- Know What to Expect From Colonoscopy Prep
- Step 4: The Purge
- Preparing for a colonoscopy
- Diet, tips, and instructions for a smooth colonoscopy prep
- What’s involved in colonoscopy prep?
- Colonoscopy prep diet
- Bowel prep for colonoscopy
- Colonoscopy prep tips
- What To Expect
- 1. I’ve taken the first half of my bowel prep, but have not had a bowel movement. What should I do?
- 2. I’m taking my bowel prep now, but have nausea and vomiting. What should I do?
- 3. I accidentally took aspirin and/or iron. Do I need to cancel?
- 4. The pharmacy did not have my medications. How can I get them?
- 5. Can I take my anxiety/depression medications? I typically take these every morning and cannot miss a dose.
- 6. I’m diabetic and my blood sugar is running low. What should I do?
- 7. I have a headache. Can I take Tylenol?
- 8. Can I mix the Miralax powder with something other than Gatorade?
- 9. Can I drink all of my prep the night before instead of waking up the morning of to drink the 2nd half?
- 10. What time do I really need to start my clear liquid diet?
- 11. I’m already having clear liquid stool, do I still need to finish my entire prep?
- 12. Can I proceed with the procedure if I am on antibiotics?
- 13. I cannot find my prep instructions. What do I do?
- 14. Can I do a pill prep?
- 15. Can I start the bowel prep earlier than 5:00 pm? Can I start it later than 7:00 pm?
- Colonoscopy Prep FAQs
- How do I drink colonoscopy prep without throwing up?
- Am I done with my colonoscopy prep once my diarrhea is cloudy yellow?
- Colonoscopy Checklist
- How long will diarrhea last during colonoscopy prep?
- What if I don’t finish my colonoscopy prep?
- Is there an alternative to drinking colonoscopy prep?
- Are there any colonoscopy prep alternatives?
- Final Thoughts on Colonoscopy Prep
Know What to Expect From Colonoscopy Prep
Just the word “colonoscopy” strikes fear in the hearts of many. But regardless of the perception, a colonoscopy is an important and routine screening examination for people over age 50.
One of the most important parts of your colonoscopy is the colonoscopy prep. If you don’t do a good job of emptying out your colon, your doctor will not be able to see it clearly. That can result in a missed polyp, a longer procedure, or even the need to repeat the colonoscopy, which you really don’t want.
The Colonoscopy Diet
You will need to stop eating solid foods before your colonoscopy. Different doctors have different colonoscopy diets. Some may ask you to stop eating solid food for a few days before your procedure, so get your colonoscopy instructions early and don’t wait until the last minute to read them.
Here are some common colonoscopy diet instructions:
- Solid foods will need to be replaced with clear liquids, usually for the day before colonoscopy. You may also be instructed to have nothing by mouth after midnight the night before the colonoscopy.
- A clear liquid colonoscopy diet can include water, broth, tea or coffee without cream, clear juices, sports drinks, or Jell-O. You will be told to avoid any fluids that contain red, blue, or purple food coloring.
- You may be instructed to avoid nuts, seeds, or other foods with heavy types of fiber before you start taking clear liquids.
The Bowel Prep
In most cases, the colonoscopy procedure takes less than an hour, and your doctor will keep you as relaxed and comfortable as possible. On the other hand, a good bowel flush can take about 16 hours, and your doctor will not be there to help you. This is the part of the colonoscopy preparation that most people dread.
Different doctors use different types of laxative medications and sometimes include an enema to flush out the colon, so read your bowel prep instruction carefully. This part of colonoscopy preparation usually starts the afternoon or evening before your colonoscopy.
Here is what to expect if your doctor uses the common polyethylene glycol, or PEG bowel prep:
- PEG solutions work by forcing large volumes of fluid through your colon, flushing all the waste out along with the fluid.
- You usually will be instructed to drink about one gallon of this solution, or 8 ounces every 10 minutes, until the solution is gone and nothing is coming out but clear fluid.
- The solution has a salty taste and makes some people feel nauseated.
- Once the PEG kicks in, you might experience some bloating and cramping, and you will be spending a lot of time on the toilet.
