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Can You Eat Before an MRI? Not in These 5 Cases

Key takeaways: 

  • Most of the time, you can eat before having an MRI.
  • However, people with certain health conditions like fecal urgency or acid reflux may be advised to wait for 2 to 4 hours after eating and drinking to have an MRI.
  • Certain health conditions may factor in your decision.

Let’s get right to your question: Can you eat before an MRI?

When planning for an MRI (like the ezra Full Body scan), you should be able to eat and take any medications as usual unless instructed otherwise. However, there are a few exceptions we’ll cover below. 

To offer some background information, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of soft tissues, internal organs, and other parts of your body. 

One of the best parts about an MRI is how little preparation you need, including that you usually don’t have to fast. However, like we just mentioned, there are certain situations when it may be best to avoid eating or drinking before your MRI. 

Please note that not all of these conditions apply to ezra scans, but we’ve offered them for informational purposes. If you’re unsure whether you can eat before an MRI, always ask your healthcare provider. 

If you choose to eat before your MRI, it’s recommended you eat light foods. Stay away from greasy foods that are heavier and may cause gas. Also, try not to drink for about an hour before your scan. 

Here are some situations when you may need to avoid eating or drinking before your MRI:

1. If Your Provider Tells You Not To Eat or Drink

In some cases, you may be asked not to eat or drink before having your MRI. Always follow the advice of your imaging provider. 

Certain MRIs, such as those involving digestive organs, may require an empty stomach. One of these is a magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), a magnetic resonance imaging technique used to scan the biliary and pancreatic ducts (these carry bile from your liver and pancreas to your stomach and gallbladder). 

This procedure can help determine whether gallstones are lodged in any of the ducts surrounding the gallbladder. When you eat, your gallbladder empties its contents into your stomach to help with digestion. By not eating you allow the gallbladder to remain full of fluid, which produces better images.

2. If You Have an Overactive Bladder

Since an ezra full-body screening can take up to an hour to complete, you may want to avoid consuming liquids for a few hours before your MRI is scheduled if you have overactive bladder symptoms.

An overactive bladder makes you feel like you need to empty your bladder all the time. This feeling of urgency can make it harder to hold urine in. While you may still experience this urgency to a degree, not drinking for several hours before your procedure can make you less likely to experience incontinence during the scan.

3. If You Have Fecal Urgency

Fecal urgency occurs when digested material reaches the rectum and causes a strong urge, contractions, and sometimes unexpected relaxation.

Patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBSD) often have at least some of these symptoms. By limiting food and drink intake before your MRI, you are less likely to need a bathroom break during your scan. 

4. If You Have Esophageal Reflux

During an MRI such as an ezra full-body screening, you’ll need to lie flat for up to an hour. If you are like a third of American adults, lying flat soon after eating and drinking may lead to symptoms like heartburn or acid reflux. That’s because when you lie flat, gravity can’t help move food and acid down the esophagus and through your digestive tract. 

If you often experience esophageal reflux, you may want to limit the amount you eat or drink before your MRI or abstain from eating and drinking for a few hours prior to your MRI. 

5. If You Have Taken Sedative or Anxiety Medication

Ezra seeks to mitigate anxiety through creature comforts like music (many locations let you listen to your favorite Spotify playlist during the scan) and comfy PJs (goodbye drafty hospital gown).

Plus, we partner with sites using newer 3T MRI machines with advanced technology resulting in faster scan times. Bonus: These are also more powerful than open MRIs. 

But for patients suffering from severe anxiety and claustrophobia, taking prescribed sedative medication may help get you through your procedure. Plus, if you have chronic pain or conditions that cause pain when lying flat for extended periods, you may need analgesic medications that may cause sedation. 

Be sure to notify your technologist of any medication you’ve taken prior to your MRI. Also, to avoid potential aspiration issues while lying flat, you’ll also want to avoid eating and drinking for at least two hours before your scan. 

What if You Need To Take Your Medication With Food?

Some medicines have to be taken with food to ensure therapeutic levels in your bloodstream,  and others may cause stomach upset when taken on an empty stomach.  

You should be able to take your medications as usual before your MRI. However, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider about your current prescriptions and how to safely take diuretic medications before the scan.

Additionally, if you are diabetic or on medication to manage diabetes, it is important to eat normally the day of your MRI unless you are instructed otherwise.

At ezra, We Care About Your Safety

Can you eat before an MRI: doctor talking to an elderly patient

Again, MRI procedures are a safe and effective way to scan for abnormalities using radiofrequency and magnets. Unlike mammography, X-rays, and CT scans, MRIs don’t use ionizing radiation.

However, it’s important to understand that MRI uses powerful magnets that require certain preparations. Scanning safety is a top priority.

Therefore, before any MRI scan, it’s important to let your technologist know if you have any of the following: 

  • Metal implants, including metal objects like permanent piercings, metal fragments, shrapnel
  • Implanted medical devices, including pacemaker, defibrillator, stimulators, stents, aneurysm clips
  • Tattoos and permanent make-up
  • Dental implants and certain types of dentures

You should also remove any metallic items from your body, including:

  • Glasses
  • Hairpins
  • Hearing aids
  • Watches
  • Jewelry
  • Garments with metal zippers, snaps, and underwire

Before your scan, your healthcare practitioner may ask about your medical history, including your medications and past surgical procedures.

Tell them about any allergic reactions you’ve had, especially allergies to contrast dye and IV contrast agents like gadolinium. 

Preparing for Your MRI

Woman reading something on her tablet

Deciding whether you can or should eat or drink before your MRI often boils down to safety and comfort.

There are certain instances when you shouldn’t eat or drink for a few hours before your MRI. Other times, you can eat as you normally would. If you do eat, you choose lighter foods that aren’t greasy and less likely to cause gas. Be sure to limit your fluid intake for about an hour before your scan. If you have questions about whether you should eat or drink before your MRI, please contact your healthcare provider or get connected to an ezra medical provider by signing up

At ezra, we wants your experience to be quick and seamless. The entire scan procedure takes about one hour to complete. We also offer 3D mammography and chest CT scans. If an ezra medical provider determines you would benefit from these, you can talk about adding them on the day of your scan. 

Ezra doesn’t require a referral, and there is no need to come in for a follow-up. Instead, you’ll get your test results in about 5 days when you connect with an ezra medical provider via video to go over your results.

It’s really that simple. Book your scan online. Show up in person. Get your results within a week. Feel good knowing you scanned up to 13 organs for diseases like cancer.