A clear liquid diet consists of clear liquids — such as water, broth and plain gelatin — that are easily digested and leave no undigested residue in your intestinal tract. Your doctor may prescribe a clear liquid diet before certain medical procedures or if you have certain digestive problems. Because a clear liquid diet can’t provide you with adequate calories and nutrients, it shouldn’t be continued for more than a few days. Clear liquids and foods may be colored so long as you are able to see through them. Foods can be considered liquid if they partly or completely melt to liquid at room temperature. You can’t eat solid food while on a clear liquid diet. A clear liquid diet is often used before tests, procedures or surgeries that require no food in your stomach or intestines, such as before colonoscopy. It may also be recommended as a short-term diet if you have certain digestive problems, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, or after certain types of surgery. A clear liquid diet helps maintain adequate hydration, provides some important electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, and gives some energy at a time when a full diet isn’t possible or recommended. Depending on your medical condition, your physician or dietitian may alter the above list.
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As the name implies, the full liquid diet is one where only liquids—or foods that turn into a liquid at room or body temperature—are allowed. It may be recommended for a variety of reasons, such as when swallowing is a challenge or your digestive system is in distress. A liquid-only diet is meant to be a temporary measure while you are under a doctor’s care. In some situations, a full liquid diet is necessary to ensure safety. A full liquid diet helps reduce that risk. Eliminating chunks of food—and, therefore, food particles—can also help reduce complications if you have undergone dental work or had an injury involving your jaw. You may have open wounds in your mouth from incisions or missing teeth. Sticking to a liquid diet until the pockets have closed will allow your mouth to heal and prevent food bits from getting stuck in openings and causing infection. If your digestive system is slow or damaged from illness, disease, or surgery, being on a liquid diet while you heal can help manage pain and prevent complications, like a blockage in your intestines bowel obstruction. When preparing to have a test or imaging procedure to see inside your stomach and intestines you may need to be on a liquid diet for a day or two before.