Colonoscopy Prep: Planning Ahead
Now that you know what to expect, here are some tips that can help you get through it:
- Shop for the right supplies. Pick up plenty of Gatorade, Popsicles, Jell-O, or Italian ice, but remember to stay away from red, blue, and purple varieties. Get yourself some chicken or beef broth if you like. You might also want to pick up some medicated pads or wipes to soothe your sore bottom.
- Clear your schedule. Once you start the bowel prep, you will not be straying far from the bathroom. Get some help if you are responsible for kids or aging parents. Stock up your bathroom with some good reading material.
- Drinking the PEG solution gets old quickly. You can add some flavor with Kool-Aid, add some lemon or lime juice, drink it chilled, or just hold your nose and chug it down. Sucking on a slice of lemon or a hard candy afterward helps.
- Wear loose, easy-fitting clothing. Choosing comfortable clothing will help you relax.
Remember, although colonoscopy and colonoscopy prep may not be your favorite things, having a colonoscopy can save your life. More than 50,000 Americans die from colon cancer every year, and many of these deaths could have been prevented with early detection.
Colonoscopy is the only test that allows your doctor to inspect your colon and biopsy or remove any polyps. Studies show that only about half of adults get their recommended colon cancer screening done. Now that you know what to expect and how to prepare, don’t let fear of colonoscopy stop you.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Digestive Health Center.
Step 4: The Purge
The night before your colonoscopy you’ll take strong laxatives to clear your digestive tract. The method recommended for most people is called split dosing. You’ll drink a half-gallon of liquid laxative in the evening. Then you’ll get up about 6 hours before your appointment to drink another half-gallon.
You probably won’t enjoy the taste of the solution, but there are tricks to help get it down:
- Mix it with something flavored, like a sports drink or powdered drink mix.
- Keep it well chilled.
- Drink it through a straw placed far back on your tongue.
- Follow it with a sip of something good tasting.
- Suck on a lemon slice or piece of hard candy after drinking.
Once the laxative starts working, you’ll have frequent, forceful diarrhea. You may have cramps and bloating. If you have hemorrhoids, they may become irritated. You may also feel nauseated and even vomit. If so, your doctor may recommend you take a short break.
Try these tips to make yourself as comfortable as possible:
- Stay in the bathroom — bring something to entertain yourself, like a book, television, or laptop.
- Apply diaper cream before the diarrhea starts.
- Use moist or medicated wipes to clean yourself.
The purge process may still be happening as you head to your appointment. If you’re worried about having an accident, consider wearing adult diapers and pack extra clothes.
Your stool should look like urine or clear water if you have completed the process appropriately and it has worked effectively.
The process isn’t easy, but remind yourself this is a smart step to protect your health. If you prepare well, your doctor will be able to see what he needs, and your colonoscopy will go faster. If your results are good, it may be 10 years before you have to go through it again.
Preparing for a colonoscopy
Diet, tips, and instructions for a smooth colonoscopy prep
Updated: December 11, 2019Published: September, 2005
If you shudder at the thought of having a colonoscopy to check for hidden colon cancer, chances are it’s the “prep” that’s stoking your apprehension. It’s certainly a major inconvenience: getting ready for the procedure takes much longer — an average of 16 hours, according to one study — than the three hours or so you’ll spend at a medical center the day of your colonoscopy. But what’s most off-putting is the purgative part: taking a powerful bowel-clearing substance and coping with the resulting diarrhea.
It’s worth the hassle. Colonoscopy can spot small colon cancers while they are treatable and before they have spread to other parts of the body. It can also detect and remove polyps, small growths that can develop into colon cancer. Colon and rectal cancers (known together as colorectal cancers) are the third most common type of cancer in men and in women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
What’s involved in colonoscopy prep?
Emptying the contents of the colon is a key requirement for a successful colonoscopy. If the bowel prep isn’t up to par, polyps and lesions can be missed; the colonoscopy may take longer (increasing the risk of complications); or the whole process may need to be repeated or rescheduled, meaning another round of bowel prep.
Different medical centers recommend different ways to prepare the bowel for a colonoscopy. There are two parts: diet and drinking bowel-cleaning liquids. Here are some of the main strategies.
Colonoscopy prep diet
A few days before the colonoscopy procedure — Start eating a low-fiber diet: no whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or raw fruits or vegetables.
