One of the most difficult parts of a colonoscopy is the preparation the day prior to the procedure. There are horror stories about the effects of the solution you have to drink, and how the overall experience takes a toll on the body. Many people have more anxiety about the prep than the actual exam. After recently having a colonoscopy, I’m here to tell you about eight tips for an easy colonoscopy prep that will make your procedure a piece of cake!
Why I needed a Colonoscopy
At the end of March, I began having major stomach issues including nausea, vomiting, fever, extreme fatigue, headaches, cramping, and more. For two weeks I was confined to my bed, barely able to walk to the bathroom in the next room on my own. Added on top of the symptoms, there was a strange mass moving about my abdomen causing pain and discomfort. I had little to no appetite and when I did eat, it caused more pain.
My physician had no idea what was happening to me, so she referred me to a gastroenterologist (GI physician) to see if he could help. The GI physician was intrigued by my issues, and suggested doing blood work, a CT scan, and a colonoscopy/endoscopy procedure. He said these together would give us a better idea of what was happening.
When the gastroenterologist told me I needed a colonoscopy, I immediately began to panic. I’ve heard the horror stories of preparing the day before a colonoscopy from family members, and the prep has always scared me more than the actual procedure. Not the part of drinking the solution to clean out the colon, but the effects of it – cramping, hurting, and not being able to control your bowel movements. I was already having those issues, and I sure didn’t want to make it worse.
Tips for an Easy Colonoscopy Prep
In order to ensure the easiest prep possible while minimizing the side effects of the solution, I did lots of research and asked family, friends, and readers on my Facebook page for tips. I had a few weeks before my procedure was scheduled, and I was determined to use my time wisely. This was how I prepared for my colonoscopy, and I can honestly tell you that I had the easiest prep than I ever imagined. In fact, I slept an entire night (aside from my usual waking up) before my procedure and had zero issues the next morning.
1. Start with Clean Eating
My mom had her first colonoscopy years ago and she said it was awful the first time around. The second time, however, she changed up what she ate one month prior to the prep and it made for a much easier experience. What she ate would be considered clean eating: no processed foods, high sugar foods, and minimized raw fruits and vegetables.
Avoiding these foods results in less cramping because your bowels aren’t having to purge as much. Also, if your use to eating processed foods and lots of sugar then all of a sudden stop, your body is going to experience withdrawals. The withdrawals together with the cramping will make for a miserable experience.
2. Keep These Items Nearby
When I posted asking for colonoscopy prep tips, several people mentioned items to have on hand such as a fully charged phone and a pillow (some people are not able to leave the bathroom once they start drinking the solution prep). I didn’t need to use these, but the ones I did use were essential once I started drinking the solution.
I kept a blend of fractionated coconut oil mixed with peppermint and Digize essential oils for stomach discomfort. I love, love, love this blend because it’s proven to be such a huge relief when it comes to my daily stomach discomforts. Within twenty minutes of applying to my abdomen, I feel my stomach being put to ease. This was THE most important item I would keep on hand should I need to have a colonoscopy again in the future.
Other items I kept on hand were adult bathroom wipes (better known as butt wipes) and a book to read. The wipes made it easier on my bottom once I started drinking the solution and was using the bathroom every few minutes. Hemorrhoids are also irritated by wiping with regular toilet paper. Cleaning wipes cause less irritation to the rectum and any hemorrhoids you may have.
Having a book to read made the time go by faster, and distracted me from the hunger I was experiencing from being on a clear liquid diet the day prior to the colonoscopy. If you aren’t a reader, keeping a fully charged phone or other electronic device nearby would also be a good distraction to the task at hand.
3. Get a Padded Toilet Seat
When I was younger, I remember visiting my great aunt’s house and being fascinated by her padded toilet seat. At home, we had a cold, generic porcelain toilet seat that was stone age compared to the luxury of my aunt’s toilet seat. Looking back, it’s silly that I was amused by the foam padded seat, especially when it became torn and deflated after being used countless times. However, when someone suggested using one during the prep, I was excited! Immediately, I began searching online for one.
The one I found wasn’t foam because I didn’t want it to become torn or deflated after awhile. Besides, when torn, a foam padded seat is brutal on the back of the thighs. No, thank you! Instead, I found a cloth one reasonably priced. And the best part is that it velcros to your current toilet seat so you can wash it. Woohoo! I couldn’t wait to try it out.
What I loved best about the seat cover when it arrived was, surprisingly, not the added comfort it provided to my otherwise hard, plastic toilet seat. It was how warm and cozy it felt on my bottom! I know it sounds ridiculous, but a huge pet peeve of mine is sitting on the toilet and the seat feeling cold as ice. I don’t know why this irritates me, but it does. This seat cover protects from the cold seat, but it also doesn’t make the butt or thighs sweaty or irritable. Genius product!
