gold standard for early colon cancer detection, or that colon cancer is still the country’s second leading cause of cancer death.

Maybe you’re putting it off, like thousands of others, because thinking about the clear liquid diet and laxatives needed for colonoscopy prep makes you gag.

Food may be better

Those days may soon be over as a UCI Health study released this week suggests that a diet with some food — think eggs, yogurt, bread, even ice cream — may be more effective in preparing your bowels for viewing than the traditionally restrictive diet the day before your procedure.

“These foods are easily liquefied in the small intestine and can be washed out easily, so they don't interfere with the colonoscopy procedure,” says UCI Health gastroenterologist Dr. Jason Samarasena, who presented the findings at the 2016 Digestive Diseases Week, the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.

But don’t skip your doctor’s orders just yet if you have a colonoscopy scheduled soon. The low-residue diet requires a little more research before it’s widely adopted. Still, Samarasena’s findings are important.

Happier patients

“Bowel preparation and dietary restrictions are the most-often cited deterrents to undergoing colonoscopy,” he says. “This study shows that a low residue diet results in a high-quality bowel preparation, and significantly better patient tolerability, which may help increase participation in colorectal screening.”

The traditional approach is based on the need for patients to have nothing in their bowels so the physician can clearly see the colon’s interior walls and check for abnormalities.

“For many people, the idea of taking strong laxatives and not being able to eat anything solid for 12 hours is unpleasant, and so they decide to not have a colonoscopy,” Samarasena says.

“My hope is that with a low-residue diet people are going to be more willing to have this vital screening test performed.”

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