The day before the colonoscopy procedure — Don’t eat solid foods. Instead, consume only clear liquids like clear broth or bouillon, black coffee or tea, clear juice (apple, white grape), clear soft drinks or sports drinks, Jell-O, popsicles, etc.
The day of the colonoscopy procedure — As on the previous day, clear liquid foods only. Don’t eat or drink anything two hours before the procedure.
Bowel prep for colonoscopy
The afternoon or evening before the colonoscopy, drink a liquid that will trigger bowel-clearing diarrhea. The exact colonoscopy prep instructions depend on the bowel prep your doctor prefers, the time of your colonoscopy, and any prior experience you’ve had with colon preps (if one didn’t work before, you’ll likely be prescribed a different one).
You can read about some common bowel preparations approved by the American Gastroenterological Association, American College of Gastroenterology, and American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Contact your clinician to discuss the one that is best for you.
Colonoscopy prep tips
Preparing for a colonoscopy may be uncomfortable and time-consuming, but it needn’t be an ordeal. Here are some things you can do to help it go as smoothly and comfortably as possible:
- Make sure you receive your colonoscopy prep instructions well before your procedure date and read them completely as soon as you get them. This is the time to call your clinician with any questions and to buy the bowel prep she or he has prescribed. Pick up some medicated wipes (for example, Tucks or adult wet wipes with aloe and vitamin E) and a skin-soothing product such as Vaseline or Desitin — you’re going to be experiencing high-volume, high-velocity diarrhea.
- Arrange for the time and privacy you need to complete the prep with as little stress as possible. Clear your schedule, and be at home on time to start your prep. If you have children or aging parents who need attention, have someone else be available to them while you’re indisposed.
- Water can get boring, so keep a variety of clear liquids on hand. On the day before your colonoscopy — when you’re restricted to clear liquids — you can have popsicles, Jell-O, clear broth, coffee or tea (without milk or creamer), soft drinks, Italian ice, or Gatorade. But take nothing with red, blue, or purple dye. Drink extra liquids before, during, and after your bowel prep (usually until a few hours before your procedure), as well as after your colonoscopy.
- To make a bad-tasting liquid prep like magnesium citrate easier to swallow, try one or more of the following if it doesn’t come flavored: add some Crystal Light or Kool-Aid powder (again, not red, blue, or purple); add some ginger or lime; drink it chilled; drink it through a straw placed far back on your tongue; hold your nose and drink it as quickly as possible; quickly suck on a lemon slice after you finish each glass; hold a lemon or lime under your nose while you drink; suck on a hard candy after each glass.
- Wear loose clothing and stay near the bathroom. Better yet, once the preparation starts to work, stay in the bathroom — because when the urge hits, it’s hard to hold back. Consider setting up shop near the toilet with music, your laptop, magazines, or books.
Image: roobcio/Getty Images
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What To Expect
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
SUPREP® Bowel Prep Kit (sodium sulfate, potassium sulfate and magnesium sulfate) Oral Solution is an osmotic laxative indicated for cleansing of the colon as a preparation for colonoscopy in adults. Most common adverse reactions (>2%) are overall discomfort, abdominal distention, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and headache.
Use is contraindicated in the following conditions: gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction, bowel perforation, toxic colitis and toxic megacolon, gastric retention, ileus, known allergies to components of the kit. Use caution when prescribing for patients with a history of seizures, arrhythmias, impaired gag reflex, regurgitation or aspiration, severe active ulcerative colitis, impaired renal function or patients taking medications that may affect renal function or electrolytes. Use can cause temporary elevations in uric acid. Uric acid fluctuations in patients with gout may precipitate an acute flare. Administration of osmotic laxative products may produce mucosal aphthous ulcerations, and there have been reports of more serious cases of ischemic colitis requiring hospitalization. Patients with impaired water handling who experience severe vomiting should be closely monitored including measurement of electrolytes. Advise all patients to hydrate adequately before, during, and after use. Each bottle must be diluted with water to a final volume of 16 ounces and ingestion of additional water as recommended is important to patient tolerance.
