Before a Colonoscopy


As we all know, a colonoscopy procedure is not complete without its thorough preparation that has to occur before screening day. While it may seem like a daunting task, our doctors here at Charleston GI are here and ready to help you ease into colonoscopy day.

Colonoscopy prep can begin up to a week before your procedure to ensure your doctor can get the clearest picture of what’s going on in there. Here’s your complete guide to understanding colonoscopy prep and how to navigate the days leading up to your procedure. 

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woman drinking water before a colonoscopy

ONE WEEK BEFORE A COLONOSCOPY

You’re one week out from your colonoscopy, and it is time for the preparation to begin. At this point, your doctor will likely provide instructions for dietary changes leading up to your procedure.

To ensure you’re getting nutrients, we still recommend eating cooked or canned vegetables, but during this week, you should avoid:

  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, and wheat bread
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole kernel corn

If you are taking certain medications, like blood things or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, your doctor may recommend you to stop taking them, as they may increase the risk of bleeding during your procedure. 

A week before your procedure you may also have a consultation appointment. During your consultation, your doctor will discuss these dietary changes and decide how long you need to suspend certain medications. This is a great time to ask questions about the preparation and the procedure.

The gastroenterologist will work with the individual during the consultation to decide how long they should suspend using a specific medication before and after the colonoscopy.

The consultation also is a good time to ask any questions about the procedure, including the risks and benefits.

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TWO DAYS BEFORE A COLONOSCOPY

Only two more days to go - the countdown begins! At this point in the preparation, it’s important to be drinking plenty of liquids to make sure you don’t get dehydrated when the bowel prep portion begins. We recommend eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day to stay properly hydrated.

Your doctor may also recommend avoiding foods that are red and orange in color, as these foods could be mistaken for blood in your colon.

24 HOURS BEFORE A COLONOSCOPY

Only 24 hours to go, which means you’re in the clear liquid diet phase. This step is crucial, as it helps move all fecal matter out of your colon. Typically, a clear diet includes:

  • Water
  • Ginger ale
  • Club soda
  • Clear juices (no pulp)
  • Plain popsicles (without pureed fruit or chunks)
  • Clear broths
  • Tea and coffee (no milk or cream)
  • Gelatin products 

A clear liquid diet does not include:

  • Soda
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Dairy products
  • Tomato and other vegetable juices

A good rule of thumb is if you can see through the food or drink, it should be acceptable for your clear liquid diet. With that being said, if you have any uncertainties about a specific food, talk to your doctor before consuming. 

Your doctor will prescribe an oral solution for you to drink to clean out your colon. This drink will cause more frequent bowel movements to make sure all of the fecal matter is cleared out of your colon. Your doctor will provide instructions for drinking the solution based on their dosage methods. They will outline how much solution to drink at one time and when to drink it.  

During bowel prep, you may experience some nausea, bloating, thirst, or dizziness while drinking the oral solution. If any of these side effects do occur, simply take a break from drinking the solution for at least 30 minutes and sip slowly on other clear fluids. Once you feel like you can tolerate the solution again, go back to sipping it slowly to finish the prep.

For bowel prep, we recommend a few things to help things go as smoothly as possible:

  • Stay near a bathroom for easy access to a toilet
  • Wear pants with an elastic waistband 
  • Follow the oral solution with a clear liquid to relieve the unpleasant taste
  • Apply petroleum jelly to anal opening or use baby wipes to reduce irritation

Eventually, your bowel movements will turn clear or yellow, signaling that your colon is clear of fecal matter. If you experience constipation, your doctor may recommend using a stool softener to ease bowel movements.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Should I still be pooping the morning of my colonoscopy?

If you’ve taken all of your oral solution as instructed and you’re still passing stool, your procedure will need to be rescheduled. Your doctor may change the dosage for the next procedure or prescribe a different preparation. Contact your doctor’s office the morning of the procedure if you’re having bowel movements.

What snacks are safe before colonoscopy?

Your doctor will provide in depth instructions on what you can and can’t eat and when. Two days leading up to the colonoscopy, it’s okay to eat foods like gelatin, plain pudding, sherbet, or sorbet. Avoid eating foods that are red, orange, or purple, and maintain a clear liquid diet in the 24 hours leading up to your procedure.

How many hours before colonoscopy should I stop eating?

If you can tolerate skipping more meals, your doctor will most likely instruct stopping solid food intake 24 hours before your procedure. If you are unable to fast for long periods of time, your doctor may recommend waiting until 14 hours before your procedure to stop solid food intake. Follow your doctor’s instructions based on your individual needs for fasting.

What happens if I eat before a colonoscopy?

If you eat solid food too close to the time of your colonoscopy, you run the risk of food particles still being in your system. This could lead to an unsuccessful examination or increase your risk of aspiration during sedation.

How to prepare for a colonoscopy? 

Your doctor will provide specific preparation instructions prior to your colonoscopy appointment. Sufficient bowel prep is important because an empty stomach makes for the best screening conditions. 

Follow all instructions provided by your doctor. Leading up to your appointment we recommend: 

  • Sticking to a clear liquid diet
  • Drinking the oral solution as prescribed by your doctor
  • Staying hydrated during your prep with clear liquids
  • Avoiding any food and drink the morning of your procedure
  • Notifying your doctor if you think you may be pregnant, are taking any medications, or have a history of bleeding disorders.

MORE HELPFUL COLONOSCOPY FAQs

 


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