4. Treat Hemorrhoids
Since my first pregnancy I’ve been susceptible to hemorrhoids and have them most of the time. When I was told that the constant bowel movements would irritate, and possibly burst, the hemorrhoids, I knew I had to come up with a plan. I decided to aggressively treat them in the days before the prep by using prescribed hemorrhoid suppositories and external cream. This helped minimize their size and eliminated any internal ones.
During the day of prep and after starting to drink the solution, I used only the external cream. I didn’t apply it after every bowel movement, but frequently. Using the cream and the adult wipes reduced the irritation and prevented any to burst. All in all, I had no issues or painful irritation with the hemorrhoids using this technique.
5. Slow Down the Colyte
Supposedly there are two types of solutions to drink the day before your colonoscopy – regular and light colyte preps. I don’t know how true this is because I was given the colyte and was told by the nurse there was only one type – a lite one. There is one gallon of it, and the instructions are to drink eight ounces of the liquid every 10-15 minutes.
The week prior to my prep, I talked to the nurse about my concerns of having severe cramping and possible nausea with the solution. She suggested drinking it every 20-30 minutes should I have any unbearable cramping or any nausea at all. Since she gave the green light on this, I decided to start with drinking eight ounces every 25 minutes as opposed to the instructions of every ten minutes.
I’m really glad I decided to take this route. This minimized the cramping and the frequency of bowel movements. I was still cleaning out my colon as instructed, but at a slower rate. It took me about eight hours to consume the liquid, well before my cut off of consuming liquids before midnight.
Word of caution: Do NOT drink any other liquids or foods while consuming the colyte prep. This could lead to consuming dangerous amounts of liquids and salts.
6. Don’t Stray Too Far
Several of the tips I received from readers and friends were the same: Stay in the bathroom next to the toilet! It had me wondering just how fast the colyte prep would give me an urge of a bowel movement. I was worried I’d be messing on myself, or worse, camping out in the bathroom all night. The only way to find out was to do it and discover for myself.
It wasn’t too bad, and definitely didn’t warrant a sleepover with the toilet. When the urge hit – and it hit fast with little warning – I made a beeline for the bathroom. The furthest I could go was my bed. Any further and I wouldn’t have made it in time. I also realized it was best to leave the toilet lid up. I have a habit of closing it before flushing, and I learned very quickly that the second or two to lift up the lid could mean missing the toilet altogether, if you catch my drift.
7. Keep Warm with a Blanket
I know the suggestion of having an electric blanket or blanket for a colonoscopy prep sounds completely weird and off topic, but I assure you it’s not. The colyte prep is kept cold, and drinking a full eight ounces every 25 minutes made me cold to the bones. My hands and feet were cold to the point of hurting, and I was shivering all over. Having the electric blanket made me warm and stopped me from shivering. It was easier to tolerate the liquid once I had my blanket.
8. Get Rest
Rest is a big necessity each and every day with chronic pain. It’s even more so when undergoing any procedure or stressful situation. In the days leading up to the colonoscopy, I rested more than usual to reduce stress and anxiety. I kept myself occupied by reading books, watching movies with my family, and napping whenever I could.
The day before the colonoscopy, I did zero cleaning, laundry, or cooking. Being on a clear liquid diet for 24 hours gave me hardly any energy, and I didn’t want to put unnecessary strain on my body during that time. That diet gave a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘hangry’, and I knew any housework would only aggravate the situation.
Resting after the procedure is also critical. After being without food and under extreme stress of the whole ordeal, my body was melting once the colonoscopy was over. I could feel all the tension leaving me drained and exhausted. When I came home, I ate something small and then laid down for a nap. Once I got up, I was feeling almost back to normal and resumed my regular activities.
All in all, I had an easy, smooth colonoscopy prep despite what I anticipated and was told by others. Following the tips listed above will reduce stress on your body and help you make an easier recovery from the procedure.
About the Author:
Brandi is a follower of Christ, wife to an amazingly supportive husband, mom to five sweet, crazy kiddos, and a fibromyalgia thriver. As a Navy veteran living in South Carolina, she spends her days cherishing the time with her family as well as reading, writing, cooking, and just being Brandi. Her blog, Being Fibro Mom, is all about thriving the family life while living with fibromyalgia, and the support group, Fibro Parenting, gives additional support and resources to fibro parents. Brandi’s other work in the fibro community include writing for The Fibromyalgia Magazine, hosting a live show about fibromyalgia, and serving as Families & Fibromyalgia program director for the International Support Fibromyalgia Network.