1. I’ve taken the first half of my bowel prep, but have not had a bowel movement. What should I do?
- For many people, the first half of the bowel prep does not lead to bowel movements. Some people don’t even feel an urge to move their bowels. However, in almost every case, the prep will eventually work as planned. You should continue to take the second half of the bowel prep as per the instructions. If your stool is not starting to clear 3 hours after you take the morning dose of laxative, call our office/on-call physician (425-339-5421)
2. I’m taking my bowel prep now, but have nausea and vomiting. What should I do?
- The first thing to do is stop taking the bowel prep and take a break. That might mean 30 minutes or even an hour before you drink anymore. After nausea has decreased or stopped, you can restart the bowel prep but drink it at a slower rate. Sometimes, drinking too much too fast is too much for your system to handle. Another trick is to make sure the prep is chilled so it helps to refrigerate the liquid prep. Drinking some cold water along with the prep liquid may also help. If you already have an anti-nausea medication at home and have tolerated it in the past, you can try taking a dose. Examples might include ondansetron (Zofran), promethazine (Phenergan), prochlorperazine (Compazine) or metoclopramide (Reglan). If nausea and vomiting persist, please call the on-call physician to discuss.
3. I accidentally took aspirin and/or iron. Do I need to cancel?
- Aspirin intake: It is okay to take Aspirin as needed. It should not cause any problems with the procedure.
- Iron intake: If you did not stop taking iron for the week leading up to the procedure there is a small chance that the quality of the bowel preparation may not be good. It is difficult to know if the iron will impact the prep quality at this point or not. Since you have already started the bowel prep, it is best to continue. If you took one or two doses of iron by mistake, it is not an issue.
4. The pharmacy did not have my medications. How can I get them?
- If it is during normal business hours (8:00 am – 5:00 pm), please call our office at 425-339-5421 and a member of our clinical team can call in the prescription(s) to your local pharmacy. If you are calling outside of our normal business hours, please call our office at 425-339-5421 and select the option to have our on-call physician paged. S/he will call in the prescription(s) to your local pharmacy.
- Yes, you can take your anxiety/depression medications before coming in for your procedure.
6. I’m diabetic and my blood sugar is running low. What should I do?
- We realize the importance of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, especially in diabetic patients. It is important to remember that even though we ask you to avoid eating solid food during the bowel preparation process, clear liquids are still allowed. Consider drinking juice (apple juice, orange juice without pulp) or fruit flavored beverages (lemonade) as a way to maintain your blood sugar level.
7. I have a headache. Can I take Tylenol?
- Yes. Tylenol is allowed, but no more than 4000mg of Tylenol should be taken in 24 hours. If you have an allergy to Tylenol, then you should not take it. Additionally, if you have liver failure/cirrhosis, you should limit the amount of Tylenol that you take to 2000mg in 24 hours.
8. Can I mix the Miralax powder with something other than Gatorade?
- Yes. Consider mixing your Miralax powder with water, Pedialyte or CRYSTAL LIGHT flavoring instead. Please refrain from mixing your laxative with carbonated beverages (soda) or alcohol.
- No. Studies have shown that split dose preps (in which laxatives are taken the evening before and the morning of the procedure) produce better cleansing. While this can make for an early morning, the most important thing is that you get a good quality exam. A good quality exam will reduce the chance of having to repeat the prep/procedure, or having polyps missed during the exam. If there is stool residue stuck to the side of your colon, your doctor may not be able to find and remove all polyps and cancer can be missed.
10. What time do I really need to start my clear liquid diet?
- The clear liquid diet is aimed at decreasing stool production in the body. This allows us to use a small volume of bowel prep and accomplish a better cleansing of the colon. We ask that you start the clear liquid diet the day before your procedure starting in the morning (first meal) until 2 hours of your check-in time on the day of the procedure.
11. I’m already having clear liquid stool, do I still need to finish my entire prep?
- Yes. Your body produces 6 – 7 liters of fluid a day, even if you are not consuming solid food. This fluid is continuously coating the colon. Consuming the entire prep helps clean out this fluid and increases the quality of your colonoscopy.
12. Can I proceed with the procedure if I am on antibiotics?
- Yes, in the majority of cases this should not be an issue, although it is important to let your provider know for what condition you are taking the antibiotics.
13. I cannot find my prep instructions. What do I do?
- You have received a letter from The Everett Clinic with your prep instructions. These were sent on the day you scheduled your procedure. If you have access to MyChart, your prep instructions can be found there in the ‘Letters’ section. If you still cannot find your prep instructions after trying the options above, please call the on-call physician at 425-339-5421.
