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By Victoria Alwin

Clear as mud

Nutrition Corner


Of the common diets provided by physicians and nurses to their patients, two would seem to be easy to understand and follow: clear liquids used for g.i. tests such as colonoscopies and the diet for diverticulitis/diverticulosis. Unfortunately, sometimes the specifics of the diets get lost in the moment.

A clear liquid diet is designed to be the easiest on the stomach and intestines. It is also designed to leave the intestines, especially the colon, “clean” without food film or residue.

What is considered to be a clear liquid? Anything you can hold up to the light and see through it, such as soda, water, apple juice, grape juice, cranberry juice (not orange juice or tomato juice) or clear broth. The only “clear liquid” you can “chew,” if you want, is plain Jell-O of any flavor. Coffee with or without sugar is allowed, but without milk or creamer. If you think the latter is a no-brainer, think again. People get into a habit and don’t even seem to consider the milk or creamer. Plain broth doesn’t have any nutritional value, but at least gives a taste other than sweet.

How about diabetics? They have to have diet soda and sugar-free Jell-O, right? WRONG. Diabetics need the calories and carbohydrates for their medication. Sugar-free liquids will either raise or drop their blood sugars to dangerous levels. Even diabetics get regular soda, regular Jell-O, and the juices mentioned above. Yes, your blood sugars might increase, but that is better than bottoming out.

Is a clear liquid diet boring? Yep, but you should only need to be on it for less than three days.

Diverticulosis is a problem in which pockets form inside the colon. A high fiber diet is used to stretch out the gut so the pockets are less of a problem.

“High Fiber” diet is made up primarily of fruits, vegetables and grains. There is no difference in fiber content between cooked or raw, just between peeled or not peeled. Think of baked potato skins, unpeeled apples, peaches or carrots.

Items such as nuts, seeds, corn or popcorn can sometimes get stuck in these pockets and cause inflammation, but not always. Everyone is different. “Seeds” includes those little things inside tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, as well as on the outside, such as strawberries.

Sometimes inflammation in these pockets occurs called “diverticulitis.”

The diet for this is easy: it is a low fiber diet or just think of it as not eating the high fiber foods mentioned above (as in no peels, no oatmeal, and white bread only) because they can cause further irritation and pain.

This phase usually lasts for at least two to three weeks.

The lowest “low fiber” diet is the clear liquid diet, mentioned at the beginning. At least the low fiber diet can offer variation and some nutrition.

If you still have questions, ask a dietitian. It is safer than the alternatives.


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