Preparing for Your Colonoscopy

Many people consider colonoscopy prep more unpleasant than the procedure itself. While the preparation process may be unpleasant, it is a necessary part of getting a colonoscopy.

Fortunately, there are ways to make preparing for your colonoscopy more pleasant. When you know what to expect, you can better prepare yourself for getting a colonoscopy.

Always be sure to follow the specific instructions provided by your physician.

Preparing for Your Colonoscopy
Preparing for Your Colonoscopy

Why Is Colonoscopy Prep Necessary?

A colonoscopy can be very effective at detecting abnormalities in the colon and rectum that can lead to colorectal cancer. However, thorough preparation is necessary to ensure the most accurate results.

It is important to thoroughly cleanse the colon and rectum to allow your physician to get a clear view during the colonoscopy. If your physician does not have a clear view of the colon and rectum, he or she may not be able to detect cancer-causing polyps and other abnormalities during the colonoscopy. Early detection and removal of polyps is critical to prevent colorectal cancer, and completing colonoscopy prep allows your physician to have a clear view to potentially detect these abnormalities.

What You Need to Know About Colonoscopy Prep

Colonoscopy prep involves drinking a strong laxative solution that will assist you in emptying your bowels prior to the procedure. Typically, your doctor will prescribe a prep solution that you must drink the day before your colonoscopy. It is important that take the colonoscopy prep as directed so that your doctor has a clear view of your colon and rectum.

If you have trouble completing the prep due to side effects like nausea or abdominal discomfort, contact your doctor right away. Your doctor can also help you with any specific questions you may have before your colonoscopy. Many patients end up canceling their appointments due to uncertainty or issues with prep, but these situations can potentially be avoided by contacting your doctor. Though prep is unpleasant, colorectal cancer screening is an important part of staying healthy.

In addition to the prep solution, there are other things you will need to to do prepare for your colonoscopy.

What to Expect

Start a Low-Residue Diet

You should start a low-residue diet at least a few days before your colonoscopy. Low-residue foods minimize the solid waste within your colon. With a low-residue diet, you should limit your fiber intake. Use this chart below to help you identify which foods to eat and which to avoid prior to your colonoscopy. (Note: You will need to stick to a clear liquid diet the day before your colonoscopy—continue reading for more details.)

Foods to Eat Foods to Avoid
White Bread & Rice Whole Grain Breads, Cereals, Pasta & Rice
Refined Pasta & Cereal Fruits & Vegetables with Skin, Seeds or Peels
Fruits & Vegetables without Skin, Seeds or Peels (Preferably Cooked) Nuts & Seeds
Broth-Based Soups (Strain First) Tough, Smoked or Cured Meats
Tender Meat, Poultry & Fish Fruit Juices with Pulp or Seeds
Eggs Popcorn
Juices without Pulp or Seeds Beans, Lentils & Tofu

Stay Hydrated

When taking the colonoscopy prep solution, your body can lose a lot of fluid, potentially causing dehydration. It is important that you drink clear liquids throughout the preparation process to keep your body hydrated. You should continue to drink clear liquids after your colonoscopy to replace the fluids lost during the prep.

Stick to a Clear Liquid Diet the Day Before Your Colonoscopy

While taking the colonoscopy prep solution, you will need to stick to a clear liquid diet to ensure that the colon is completely clear at the time of your colonoscopy. In this case, a clear liquid is anything that you can see through. Clear liquids do not have to be colorless, but you should avoid liquids that are red or purple, as they can be mistaken for blood during the colonoscopy. You should also avoid alcohol and clear liquids that contain pulp.

Acceptable clear liquids include:

  • Water
  • Ice
  • Clear broths, such as chicken or beef
  • Pulpless fruit juice
  • Tea and coffee (without milk)
  • Gelatin (not red or purple)

How to Make Colonoscopy Prep More Pleasant

Taste is a common complaint about the colonoscopy prep solution. While some prep solutions may be flavored to make it more palatable to drink, the solution typically has an unpleasant flavor due to its ingredients.

If you find the colonoscopy prep solution very unpleasant to drink, there are a few things that you can do to make it easier to drink.

  • Refrigerate the solution after mixing it, but do not add ice. It may be more pleasant to drink the solution cold rather than at room temperature.
  • Drink the solution through a straw. A straw can help you bypass the taste buds at the front of your mouth, which may reduce the intensity of the flavor.
  • Use powdered sugar-free drink packets. If your colonoscopy prep solution is not flavored, this may help make the solution more pleasant. However, avoid drink mixes that produce a red or purple color. For example, lemonade or orange would be acceptable flavors, but avoid flavors containing strawberry, cherry, or grape.
  • Have popsicles and hard candy after prep solution doses. Again, avoid anything red or purple.

Colonoscopy prep may be unpleasant, but it is a necessary part of the procedure. Remember, you will only be uncomfortable for a short time, but you and your loved ones will have the peace of mind that comes with taking care of your health.

Talk to your doctor about colorectal cancer screening today.

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