14. Can I do a pill prep?
- No. Our experience with tens of thousands of patients over the years has shown that the pill prep does not work as well as the standard liquid prep. Pill prep has not been studied/validated in clinical trials and there have been concerns over their safety. Often pill prep leads to suboptimal exams, or incomplete exams, requiring a repeat colonoscopy. We value your time and that of your family/friends who will bring you to your appointment. Our goal is to make sure your colonoscopy exam is of the highest quality, and also to avoid unnecessary repeat procedures.
15. Can I start the bowel prep earlier than 5:00 pm? Can I start it later than 7:00 pm?
- Ideally, you should start the bowel prep at the time instructed. However, variation by 1-2 hours on either side is fine as long as you follow the clear liquid diet for the day.
I never expected my all-time most popular blog post to be about colonoscopy prep.
And yet that post officially has more than twice as many pageviews as my second-most popular blog post.
Apparently the Internet likes it when I talk shit about… well, very liquidy shit.
So I am back again to give honest answers to real questions about colonoscopy prep!
Before I get started, let me write this huge massive disclaimer in bold font.
I am not a doctor. I am not a nurse. In fact, I am not a medical professional whatsoever. However, I have had Crohn’s Disease for over 20 years, during which I’ve had at least 4 colonoscopies, an endoscopy, and a flexible sigmoidoscopy. These are my experiences, NOT medical advice. If you are concerned about your colonoscopy prep, I encourage you to talk to your doctor.
But let’s be honest, you’re reading this post because you’re in the middle of your colonoscopy prep, possibly at night… And you’re desperately hoping I can tell you how long the diarrhea lasts with colonoscopy prep.
I hear you.
My gastroenterologist doesn’t answer those questions in the middle of the night either.
Without any further ado, here are all the colonoscopy prep FAQs I can imagine!
Colonoscopy Prep FAQs
I have tried to include as many colonoscopy prep FAQs as possible. If you leave a question on this post, I will update my colonoscopy FAQs to the best of my ability. I came up with most of these questions from my original post on colonoscopy prep as well as my search analytics.
How do I drink colonoscopy prep without throwing up?
Drinking colonoscopy prep without throwing up depends on what kind of colonoscopy prep you’re using and how much you dislike it.
For me, the most difficult colonoscopy prep to drink without throwing up is the polyethylene glycol solution, which you might know as GoLYTELY Prep. This is the safest prep for patients with kidney problems.
Chilling your colonoscopy prep solution is an absolute must. The cool temperature makes the taste slightly more palatable.
I also cheated slightly with my GoLYTELY Prep, but my colon was still sufficiently cleaned. Instead of drinking the recommended 8 oz every 10 minutes, I diligently tried to finish 6 oz every 15 minutes. Also, I didn’t slowly sip it. Each approach, I would try and get down 6-8 swallows. Then I let myself have a quick break for a yummy beverage or a bite of gelatin. Eventually I got through maybe 75% of my GoLYTELY Prep, and I called that a night.
If you’re experiencing nausea while drinking your colonoscopy prep, take a break for up to an hour. Allow the nausea to subside. When you resume your colonoscopy prep, trying drinking it more slowly. That doesn’t necessarily mean tiny sips–just don’t chug it.
I’ve also found that taking slow, deep breaths helps suppress my gag reflex when I feel like I’m about to throw up.
If you already have an anti-nausea medicine at home that you’ve tolerated before, you can also take that.
Miralax colonoscopy prep alternative
Okay, so you should really seriously talk to your doctor well before your colonoscopy about any concerns you have with the colonoscopy prep.
If you’re googling “can’t keep colonoscopy prep down” the night before your colonoscopy, you need advice NOW.
And my “I’m not a doctor” advice is to swap out part of your colonoscopy prep with Miralax mixed with the sports drink of your choice. The sports drink helps rehydrate you. You really need after both the diarrhea and any vomiting. I can’t even taste Miralax when mixed with lemon-lime Gatorade.
Still try to finish as much of your prescribed colonoscopy prep as possible. But a bit of Miralax with a sports drink can help compensate if you’re throwing up your colonoscopy prep.
Am I done with my colonoscopy prep once my diarrhea is cloudy yellow?
