Can I eat normally 5 days before colonoscopy?

Many people wonder if they can eat normally in the days leading up to a colonoscopy. The preparation for a colonoscopy typically involves strict dietary restrictions starting 1-3 days beforehand. However, in the 5 days prior to that, most patients can continue with a relatively normal diet.

What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses a colonoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a camera) to examine the rectum and entire colon. It allows the doctor to look for polyps, cancers, ulcers, and other abnormalities.

In order to get a clear view, the colon must be completely empty of stool. To achieve this, patients follow a preparation of laxatives and dietary restrictions to clean out the bowels beforehand. The preparation clears out any solid material so the doctor can thoroughly examine the colon lining during the procedure.

Typical Colonoscopy Preparation Timeline

The preparation process typically begins 1-3 days before the colonoscopy. Here is a typical timeline:

  • 5 days before: Continue with normal diet
  • 3 days before: Stop eating high-fiber foods, seeds, nuts, quinoa, popcorn, raw vegetables
  • 2 days before: Only eat light foods like eggs, white bread, chicken, fish, yogurt, cheese
  • 1 day before: Clear liquid diet only – water, clear broth, apple juice, black coffee, gelatin
  • Day of colonoscopy: No eating or drinking 2-4 hours beforehand

However, timelines can vary based on your doctor’s recommendations. Some preparations may start 2-4 days before instead. The key is to follow the specific instructions from your doctor.

Can I Eat Normally 5 Days Before?

Yes, in most cases you can eat a normal diet in the 5 days leading up to the colonoscopy prep. This allows you to get good nutrition before you have to restrict your diet.

During those 5 days, you should be able to eat your regular foods, including:

  • Grains like bread, pasta, cereal
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt
  • Protein foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans
  • Fats and oils
  • Sugary foods like chocolate, cookies, cake in moderation

Eat normal portion sizes of a balanced diet. Avoid overeating or eating too much junk food, as you want to prevent constipation during this time.

Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water, juice, tea, etc. Proper hydration will help the preparation work better.

Foods to Avoid Close to the Colonoscopy

In the 3 days before, you’ll need to cut out high-fiber foods like:

  • Whole grains – whole wheat bread, brown rice, bran cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables with skins, seeds or membranes – berries, pineapple, tomatoes, corn, beans
  • Tough stems and stalks – broccoli, celery, asparagus
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Popcorn

Fiber can leave residue in the colon and make it harder to get a clear view. Avoid anything that could leave behind undigested particles.

In the 2 days leading up, switch to light, low-fiber foods that are easy to digest like eggs, yogurt, white bread, chicken, fish, etc. This gives your colon a bit of a rest beforehand.

Benefits of Eating Normally Beforehand

Here are some of the benefits of maintaining a normal diet in the 5 days before you have to restrict:

  • Energy – You’ll have the energy you need to get through your regular activities before the procedure.
  • Strength – A healthy diet helps you go into the procedure feeling your best physically.
  • Hydration – Eating normally helps you stay hydrated since food provides fluid.
  • Nutrition – You’ll get a nutritionally complete diet with vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs, fat, and fiber.
  • Bowel function – A regular diet and adequate hydration keeps your bowel movements regular.
  • Taste – You get to enjoy the tastes of your normal foods before being restricted to clear liquids.
  • Comfort – Familiar foods are comforting before having a medical procedure.
  • Routine – Having a normal routine reduces stress and discomfort.

Tips for Eating Normally Beforehand

Here are some tips to get the most out of eating normally in the days before your colonoscopy prep:

  • Choose easy to digest foods – avoid anything too greasy, spicy or harsh.
  • Reduce portion sizes slightly so you don’t feel overly full.
  • Cook vegetables well – avoid raw veggies.
  • Chew your food thoroughly for easier digestion.
  • Avoid new foods your body isn’t used to.
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine, carbonation, sugar.
  • Stay hydrated with water, juices, herbal tea, etc.
  • Avoid overdoing dairy if you are lactose intolerant.
  • Reduce your intake of red meat, fatty foods, cured meats if they tend to constipate you.
  • Exercise lightly to keep your bowels moving.

