Dr. Farrell on Colon Health

Are Gummy Bears a Clear Liquid?

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Posted By Dr. Farrell

In a nutshell, yes. For those of you preparing for your colonoscopy, I have some good news for you. Did you ever think you would spend a lot of time trying to figure out what constitutes a clear liquid? Well, I’m here to help out and provide you with a variety of items to eat and drink on your day of preparation.

I am a practicing gastroenterologist and I specialize in performing colonoscopies. To add to my credibility, I have actually had two colonoscopies myself. Credible enough?

The reason or indication for your colonoscopy is not important to your preparation. Whether you’re getting a colonoscopy for screening purposes or because you have an anemia (low blood count) or have symptoms, you still have to limit your diet to clear liquids for the 24-hour period prior to your colonoscopy. A clear liquid is any substance that turns to a liquid at body temperature and has clarity. My test for a clear liquid is very simple: if you pour the liquid into a clear glass and can see light shine through the liquid then it is a clear liquid. Apple juice and Gatorade pass this test; milk does not. Some of you are thinking: ‘hmmm white wine, a martini, and beer pass this test.’ Technically you are correct but we frown on alcohol as part of your preparation because alcohol can be dehydrating and you will receive sedative medications, which can be problematic when additive to alcohol.

Back to Gummy Bears. Obviously Gummy Bears are solid at room temperature; however, after chewing Gummy Bears and allowing salivary and gastric enzymes along with the mechanical grinding that occurs within the stomach, the Gummy Bears disintegrate and absorb water, helped along by the higher-than-room-temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit within our body. In essence, they melt. By the way, for full disclosure I do not in any way, shape or form have any connection to the business of Gummy Bears (perhaps I should).
Gummy Bears are a mixture of sugar, starch, gelatin, food coloring, and artificial flavoring. I know, not the healthiest food item but at least it’s another option for you on your day of reckoning. A word of caution to vegetarians or vegans; gelatin is derived from animal protein. However, some Gummy Bears are made with pectin or starch instead of gelatin. Pectin and starch are derived from plants. Sour Gummy Bears are typically made from starch. If you’re not a vegetarian, you have nothing to worry about.

From this list of ingredients that make up Gummy Bears, you probably have figured out that Jell-O or gelatin is acceptable as well. You are correct. Remember to avoid anything red or purple (liquid, Gummy Bear, or Jell-O). The reason for this is that we do not like to discover dark or red liquid in the colon as this looks like blood and your gastroenterologist would prefer to avoid this scenario. Any other color is fair game.

To round out the list of solid items that you can consume during your 24-hours of ‘clear liquids,’ I would include hard candies (sugar or sugarless) such as Jolly Ranchers, clear Lifesavers (hard and gummies), lollipops, and cough drops.

It is my practice to allow my patients to consume liquids that aren’t technically clear but nevertheless do not pose a problem in achieving an optimal bowel preparation. These would include:

  • Black coffee (no dairy or creamer)
  • Tea
  • Pepsi or Coke

Lastly, popsicles, snow cones, shave ice (if you’re from Hawaii), and Slurpee’s are acceptable as well. Avoid fruit smoothies, as these do not pass the light-through-the-glass test.

Remember to follow your physician’s colonoscopy preparation instructions and I’m confident you’ll do well.

Check out my own colonoscopy checklist here.

Here’s to your colon health!

Signature of Dr. Farrell

Frank Farrell, MD, MPH, AGAF

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