The purpose of colonoscopy prep is to clean your colon prior to your colonoscopy. If you’re anything like me, you’re hoping that you don’t need to finish all of your colonoscopy prep! But how do you know if you’ve sufficiently cleaned your colon?
If your diarrhea is a cloudy yellow, then your colonoscopy prep isn’t over. Cloudy yellow indicates that your colon isn’t clean enough. You need to continue drinking your colonoscopy until your diarrhea is clear yellow.
Fun fact: your yellow diarrhea comes from digestive juices!
Download this easy checklist so you don’t forget anything important during the week leading up to your colonoscopy!
How long will diarrhea last during colonoscopy prep?
Unfortunately, there’s not a definitive answer to this. Every body is different, and everyone will experience diarrhea differently during colonoscopy prep.
With all of my colonoscopies, I’ve been able to go to bed without any accidents. I had some diarrhea in the morning, but not a lot if I just did a single dose of colonoscopy prep the night before.
Will I be up all night with colonoscopy prep?
The most important thing to do to sleep the night before a colonoscopy is start the colonoscopy prep when described. Your doctor will prescribe a dosage schedule along with the actual prescription for your colonoscopy prep. While you can start it 1-2 hours early or late, starting it late will keep you up later at night.
In my experience, the split dose colonoscopy prep makes the diarrhea slightly easier to tolerate. I’m able to go to bed at a reasonable hour without any urgency to run to the toilet. And even though I have sharted in the past, it’s never been during colonoscopy prep! I’ve always been able to sleep without waking up for urgent diarrhea (or without having an accident in my sleep).
Related: Never Trust a Fart
With the split dose, you take the second half of your colonoscopy prep in the morning before your appointment. This helps clean out anything that might have accumulated in your colon overnight. You’ll then experience a fresh wave of diarrhea as you finish clearing your colon. However, your prescription is timed so that you’ll be done, at least with the urgent diarrhea, well in advance of your appointment.
Before my most recent colonoscopy, my husband drove us about 40 minutes from our house to the outpatient center. I was fine during that entire drive, even after taking my second colonoscopy prep that morning. Once at the outpatient center, I think I used the restroom once or twice, but it was more of a precaution. My diarrhea was not high in volume at that point.
What if I don’t finish my colonoscopy prep?
You couldn’t finish your colonoscopy prep.
It happens to the best of us.
Worst case scenario, your colon won’t be sufficiently cleaned, and your gastroenterologist will request another colonoscopy for you.
However, there are steps you can take now, while looking at your unfinished colonoscopy prep, to help you clean out your colon.
Do you still have time to finish your colonoscopy prep? Then keep working on it. You might need to dilute it further, or add ice cubes to it, to make the taste more palatable.
As I mentioned above, you can try adding some Miralax to a sports drink. Drink the equivalent amount to the colonoscopy prep you haven’t finished.
If you do NOT have a split dose for your colonoscopy prep, you could call it quits for tonight and wake up early in the morning. Drink a bit more of your prep in the morning. Be sure to finish at least 2 hours in advance of your procedure.
Finally, you can use an enema. While an enema alone does not sufficiently clear the colon for a colonoscopy, it can be effective as a final step in your colonoscopy prep. You can buy an enema kit at your local drugstore. This guide explains how to use an enema.
You can also talk to your doctor the morning of your procedure. Explain how much prep you consumed, and ask if an enema can be performed prior to a colonoscopy. One study suggests that this will adequately clear your colon.
Is there an alternative to drinking colonoscopy prep?
For some patients, a colonoscopy is necessary, and no colonoscopy alternative will suffice. If you have a family history of colon cancer, or you have an Irritable Bowel Disease, you need the occasional colonoscopy so that your gastroenterologist can get a good look at your colon and even part of your small intestine.
If you must have a colonoscopy, you might still have a choice of colonoscopy prep. Talk to your doctor in advance about your options for colonoscopy prep. I cover all colonoscopy prep alternatives in the next question.
Some patients don’t need a colonoscopy, though. There are multiple tests to detect colon cancer other than a colonoscopy. These include:
- Fecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT)
- Fecal Occult Blood Tests (FOBT)
- Stool DNA
A recent multi-study analysis of the effectiveness of FIT found that a one-time FIT screening caught up to 91 percent of colon cancers in people at average risk of the disease.
