A clear liquid diet is a short-term eating plan that includes only transparent, non-alcoholic, room-temperature foods and drinks. Doctors often recommend this regimen in preparation for medical procedures, for weight loss, and during post-operation recovery. Some people attempt to use the diet to lose weight quickly. A clear liquid diet supplies hydration, electrolytes, and some calories while significantly reducing strain on the gastrointestinal system. It can serve as a bridge between absolute fasting and consuming solid foods. However, it does not provide adequate daily nutrition, so no one should prolong the diet beyond the time their physician prescribes.

About the Clear Liquid Diet

Clear liquid diets are an age-old therapy for obtaining sustenance when eating normal foods is not possible or advisable. The liquids provide fluids and energy in a form the digestive tract can digest and eliminate easily. A typical clear liquid diet supplies about 600 calories and 150 grams of carbohydrates but almost no vitamins and minerals. People adhere to this regimen for only a few days before they resume intake of full, regular liquids and solids.

About the Clear Liquid Diet happyfoto / Getty Images


For Diverticulitis

Diverticula are small pouches that develop in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the colon. Diverticulitis occurs when these pouches become infected or inflamed. Symptoms include intense, persistent abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and drastic change in bowel activity. Doctors often prescribe a clear liquid diet and antibiotics for people with mild cases. Severe cases may require surgery, and the patient may adopt a clear liquid diet following the procedure. Abstaining from solid foods gives the colon a rest from processing, so that it can heal.

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Cancer Treatment

A clear liquid diet helps alleviate many side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. This regimen can help settle your stomach and keep you hydrated until you can handle more substantial foods. If you are unable to consume anything other than clear liquids past a few days, consult your healthcare provider about nutritional supplementation options.

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People with diabetes take many medical tests that require following a clear liquid diet at least 24 hours before. Procedures including colonoscopies and capsular endoscopies call for this regimen. Physicians prescribe this diet so that food residue will not obstruct their view during an internal examination. People with diabetes must take care to avoid high-sugar foods and beverages while on a clear liquid diet. Medications often require adjusting when a person with diabetes goes on a clear liquid diet. Some drugs can become quite harmful when one drastically reduces food consumption.

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After Bariatric Surgery

Staying well hydrated is a major concern following bariatric surgery. A clear liquid diet encourages hydration without taxing the digestive system. The University of Pittsburgh recommends these tips to facilitate recovery and reduce vomiting and nausea:

  • Sip 48-64 ounces, or six to eight 8-ounce cups of liquids throughout the day.
  • Dilute fruit juices to avoid stomach upset or diarrhea; limit juices to two cups per day.
  • Avoid drinking extremely cold or hot fluids for about six weeks.

clear liquid diet surgery bearsky23 / Getty Images


Other Digestive Issues

A physician may advise a patient to go on a clear liquid diet if she is experiencing trouble eating. A bowel obstruction, difficulty with chewing or swallowing foods, persistent nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting could warrant a need to abstain from solid foods and help pinpoint the cause of the condition. Food poisoning, inflammatory bowel disease, or gallstones often require a clear liquid diet to help relieve and clear the gastrointestinal tract.

digestion clear liquid diet NanoStockk / Getty Images


Clear Liquid Diet Foods

Many dieticians allow the following foods and beverages in a clear liquid diet plan. The doctor may include other items or exclude certain foods. It is best to consume all foods close to room temperature, except for ice chips or popsicles.

  • water (plain or flavored)
  • fruit juices with no pulp or bits of fruit (examples: white grape, apple, white cranberry)
  • strained vegetable juice
  • coffee or tea with no milk or cream
  • carbonated drinks
  • sports drinks
  • fruit-flavored drinks including lemonade or fruit punch
  • clear, fat-free broth, consommé, or bouillon
  • hard candies
  • gelatin
  • honey, sugar, or other doctor-approved sweeteners

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Protein Sources

A clear liquid diet helps prevent irritation, pain, tears, and band slippage following bariatric surgery. A permissible protein source can lower infection risk and encourage healing. This nutrient promotes satiety, making adherence to the diet easier. A physician may allow mixing protein powders or liquid protein supplements into juice or water. Clear meat broths can also provide the essential nutrient.

protein clear liquid diet lenakorzh / Getty Images


Caution on Crash Dieting

Many people attempt to lose weight rapidly with a clear liquid diet. Although the initial results appear remarkable when food is cut out, the lack of nutrients can impair metabolism and make it harder for one to lose weight after one resumes a regular diet. Effective, healthy weight management includes a wholesome diet and physical activity. A ten-year study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that sustained weight loss occurs with consistent eating behaviors.

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A short-term liquid diet is generally safe if the individual closely follows the guidelines prescribed by their health care provider. Extending this regimen beyond the recommended length makes a person vulnerable to damage to digestive tract, kidney or liver problems, hypoglycemia, a weakened immune system, and weight gain following the diet. Due to the low nutritive and caloric load of the clear liquid diet, use this regimen only under the advice of a physician.

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