Getting prepared for a colonoscopy is a much longer process than the procedure itself. Because you need to clean out your colon, prep involves dietary changes and a powerful bowel cleansing medicine that results in diarrhea.
Not exactly a party.
But it’s crucial to clean out your colon completely so that your doctor can spot any signs of cancer before it spreads to the rest of the body. It will also help your physician detect and remove any polyps, small growths that can develop into cancer.
If your colon isn’t adequately prepared, your colonoscopy could take longer, or you may even have to repeat the entire procedure. Something you definitely want to avoid!
Yes, prep may seem like a bit of an ordeal. But with a few expert tips, the process can go much more smoothly. Here are colonoscopy prep tips for first-timers.
A Tip To Ease Your Mind: Prep Is Longer Than the Procedure
If you’re preoccupied with the procedure itself, it may help to know that the average colonoscopy takes only about 30 to 60 minutes (though some may take slightly longer). They’ll also give you a sedative, which will make you drowsy and keep you from feeling any pain.
Keeping this in mind could help lower your stress level before the day of your colonoscopy. So remember: prep is far longer than the time you’ll be spending in the medical center.
Before your colonoscopy, you’ll be given prep instructions. Don’t wait until the last minute to go over them.
Make sure you read them as soon as possible and call your clinician with any questions you may have about the procedure or bowel prep.
Gather Your Supplies
Before your colonoscopy, you’re going to need a few supplies (liquids, low fiber foods and gentle toilet paper, for example).
We’ll go over a few specifics later, but make sure you gather everything you need a week before the procedure. That way you’ll save yourself the stress of running around at the last minute.
Clear Your Schedule and Arrange For Privacy
The night before your procedure you’ll be taking a bowel cleansing medication so you’re going to be indisposed.
Make sure any responsibilities you normally have (making dinner, caring for pets or children or other family members, etc.) are covered.
Eat Small Portions of Low Fiber Foods A Few Days Before Your Bowel Cleanse
Decreasing your meal size a few days beforehand will definitely making cleansing your bowels easier. But the kind of food you eat before your colonoscopy also matters.
Although high fiber foods are good for us in general, they leave residue in the intestines, which may make it hard for your doctor to get a good look inside your colon. That’s why it’s best to stick with low fiber and light-colored foods.
You should also avoid eating any red, blue or purple foods. This may seem like an odd tip, but these foods stain your intestines.
Some good low fiber foods to eat are:
- Steamed Vegetables
Some foods you should avoid before your bowel cleanse are:
- Red Meat
- Fried Foods
- Raw Vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Red, blue or purple foods and drinks
- Any high fiber foods (such as corn and apples)
Make Sure To Have A Variety of Drinks For Your Liquid Diet
The day before your colonoscopy you’ll be required to stick to a clear liquid diet. Jello and popsicles are allowed, but be sure they aren’t blue, red or purple. The same goes for your liquids.
Drinks with electrolytes (like Gatorade or Pedialyte) will also help to keep you hydrated as you will be losing lots of fluids once you take the bowel prep medication.
Some good drinks to have on hand are:
- Low sodium chicken broth
- 7UP or Sprite
- White grape juice (not purple)
- Apple juice
- Coffee and tea (no creamers allowed)
- Sparkling water
- Electrolyte drinks
Tips for Getting Your Bowel Medication Down
The bowel prep medicine you’re going to take the night before your procedure isn’t known for its delicious flavor.
But there are a few things you can do to get it down more easily:
- Drink it cold
- Add Crystal Light or Kool-Aid Powder (not red, blue or purple)
- Add Lime
- Drink it through a straw
- Hold your nose and drink it quickly
- Suck on a lemon or lime slice after each glass
- Have a hard candy after each glass
Finish With All Your Bowel Cleansing Medication
Many laxatives work right away. But even if your stool begins to run clear, it’s important that you finish with ALL bowel cleansing medication per the instructions of your doctor.
Your intestines must be completely cleaned out so that your physician can do a proper scope.
So hang in there and remember prep is the hardest part!
Get Your Bathroom Ready
Once you take the bowel cleansing medication, you’re going to be logging some serious time in the bathroom. Having diarrhea is far from pleasant, but there are some things you can do to make yourself more comfortable:
- Make sure you have soft toilet paper on hand to help relieve itching and burning.
- Wet wipes (unscented) are also easier on your tush.
- Creams like vaseline, preparation H or even coconut oil can also soothe irritation.
- Be sure to wear stretchy, loose-fitting pants. When the urge strikes you may not have time to bother with buttons.
- Have some entertainment on hand. Good books, magazines or your tablet can help to distract you.
- Make sure your phone is fully charged beforehand.
After Your Colonoscopy
You won’t be able to drive or work after your colonoscopy, so plan on taking it easy.
You’ll also want to ease back into eating as your stomach may take a few days to get back to normal. It’s best to avoid heavy meals and greasy or spicy foods. Your stomach will thank you!
Also, many people find that probiotics such as yogurt are good for helping the gut to recover.
Congrats! You did it!
Self-care and proper screenings are vital to keeping you happy and healthy. Most people (though there are exceptions) only need a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at the age of 50.
But this will depend on your age, health and family history. But be sure to check with your doctor about when and how often you need to be screened.
Again, prep is the hardest part. But your health is worth it!