Stool tests need to be done more often than colonoscopies, but they’re a great alternative for qualifying patients.
Other colonoscopy alternatives also exist, but they still require thorough cleansing of the colon beforehand.
Are there any colonoscopy prep alternatives?
No… and yes. If you need a colonoscopy, then you need to drink colonoscopy prep.
However, there are multiple colonoscopy prep options, and some might be easier for you to tolerate.
- 4 liters of a solution of polyethylene glycol (PEG): When people complain about colonoscopy prep, this is usually what they mean. The day before your colonoscopy, you drink 8 ounces of this solution every 10 minutes until you finish it off. Sometimes you might split this dose, drinking half of it the night before and half of it about 5 hours before your procedure. GoLYTELY Prep
- 2 liters of PEG solution: The evening before your colonoscopy, you drink the first liter of solution spread out over an hour, drinking about 8 ounces every 15 minutes. You then drink 16 ounces of any clear liquid. You repeat this in the morning, finishing at least 1 hour prior to your procedure. MoviPrep
- Dulcolax and Miralax: The day before your colonoscopy, around 1pm, you take 4 Dulcolax (or store brand) tablets. Around 4pm, you start drinking 64 ounces of a sports drink mixed with a large container (8.3 ounces) of Miralax (or store brand). You drink about 8 ounces every 15 minutes until you finish the solution. However, there are variations using these products, including a split-dose schedule. There are risks associated with using Miralax as your colonoscopy prep, but your doctor might decide the benefits outweigh the risks.
- Sodium Picosulfate, Magnesium Oxide, and Anhydrous Citric Acid: The day before your colonoscopy, you drink 5 ounces of this solution. Then you drink 40 ounces of clear liquids. The morning of your procedure, you drink 5 ounces of the solution again 5 hours prior to the colonoscopy. You also drink at least 24 ounces of clear liquids, finishing at least 2 hours before the procedure. Prepopik
- Sodium Sulfate, Potassium Sulfate, and Magnesium Sulfate: The day before your colonoscopy, you drink 6 ounces of this solution diluted with 10 ounces of water. Then you drink 32 ounces of clear liquids. The morning of your procedure, you again drink 6 ounces of the solution diluted with 10 ounces of water, followed by another 32 ounces of clear liquids. You must finish at least 2 hours prior to your procedure. Suprep
Talk to your doctor before your colonoscopy about your colonoscopy prep options. Keep in mind that you might have medical conditions that require a specific colonoscopy prep. Regardless, be honest about your concerns about finishing your colonoscopy prep thoroughly.
Final Thoughts on Colonoscopy Prep
Y’all, I get it.
Going through colonoscopy prep is rough.
Stomach cramps. Nausea. Vomiting. Marathon shit sessions with no end in sight.
But if your doctor has recommended a colonoscopy for you, then you probably need one. Colonoscopies are especially important for patients with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
I hope this post answers all your colonoscopy questions! But if not, please leave a comment below. I want to help as many people as I can!
Is your colonoscopy still a few days or weeks away? Then you need my colonoscopy checklist! I’ve designed a handy checklist that starts a week before your colonoscopy.
Welcome to Colonoscopy Prep 101: a Class No One Actually Takes But We’ll All Definitely Need. Look, a colonoscopy—which is when a medical professional essentially inserts a long, flexible tube into your butt—can be a spectacularly useful tool when it comes to detecting changes or abnormalities in your colon (the longest part of your large intestine) and your rectum (the part of your large intestine closest to your anus). This can help your doctor investigate a range of weird gut and butt symptoms, like abdominal pain, persistent bleeding when you poop, or chronic constipation. It’s also one way doctors can screen for colorectal cancer.
For all its benefits, though, getting a colonoscopy is kind of like going to the dentist times a zillion: You know it can make a huge difference for your health, but it’s honestly scary and seems like the opposite of a nice way to spend your time. Luckily, some gastroenterologists have come to the rescue. Here, doctors explain 12 ways to make getting a colonoscopy a heck of a lot easier.
1. Learn how often you need to get colonoscopies so it doesn’t catch you off-guard.
Colonoscopy recommendations generally depend on your risk of getting colorectal cancer. Typically, average risk would include: having no strange GI symptoms, no personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps (clumps of cells that form on the lining of your colon and can be cancerous), not having inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, and not having any genetic conditions that predispose you to colorectal cancer.
