Answering the “Why” of Colonoscopy Prep

Rachel Morrell

colonoscopy prep includes green Jell-O

Preparing for a colonoscopy can seem like a daunting task, especially if it is the first time you’ve ever had the procedure. You may feel intimidated by all the instructions from your doctor – and by all of the unsolicited advice from colonoscopy veterans!

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, set aside some time to read through your colonoscopy instructions from your gastroenterologist. Highlight the most important points and make some notes for yourself. Organizing the information in your own way might help you to retain the information more effectively.

After reading your preparation packet, you may have questions about why you need to do (or not do) so many things. We at Stop Colon Cancer Now hope to ease some of your concerns. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers about colonoscopy prep.

Why Do I Need to Cut Down on Fiber?

It seems counter-intuitive to reduce your fiber intake (since fiber helps soften the stool). However, fiber is indigestible plant material. Eating lots of beans, whole grains and leafy greens before your colonoscopy won’t help clear your colon. It will actually have the opposite effect.

Your doctor will recommend eating a low-fiber diet for two days leading up to the colonoscopy. Food like white rice, cereal, potatoes and pasta moves swiftly through the digestive system and can be eliminated quickly. Fiber is essential to prevent constipation and keep the bowels moving, so after your colonoscopy procedure, you should resume a high-fiber diet.

Why Do I Have to Drink the Colonoscopy Prep Solution Down to the Last Drop?

For a successful colonoscopy, the colon needs to be completely cleared of waste. You will be given a large volume of polyethylene glycol to drink. This will induce diarrhea and clear the colon. This way, your gastroenterologist will be able to see the entire colon to examine it for colon polyps

Now, we won’t lie. Prep solution is far from tasty and drinking large volumes of any liquid can cause nausea. Many people mix the prep solution with Gatorade and chill it for several hours to make it more palatable. Thankfully, most doctors advocate the “split dose preparation method” that allows you to drink half of the solution the night before the procedure and the other half on the morning of your exam. Make sure that you finish drinking both doses so that your doctor can have maximum visibility. Your body also needs the liquid to prevent dehydration.

Why Are There So Many Rules About What to Drink?

Yes, there are lots of rules to follow as you prepare for a colonoscopy, but you can do anything for a day or two, right?

Colonoscopy dietary restrictions can seem overly particular, but they are necessary to keep the colon clear. You definitely don’t want to have to repeat your colonoscopy because you didn’t follow the rules correctly. Here are a few guidelines to remember on your Prep Day (the day before your colonoscopy):

  • Strained broth, soda, Gatorade, black coffee and tea are acceptable “clear liquids.”
  • You may also have popsicles, Italian ice, Jell-O or even gummy bears (they melt into clear liquids).
  • Avoid anything with red, purple or blue dye because it can interfere with your colonoscopy results.

Finally, post your doctor’s instruction packet on your refrigerator or bulletin board so you can refer to it. If you have a question, call the GI screening center and talk to a nurse. Your GI staff is committed to helping you have a successful colonoscopy experience.

If you would like to find a list of gastroenterologists in your hometown, click here and select your state. You’ll see a list of available screening centers, and you can make an appointment today.

Related Articles:

Myth vs. Fact: How Long Does it Take to Get a Colonoscopy?
Steps of a Colonoscopy: It’s as Easy as 1-2-3!
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