Preparing for Your Colonoscopy
Whether you are scheduled for a diagnostic test or routine exam, getting ready for a colonoscopy can feel extremely overwhelming. At AnMed Health, we care about your well-being so our dedicated team of professionals has compiled this important information on how best to prepare for a colonoscopy. In the days leading up to your exam, please take time to review these recommendations and reach out to your doctor if you have any specific questions or concerns.
What is a colonoscopy?
Performed by a gastroenterologist (GI doctor) or surgeon, a colonoscopy is a safe and effective way to examine the inside of your colon. Using a specialized tube called a colonoscope, the doctor will be able to check for diseases and conditions within the large intestine and rectum such as polyps, colitis and cancer. It may also help find the source of concerning symptoms such as stomach pain, bleeding or changes in bowel movements. Most adults are encouraged to begin regularly scheduled colonoscopies at 50 years old. These proactive screenings can lead to early detection and treatment if needed.
Preparing for a colonoscopy
Patients often feel that preparation for colonoscopy is the most challenging part of the entire experience. For most people, preparation involves a full day without food before the procedure. One can still drink liquids throughout the day, but no solids are allowed.
On the evening before the colonoscopy, the patient drinks a liquid medication that causes diarrhea, and this medication “flushes” all of the stool out of the intestine. Patients need to take the entire preparation to ensure the colon is well cleansed of any stool. A clean colon facilitates a safe procedure and makes the likelihood of finding any lesions higher.
To set you up for a successful colonoscopy, we have outlined what you need to know, do and prepare leading up to the big day.
7-10 days before
Approximately 1-week before your exam, start organizing your transportation, diet and necessary supplies.
- Confirm your appointment date, time and location.
- Ensure you have a family member or friend who can drive you to and from the colonoscopy. If using public transportation, verify schedules and ensure you have a responsible adult accompanying you.
- Double-check you have the correct medications you need for the prep, which may include over-the-counter medications (i.e. Miralax, Dulcolax) or prescription medications. Look through your fridge and cabinets and make sure you have clear liquids at home such as black coffee, soda, tea, apple juice or broth.
- You may also want to purchase additional personal comfort items like extra toilet paper, moist wipes, diaper cream and air fresheners
5 days before
Days leading up to your colonoscopy, continue to prepare yourself physically and mentally.
- Begin adjusting your diet to include low fiber and soft food options; avoid nuts, red meat, fried or greasy food, raw vegetables and anything bright red in color.
- If you take iron supplements, talk with your GI doctor about whether you should continue them this week as iron may discolor the colon.
- Because everything is connected, focus on staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep, staying active and decreasing stress in your life.
- Make a list of all medications you take each day (name, dose and how often) as you will be asked to share this information on the day of your exam.
- Some medications, such as blood thinners, must stop being taken several days before the procedure. If you are on blood thinners, speak to your doctor about wheter you need to stop taking your medications.
1 day before
24 hours prior is a critical time when preparing for a colonoscopy.
- Take time to thoroughly review all paperwork and instructions provided by your doctor regarding prep.
- From this point forward, you can only consume clear liquids such as water, low-sodium broth, juice without pulp, tea, coffee (no creamer), popsicles, jello, Gatorade or Powerade.
- Throughout this period, make drinking clear liquids an absolute priority because, with the prep, it’s easy to get dehydrated.
- The goal is to clear your colon; so do not eat any solid foods, opaque liquids (i.e. milk) or anything bright red in color.
- Wear clothing that is relaxed and easy to undo in the bathroom such as sweatpants or leggings.
- Think ahead and set up your home bathroom with things you may need once starting the laxatives like personal comfort items, phone charger and nightlight.
For many patients, this is often the most challenging part of the entire experience, so it’s important to breathe, relax, stay focused and optimistic. It’s important to note that the laxatives and/or enemas will cause consistent diarrhea until your body is rid of or “flushed” of feces.
- Drink all of the oral colonoscopy prep exactly as prescribed and if it’s proving difficult to drink, try the following techniques:
- Chill it
- Drink it with a straw
- Mix the prep liquid with an approved clear liquid
- Add included flavorings
- Chase it with a flavored clear liquid or colorless mint or hard candy
- Once the laxative begins cleaning out your colon, you may experience sensations of urgency so stay close to the bathroom, remove obstacles leading to and from the toilet and ask for help, if needed.
- Continue being diligent with good hygiene practices, wash your hands before and after using the toilet and clean yourself thoroughly each and every time.
- Common side effects of laxatives may include cramping, nausea and/or feeling bloated, so periodically walking around the house (never too far from the bathroom) can help relieve that discomfort.
- Your mind and body needs sleep so you are ready for the next day, try your best to get quality rest and sleep.
Morning of Your Colonoscopy
Remember to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor. Do not eat or drink anything prior to your colonoscopy because that could result in your exam being canceled. Due to COVID-19, we ask that you please wear a mask or face covering upon entering any health care facility. Lastly, arrive at the colonoscopy center early to ensure time for parking, signing in and getting prepped by the medical team.
At AnMed Health, we are dedicated to quality service and patient-centered care. If at any time you and/or your family have questions or concerns about your upcoming colonoscopy, please consult with your provider’s practice. We wish you continued health and look forward to caring for you during your upcoming exam.