Sample 5 Day Menu Before Colonoscopy

Here is a sample menu that gives you an idea of what types of foods you can enjoy in the 5 days leading up to your colonoscopy prep:

Day Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Monday Oatmeal with berries and milk; whole wheat toast; coffee Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread; lettuce and tomato; yogurt; apple Salmon with rice and roasted vegetables
Tuesday Egg white omelet with cheese, mushrooms, and spinach; whole grain toast; orange juice Chicken salad wrap with greens; melon slices; herbal iced tea Vegetable lasagna; side salad with vinaigrette; fruit salad
Wednesday Greek yogurt with granola, banana, honey Butternut squash soup; grilled cheese on sourdough; baby carrots Pork tenderloin, baked potato, green beans
Thursday Oatmeal with walnuts, raisins, and milk; whole grain English muffin; tea Black bean and avocado salad; whole grain crackers; grapes Pasta with marinara sauce and meatballs; mixed greens salad
Friday Scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, toast; orange wedges Baked tilapia with rice and roasted zucchini; yogurt; peach Begin clear liquid diet

Foods to Stock Up On

To prepare for eating normally before your colonoscopy, stock up on:

  • Whole grains – whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, barley, bran cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables – especially those high in fiber
  • Beans, lentils, peas
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Lean proteins – chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt
  • Healthy fats – olive oil, avocados
  • Herbal tea, water, diluted juices

Foods to Avoid

In those 5 days, you may still want to limit:

  • Processed foods – chips, crackers, cookies, fast food
  • Fatty red meats
  • Sugary foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Greasy, fried foods
  • Raw vegetables
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated beverages

Staying Hydrated

Proper hydration is key leading up to a colonoscopy. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of fluids daily. Good choices include:

  • Water
  • Herbal tea – chamomile, peppermint, ginger
  • Diluted fruit juices – prune, apple, lemon
  • Clear broths
  • Electrolyte drinks like Gatorade
  • Decaf coffee

Avoid drinks with artificial colors or sweeteners. Stay away from sodas, energy drinks, and alcohol as well.

Lifestyle Tips

Here are some healthy lifestyle tips for the week before your colonoscopy:

  • Exercise lightly – walking, swimming, yoga
  • Manage stress with meditation, reading, baths
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Avoid NSAIDs like ibuprofen that can cause bleeding
  • Take a probiotic supplement to support gut health
  • Stop any supplements that may cause bleeding like fish oil, vitamin E
  • Avoid strenuous activities that could cause injury

Medications to Avoid

Check with your doctor about any medications that may need to be stopped 7-10 days before your colonoscopy. These may include:

  • Blood thinners – warfarin, heparin, Clopidogrel
  • Anti-inflammatories – ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin
  • Aspirin
  • Iron supplements
  • Vitamin E
  • Fish oil
  • Fiber supplements like Metamucil

Certain laxatives, opioids, and other medications may also interfere with the colonoscopy prep.

Plan for the Colonoscopy Preparation

Once you get to 4-3 days prior, you’ll need to plan for the colonoscopy preparation phase. Here are some tips:

  • Clear your schedule – you’ll need to be home for the frequent bathroom trips.
  • Stock up on clear fluids, toilet paper, wet wipes, Vaseline.
  • Get magazines, books, movies ready for resting between bathroom trips.
  • Make arrangements for work, family members and pets.
  • Follow prep instructions exactly as directed by your doctor.
  • Have someone to drive you to and from the colonoscopy.


In the 5 days leading up to colonoscopy preparation, most people can continue eating a relatively normal diet. Focus on easy to digest, healthier whole foods and proper hydration. Avoid highly processed items, sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol. Then beginning 3 days before, start eliminating high fiber foods, seeds, nuts, and raw veggies. Two days before switch to only light foods before moving into clear liquids. Following these dietary guidelines will help ease symptoms during the preparation process.

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