Secrets to an Easier Colonoscopy Prep

March 21st, 2024

Secrets to an Easier Colonoscopy Prep

What’s the biggest thing holding you back from scheduling your colonoscopy? If you’re delaying a screening because you’re concerned about colonoscopy preparation, then you might be surprised to learn how things have changed.

The days of having to drink a gallon of thick, unpleasant-tasting liquid are long in the past. Today, colonoscopy prep is gentler and easier for most people to tolerate.

Daniel Latta, MD, a double-board certified, fellowship-trained colorectal surgeon with Grand View Health Surgery, explores the changes and reveals secrets to an easier colonoscopy prep.

Why perform colon prep in the first place?

“Bowel preparation is needed to ensure that doctors can see clearly inside your colon during a colonoscopy,” Dr. Latta explains. “The more doctors can see, the more likely they’ll be able to identify potential signs of trouble, such as polyps or tumors.”

In the old days, people had to ingest copious amounts of thick liquid to clear their colon. Today, most providers instead recommend some sort of split-dose bowel prep. That means you take a combination of liquid and pills, consuming half of the dose the night before, and the other half the morning of your procedure.

Split-dose approaches to prep may include drinking an electrolyte fluid (such as Gatorade) and a medication like MiraLAX several hours apart. This combination is much better tasting than older preps like GoLYTELY.

Additionally, some preps today include flavored liquid. You can also consider adding a clear flavor packet (such as Crystal Light or Liquid I.V.) to any liquid prep to improve the taste. It’s also OK to suck on hard candy or a lemon after drinking your prep.

“But be careful to stay away from any drinks that are red, purple or orange during your colonoscopy prep,” Dr. Latta says. “Those colors can cause staining inside the colon that could lead to inaccurate test results.”

Secrets to a successful colonoscopy preparation

Dr. Latta offers a few other tips to help you prepare for your colonoscopy confidently:

  1. Follow diet restrictions as recommended by your doctor. As a general rule, do not eat any solid foods 24 hours before your colonoscopy. Also, cut back on high-fiber foods, such as oats, nuts, fruits and beans, a few days prior to your procedure. “Fibrous foods tend to leave extra residue in the colon,” Dr. Latta says.
  2. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of extra fluids. These can include water, gelatin, ice pops, apple juice, white grape juice, clear broth, ginger ale, and tea or coffee (hold the milk and creamer). “If you can see through it, it’s OK to drink prior to the surgery,” Dr. Latta says. Avoid alcohol.
  3. Set aside time to prep. Take time off from work if needed the day before your colonoscopy so you can stay home without distractions. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Stock up on soft toilet paper, baby wipes and / or creams and lotions that can help with any skin irritation.
  4. Talk with your provider. Always follow your doctor’s specific prep instructions. If you have a question before or during your prep, check with your doctor so you have the most up-to-date information available.

Schedule your colonoscopy today

Colorectal cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in men under age 50 and the second-leading cause in women younger than 50. “All adults aged 45 and older at medium risk for colorectal cancer should get their colonoscopy,” Dr. Latta says. “The earlier we find colorectal cancer, the more treatable it will be.”

Learn more about cancer care at Grand View Health.