If that sounds like you, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting your first colonoscopy when you’re 50. The exception is if you’re black, in which case the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) notes that you might want to start at 45, given that black people have the highest rates of colorectal cancer. Either way, after your first one, you’ll need a colonoscopy every 10 years if nothing about your health changes.
Things get way more granular when talking about recommendations for people with an above-average risk of colorectal cancer, like if one or more of your first-degree relatives (a parent, sibling, or child) has had a precancerous polyp or colorectal cancer before age 60, or if two or more of your first-degree relatives have at any age. Then you’ll want to get screened when you’re 10 years younger than the youngest age of the person with cancer or polyps, or at age 40—whichever comes first—with screenings every five years after that, according to the American Cancer Society. (Unless this is happening because they have a hereditary syndrome that you might share, which can drive up your screening frequency or lower the age at which you should first get tested.)
As another example, if you have ulcerative colitis involving your entire colon or Crohn’s disease, you should get a colonoscopy 8 to 10 years after you were initially diagnosed, the ACG says, then every 1 to 2 years after that along with a biopsy. (Both conditions can increase your risk of colon cancer.)
As you can see, the specifics really depend on your circumstances, which is why it’s important to give your doctor all the details possible when discussing when you should start getting colonoscopies.
2. Eat a low-fiber diet a few days before your procedure so you can poop out every last bit of food.
Your colon has to be totally empty for your doctor to examine it thoroughly (more on exactly how that happens later). Cutting back on fiber can help. Fiber is a nutrient your body can’t digest and that helps soften your poop, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). It’s in things like beans, whole grains, and the skins of many fruits and vegetables.
There are many reasons why people wisely choose to get a colonoscopy. From finding blood in bowel movements and abdominal aches, to diarrhea or conducting a preventative exam, it’s always a good idea to be prudent. Before the procedure, people often wonder to themselves, how long does colonoscopy prep take to work?
What is Colonoscopy prep?
Basically, the procedure involves sticking a 4 foot tube into the anus with a camera attached to it. The point is to inspect the walls of the colon and look for potential tumors, irregularities, or anything else of concern. In order for this to work, everything needs to be thoroughly cleaned.
There are a few different methods that patients are given by their doctors. There’s everything from particular cleansing solutions, liquid diets, laxatives, and even self administered enemas. The prep work is extremely important because without it being clean, the chances for a thorough exam are slim at best.
When users ask the question, “How long does colonoscopy prep take to work?” they should consider which brand they’re using first. Also, it’s important to note that prep work stuff found on the market doesn’t produce the same results in the same amount of time for everyone. While for one person it took only thirty minutes to start working, someone else will claim it took several hours, or even a couple minutes!
How Long Does Colonoscopy Prep Take to Work?
Bowel prep medicine is important these days. It’s meant to be taken the night before the big test day arrives. If the patient has done their homework, made sure not to eat the wrong types of foods or drink the wrong types of liquids, they will know that the prep work is doing its job when their stool turns clear to yellow.
For some, the answer to how long does colonoscopy prep take to work, happens in about an hour. Diarrhea comes on, and then boom, nonstop until clean. For others it can take a little more than an hour, but that’s about the most someone usually has to wait. Of course, there are always exceptions.
Side Effects of Bowel Prep
Along with asking their doctors how long does colonoscopy prep take to work, many patients wonder if there are any side effects. Here is what most people can expect.
- Lots and lots of diarrhea. This means that people should basically plan on being at home, spending a lot of time going back and forth to the toilet. That’s the whole purpose if you think about it, to clean everything out of there.
- Typically people experience bloating which leads to potential abdominal discomfort.
- Some people experience queasiness, or perhaps even nausea. This is to be expected, and if this is the case people are advised to take a short break and then get back to chugging down the rest of the solution.
At the end of the day, it’s not such a big deal to get a colonoscopy. Having a clean colon also isn’t going to hurt anyone, even if the process is a bit uncomfortable. The prep work is so that everything can go smoothly the first time around, and so that follow up tests aren’t needed.
Photo Credit: Michael (a.k.a. moik) McCullough