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Liquid Diet & Constipation

Following a liquid diet may lead to gastrointestinal distress such as constipation, making you feel uncomfortable and bloated. Most of the time, this is a temporary side effect and resolves itself. If constipation causes pain or if it occurs for several days, let your doctor know. It may be an underlying symptom of another issue.

Liquid Diets

Your doctor may request that you follow a liquid diet before undergoing a medical procedure or surgery. Clear liquid diets limit your food intake to anything you can see through that does not have any food particles. For example, you can have juice, but not juice with pulp. As a meal, enjoy beef broth, avoiding soups with food pieces. Additionally, clear liquid diets include any clear food that is liquid at room temperature, such as frozen pops or gelatin desserts. Full liquid diets include anything liquid at room temperature, including plain ice cream, meal replacement drinks and milk. Your doctor may also allow you to include pureed and strained foods or cream of wheat.

What is Constipation?

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Having infrequent bowel movements or dry, hard and difficult-to-pass stools define constipation. If you go for three days or more without a bowel movement, you may be suffering from constipation. Following a low-fiber diet, such as a liquid diet, or having insufficient fiber intake is the leading cause of constipation, explains the University of Maryland. Being physically inactive, dehydrated or having a high amount of stress can also contribute to constipation.

Lack of Fiber

The purpose of a clear liquid diet is to rid your digestive tract of residue left behind by food particles, allowing for a safe, smooth surgical procedure and speedy recovery. Your body does not break down fiber; instead, it travels through your gut relatively intact. Since a clear liquid diet excludes fibrous foods, such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits, you won't get adequate fiber. Without the recommended 25 to 38 g of fiber you need each day, food may sit in your digestive tract for an extended period, unable to pass, leading to constipation. Full liquid diets provide some fiber from meal replacement drinks, shakes or pureed foods, but your fiber intake remains minimal, depending on the foods you consume.

Additional Considerations

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Your bout with constipation may relate to a total reduction in the foods you consume. While you may feel constipated or notice that you haven't had a bowel movement in days, the cause might be a lack of food for your body to digest. Since you should follow a clear liquid diet only for a specified time, your infrequent bowel movements should return to normal when you resume a regular diet. Additionally, your physician may want you to take a laxative or have an enema to help clear out your bowels. After all waste passes, there may be little in your intestinal tract to pass. Instead of being constipated, your bowels may just be empty. Talk with your physician about your constipation concerns. He can give you suggestions to alleviate any discomfort.