Colonoscopies are much less intimidating if you know how to prepare and what to expect. If you’ve heard the prep is uncomfortable and the fasting is difficult, you’re correct. If you’ve heard the procedure is quick and easy, you’re also correct. Colonoscopies are bittersweet. You’re taking a powerful bowel-clearing substance which makes you go diarrhea until your system is cleared. You’re also getting the best procedure to spot polyps, colon cancer, and other abnormalities that can help diagnose a myriad of health issues. Let’s get prepared.
Prepare For The Colonoscopy Early
Your doctor will give you colonoscopy prep instructions at least one week before your procedure date. My paperwork usually comes in the mail. As soon as you get the instructions, read through them completely. This gives you time to call your doctor with any questions. You will also want to buy the bowel prep your doctor prescribed. You can find the most common bowel prep substances at your local pharmacy. Also, plan ahead who is going to accompany you to the procedure. This person will drive you to the medical center, stay during the procedure, and drive you home.
- Medicated wipes. I like Equate Flushable Wipes with aloe or TUCKS medicated cooling pads. Trust me, toilet paper will get uncomfortable.
- Skin soothing product. I like Vaseline and Desitin. This will help with any irritation from the constant diarrhea and wiping.
- Clear liquid diet. Shop for your prep day menu early. You will want to make Jell-O and other foods ahead of time.
- Crystal Light, Kool-Aid, or Gatorade. Buy your favorite clear liquid drink to help mask the taste of the prep. Buy nothing with red, blue, or purple dye.
Colonoscopies are not the most convenient procedures. It takes 48 hours of preparation for about 3 hours you’ll spend at the medical center on procedure day.
Two days (or more) before the colonoscopy: Low-fiber diet. No whole grains, seeds, nuts, raw fruits or vegetables. The more you prepare your digestive system for prep day, the better. You could start this diet several days ahead of time.
The day before the colonoscopy: Clear liquid diet. This is the hardest day because you will also be drinking the prep. Some options for the clear liquid diet include broth, black tea or coffee, clear juice, Jell-O, and Popsicles. Avoid any liquids with red, blue, orange, and purple dyes. That leaves you with green and yellow. My go-to menu includes clear chicken broth, lemon Italian ice, lime or lemon Jell-O, Apple Juice and Sprite.
The day of the colonoscopy : No food or drink. The good news is most likely your procedure will be first-thing in the morning.
Colonoscopy Prep Day
- Clear your schedule. You’ll want to be home when you start the prep. You’ll also want privacy. If you have children, consider having someone watch them.
- Get cozy. You’ll be going to the bathroom a dozen or more times. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that’s easy to slip on and off. Put on your favorite TV show or movie for some distraction.
- Be mentally prepared. You’re going to be experiencing high-volume, high-velocity diarrhea. Once the prep starts working, the urge will hit and it’s hard to hold back. You may find yourself setting up shop in the bathroom for a few hours. Bring music, your laptop, or a good book.
- Get creative with consumption. The prep can taste bad, even if it comes flavored. You could add Crystal Light or Kool-Aid powder to the mixture. Also, consider adding some ginger or lime; drink it chilled; hold your noes when you chug; suck on a lemon slice after you finish each glass; suck on a hard candy after each glass. Be sure to drink extra liquids before, during, and after bowel prep.
- Know when to stop. Once you are releasing yellow or clear liquid, you can stop the prep. I have never drank the entire prep.
Colonoscopy Procedure Day
You will be feeling weak and tired from the bowel clearing and from a not-so-great night of sleep. The worst is over, though. This is the easiest day in my opinion.
- Expect to spend about 3 hours at the medical center.
- After you’re all checked in, you’ll get an IV. Once you’re in the procedure room, the doctor will tell you to lie on your left side in the fetal position. You’ll be put to sleep and wake up as if no time has passed.
- Your caregiver will be come into the post-procedure room. It is important for this person to be present when the doctor tells you the results. You may not remember everything clearly because of the anesthesia.
- You will leave knowing your results.
- Expect to be gassy for the rest of the day. During the procedure, the scope blows air into your colon, which expands the colon and helps the doctor see more clearly.
Breath. You now know your results. Whatever news you receive, be grateful that you have answers. Now you can take proactive steps to improve your health.
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