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Are Liquid Diets Used for Medical Purposes?
People who are about to undergo certain surgical procedures, such as colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, which call for little or no food in the intestines, might need to go on a liquid diet for a day or two before the test. Sometimes patients are put on a liquid diet for a few days after surgery or during certain medical treatments until their digestive tract is fully functioning again and they can digest food normally. Medically necessary liquid diets often include clear liquids such as soup, fruit juice, and Jell-o.
People who are obese and need to have surgery (including bariatric weight loss surgery) will sometimes go on a liquid diet to get down to a safer weight before the procedure. This type of liquid diet is supervised by medical professionals.
Some research suggests that liquid diets might help people with certain health conditions. For example, there is evidence that patients with Crohn's disease, which causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, can benefit from a high-calorie liquid diet. By giving the intestines a much-needed rest, a liquid diet can help suppress the symptoms of Crohn's disease.
How Can I Safely Get on a Liquid Diet?
First, talk to your doctor about whether a liquid diet is appropriate for you. Certain people -- namely pregnant or nursing women and people with insulin dependent diabetes -- should skip liquid diets entirely.
If your doctor gives you the OK to go on a liquid diet, you should also see a registered dietitian, who can go over the diet with you and make sure that you're getting enough calories and nutrition. Your dietitian might recommend that you take a vitamin or nutritional supplement while you're on the liquid diet.
Before you choose a liquid diet plan, know what you're drinking. If considering one of the commercial diets, look at the daily values on the nutrition facts label. Be sure you're getting 100% of all the recommended vitamins and minerals. (The USDA has a guide to help you understand your Recommended Dietary Reference Intakes.)
So that you don't regain all the weight when you transition back to solid food, pick a diet that is not too low in calories and that lets you lose the weight gradually. Liquid diets that include a meal or two per day, or that teach you healthier eating habits, will be more likely to help you keep the weight off over the long term.
WebMD Medical Reference
Andrea Giancoli, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association.
Flechtner-Mors, M. Obesity Research, August 2000.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: "Crohn's Disease."
Yamamoto, T. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, December 2007.
Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on June 23, 2012