Tips For Preparing For Your Colonoscopy

Use These Tricks From Others Who Have Already Undergone Their Prep

Preparing for a colonoscopy can be a challenge, even more so than the actual test. Prepping requires that the colon is cleaned out of stool, which is done through the use of purgatives, enemas, and fasting. Each person's experience will be different based on the prep used, the instructions given by a physician, and the timing of the test. Even so, there are a few tips and tricks that can make the prep go more smoothly. 

Prepping for the first time can be confusing. Remember to read directions carefully and call your doctor with any questions before their offices are closed and you can't contact anyone. The other side of this is that if the written instructions aren't clear, a physician will want to know this in order to improve the process for the next patient. Not clearing out the colon properly because a colonoscopy prep isn't working is a big problem prior to a colonoscopy, and the result is not being able to complete the test, which is not something anyone wants. For this reason, it's in everyone's best interest to have clear, easy to understand directions that get the job done.


What to Expect from Colonoscopy Prep

'Whew, Glad That's Over!'
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Preparing for a colonoscopy can be challenging because it requires following instructions and it may be uncomfortable at times. When the colonoscopy prep is working correctly, it means going to the bathroom to defecate (poop) until all the stool in the colon is cleared out. If the prep is going well, there will be repeated strong urges to move the bowels. When the colon is empty of stool, what comes out of the body will be clear or nearly clear, possibly tinged with yellow or brown.

If the prep is not working, it can affect the results of the test. Not feeling the urge to defecate and not fully eliminating everything in the bowel could mean that the prep isn't doing its job. If this happens, don't wait until right before the colonoscopy to find out what to do. Call the doctor's office right away to find out if there needs to be a change in the prep plans to ensure that the bowel gets clear. Without a good prep, the whole test might have to be repeated again, so it's important to do it right the first time.


Ask For A Choice Of Prep

Two doors, one 'A' and the other 'B'
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There are several different ways to prepare for a colonoscopy, so have a discussion with your doctor about the types of preps that are available to you, and the two of you can come to a conclusion about the prep that will work best. The important point is that you actually finish the prep; if you don't, and your colon is not cleaned out, your doctor may not be able to do a full colonoscopy, or get a clear look at your colon. If this happens, you could need to repeat the procedure all over again. Therefore, you should leave your meeting with your doctor understanding your instructions, and knowing that you can complete them.


Eating Light

Tomato Soup
Tomato Soup. Image © Christoph Kurtzmann

Many people find that eating lightly a few days to a week before their colonoscopy prep can help the prep go easier, and get the colon cleaned out quicker. "Eating light" is a bit vague, but in most cases it would mean avoiding heavier meals and roughage, and choosing more easily digestible foods such as soup. If you'd like to try eating lighter in the days before you prepare for your colonoscopy, check with your doctor. Your gastroenterologist can give you better directions on what your diet should be like in the week before your test, and most importantly, in the last few days before your test.


Sucking On Candy

Wrapped Candy
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Some people tend to find the taste and smell of the prep materials to be somewhat off-putting. One trick that may help is to suck on a piece of hard candy that you enjoy. Between administration of any medication that you're taking and trips to the bathroom, a bit of candy can help with the taste in your mouth, with any queasiness you might feel, and keep your mouth from becoming dry. Check with your doctor before you try this, and ideally ask about which candies would be appropriate to use in this manner.


Use A Straw

Drinking straw
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When drinking your prep, it might be easier to keep on schedule by drinking from a cup with a straw. A straw can help you drink the preparation a little more quickly, because you'll avoid tasting it as much as you would if you were sipping it. Having a lid on the cup you're drinking from may also help the prep go down easier, because you can neither see nor smell the prep solution.


Distract Yourself With Some Reading

Directly Above Shot Of Open Book By Black Coffee In Cup On Tray At Bed
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A good method of distraction is a key element to a successful colonoscopy prep. Reading a good book does the trick for many people, but a magazine or even the newspaper will do. If you're not a reader, crossword puzzles, word games, even games on your phone or tablet can keep you entertained. Anything that you can do to keep your mind off the prep, and the test you'll be having the next day, is a good thing.


Use Soothing Cream On Your Bottom

Collage of cream product
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While you're prepping, you'll be wiping quite frequently. Just as the area around your nose gets red and sore when you're blowing it because of a cold, so can your bottom get sore during your prep. Using a barrier cream on the area before it gets sore can help prevent broken skin. A barrier cream, the type that are often used as diaper creams, can help prevent the stool from coming in contact with your skin. This can cut down on the incidence of soreness and burning that might occur with multiple loose bowel movements and repeated wiping.


Bring A Prop Into The Bathroom

Assortment of Colorful Pillows
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You'll be spending some time in the bathroom, and if you think you might be uncomfortable or tired, having something to lean forward on might help. Bringing a chair or step stool, with a pillow or cushion to lean on while you're sitting down, may help alleviate back strain.


Let The Prep Warm Up

cup of tea on table with steam
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If you find that drinking something cold is making you queasy, or making you feel cold, you could try letting the prep warm up to room temperature. Most people like their beverages to be either cold or hot, but in some cases, drinking the prep at a tepid temperature could make it easier to drink.


Prevent Tasting By Holding Your Nose

Woman holding her nose
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If the smell of the prep solution is starting to bother you, and you think you might have problems drinking it, try holding your nose. Your sense of smell is highly important to your sense of taste. Many of your taste buds are on your tongue, so if you’re drinking through a straw, you might be able to get the liquid down your throat while bypassing your taste buds. If you hold your nose, you may not actually taste what it is you're eating or drinking, and you might just trick your taste buds into thinking you're drinking plain water.

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