I recently had a colonoscopy (as I continue my seemingly endless search for what’s causing my brutally painful monthly menstrual pain). I was SHOCKED at how little information my doctor and other medical staff provided me with what to expect and how to make the prep go easier.
So I wanted to create a post to help you reduce the fear of the unknown and make things go as easily as possible.
I also wanted to include a more holistic and natural twist on it than what you might find on other websites! Here are my most comprehensive and best prep tips for an easier colonoscopy:
Leading Up to Colonoscopy: Starting ~7-5 days out
You can start to have an impact on how your prep will go in the days leading up to your procedure. Here are some ways to make it go smoother and easier:
- Stop eating difficult to digest/tough meats (like beef), popcorn, nuts, raw vegetables and fruits, high fiber foods like beans, fried food, high fat foods or large amounts of even healthy fats in your diet
- Drink apple cider vinegar every day (1 tablespoon per day, add to at least 16-ounces of water, or split the dosage up into 2, 16-ounce glasses and add fresh lemon juice)
- Drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water (pure water) each day
- Switch your breakfast to a smoothie and your lunch and/or dinner to a blended soup. Blending makes the food ‘pre-digested’ so your body will have an easier time working through it.
- Do at least 1 thing a day that helps you relax (bath, deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, watch a funny movie, read, journal, take a walk in nature, listen to calming music, etc)
- Prep for your day-before procedure mentally and physically! Read through below first and get a game plan for what to buy and/or make ahead of time.
Day Before Procedure:
The day before your colonoscopy, you need to go through the colonoscopy prep. If this isn’t done correctly, your doctor likely won’t be able to do the procedure and your efforts would have been wasted, no one wants that!
It can be a super miserable day/night, but here are some ways to make it go smoother and easier:
- Read through the instructions on your special prep beverage you would have received from your doc. That way you’ll know what to do that day for your specific mixture. Each one varies. I mixed mine up in the morning and had it get cold in the fridge all day.
- Read through the standard instructions they give you on what to avoid, like red/purple/orange dyes and basically all food
- Drink at least 16 ounces of liquid per hour.
- Have plenty of bone broth on hand. It helps you feel fuller. Ideally make it yourself (super easy, here’s how) because you’ll get way more nutrients out of it. I think I had 4 large mug-fulls throughout the day.
- Have plenty of jello on hand. Ideally make it yourself, it’s super easy, will give you some protein plus will likely have way less sugar/artificial dyes than the ‘real’ stuff. I made sweet tea/lemonade (Arnold Palmer) jello, it was tasty! Here’s a recipe and here’s the gelatin I used. It felt great to chew something!
- For juice, you can use apple juice, white grape juice, white cranberry juice, lemonade or limeade.
- If you have a juicer, you can make juices, but be mindful and careful which veggies/fruits you put in there (avoid the red/purple/orange) and make sure no pulp gets through. It’s a great way to get vitamins and nutrients while not eating all day.
- Skip the Gatorade that’s usually recommended for electrolytes and opt for coconut water instead. I love the Nooma brand that’s flavored, and the Harmless Harvest brand that’s plain/pure (found at any natural food grocery store).
- Sodas are technically allowed, but save yourself from all the sugar. If you want some bubbles, get Zevia instead (uses natural sweetener stevia and is clear, found at any natural food grocery store).
- Coffee is technically allowed but it dehydrates the body, so I’d personally skip it.
- Popsicles are allowed but again, watch all the sugar. I got organic lemon popsicles. You can also make your own with white grape juice or organic lemonade (or water/lemons/stevia) and pour it into molds like these.
- The goal is clean out 6 feet of colon, so you can plan on spending a good deal of time in the bathroom. Prep your bathroom with these essentials: candle, lighter, wipes, coconut oil in a small container, iPad (and a place to prop it up like a small TV table), and optional but highly recommended: squatty potty.
DRINKING THE “COLONOSCOPY PREP” TIPS:
- Follow the instructions on the package closely for specific prep solution
- I mixed mine with white grape juice & water mix.
- While drinking the solution, I found it helped me to start with it really cold, and use a straw. I stuck the straw as far back as I could on my tongue to minimize its exposure to my taste buds!
- Before and after each big sip I took, I sucked on a wedge of lemon. I think I psyched myself out a lot though based on what I read online! It didn’t taste nearly as bad as I thought it would.
- I kept ginger and peppermint essential oils nearby to smell and rub on my stomach if I felt nauseous. If you feel ill, take a 15 to 30-minute break from drinking the prep mixture.
- Once the prep liquid starts ‘working,’ stay close to the bathroom!! I snuggled with my dog in between trips to the bathroom.
- I was Googling like crazy and everyone said how their butt felt like it was “on fire.” I also read some people say the elimination lasted 5-10 hours, so I was terrified going into it! Mine lasted about 1 ½ hours total and my butt never hurt or felt uncomfortable at all, so don’t always believe the hype!
- Here was my technique:
- Light a candle, good for obvious reasons and helps calm the body which when it’s relaxed will make things move easier.
- Prop your iPad or phone up on a TV table in front of the toilet (or bring in some magazines) so you don’t have to hold it the whole time. It will help distract you.
- Start by applying coconut oil to your anus.
- Super recommended – use a squatty potty! It helps things move through you much faster and easier.
- After each elimination, use wet wipes to lightly PAT (not wipe), and re-apply the coconut oil. Wash your hands.
- If your butt does end up hurting, here’s what a friend of mine said saved her: draw a warm bath. After each elimination and clean-up, dunk your butt in the bath for a little bit to calm down, and re-apply coconut oil/repeat.
- Another great piece of advice from my friend: don’t trust a fart. I’m hoping she didn’t learn the hard way, but I didn’t ask! It’s true though, you’ll get confusing messages from the body.
- Keep drinking the coconut water to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes.
- How can you tell if your colon is clean and ready for a colonoscopy? What comes out of you (I’d say “stool” but by then it’s really just liquid!) should be clear, yellow, light, and liquid. If dark particles or thick brown or black stuff comes out, that means you are not ready for a colonoscopy. If your stool is not clear after taking your entire bowel prep agent, you may need additional prep agent. I had to take 2 bottles of magnesium citrate (nasty stuff) from the drug store to finish things up.
Day of Procedure + Next Few Days
- Stop drinking any/all liquids 2 hours before your procedure. Stay nice and hydrated up until then if you can so the nurse can easily find a good vein for your IV.
- Don’t be nervous about the actual procedure. Once you arrive for your appointment, you’re almost done, and the hard part is definitely over.
- You’ll be given a mild sedative just prior to the procedure, and before you know it you’ll be awake again and it’ll all be over.
- It’s helpful to ease back into food as your system just went through a lot!
- Take a very high-quality probiotic (I used this one) to help repopulate the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. You can also eat fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. Coconut water is great for replenishing electrolytes still.
- For that first day-of and 3-4 days after, stick with light foods, things that are easy to digest. Things like vegetable soups, steamed (/cooked) vegetables, plain crackers, white rice, scrambled eggs, white fish, chicken breasts, mashed potatoes (peeled), smoothies.
- Pretty similar to your lead-up diet before the procedure, avoid heavy, tough foods like greasy or fried foods, beans/legumes, raw vegetables, spicy foods, nuts, alcohol, high fiber foods.
I hope you found this helpful and everything goes smoothly for you!