Our Top Tips for Colonoscopies

by | Nov 14, 2023 | IBD | 4 comments

A colonoscopy is an effective way for doctors to see what’s going on inside your bowel, determine if your current method of treatment is effective, and has the potential to save your life  as it’s the best strategy for colorectal cancer screening. Nonetheless, it’s a prospect that most find pretty intimidating. 

If you’re someone with Crohn’s or Colitis, you’ll probably be no stranger to colonoscopies. You may have undergone the procedure during your diagnosis journey, or get colonoscopies every one to two years to check for changes in your bowel. 

Even if you don’t have IBD and no family history of colon cancer, it’s recommended that everyone gets a colonoscopy for screening purposes from the age of 50, and earlier if you are at a higher risk of colon cancer.

Therefore, we can all benefit from reading about some simple colonoscopy tips for making them more manageable.

At Crohn’s & Colitis Dietitians, we have first-hand experience with colonoscopies, so we have plenty of tried and tested top tips for colonoscopies that we’ll be sharing in this blog. 

Let’s get started.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows GI doctors to look inside your rectum and colon. It typically takes around 15-30 mins.

A doctor may want to examine your bowel to check out symptoms such as bleeding, diarrhea, and bloating, and to look for any irritation or issues such as polyps, ulcers, and cancer.

The colonoscope, a long, flexible tube-like instrument with a camera on the end, is inserted via your rectum and then moves through your large intestine. Air is pumped in to open up your bowel so that the doctor can examine it with ease.

All of this may sound unpleasant, but the procedure shouldn’t be painful. You’ll usually be sedated so that you are relaxed and possibly unaware of what is happening.

Tips for Colonoscopies

Preparation is needed before a colonoscopy so that your doctor can have a thorough look at your bowel.

You may have heard that the prep is worse than the procedure itself. While we can’t pretend that colonoscopy prep is a total picnic, there are colonoscopy tips that can make it more bearable and make colonoscopy prep easier. 

You’ll be asked to take laxatives to empty your bowel before your procedure, usually in liquid form. To make it more palatable, make sure it’s chilled and use your favorite cup or bottle. Some people also find it easier to drink a large volume through a straw.

Be sure to read the laxative instructions carefully, and if possible, split the drink up into several smaller drinks to make it more manageable.

Some GI doctors are happy for their patients to take Metamucil and an electrolyte drink as their colonoscopy prep. People have used lemon lime kool aid and crystal light in the past as well. We recommend Cure’s Hydrating Electrolyte Mix in lemon flavor as a plant-based option with no added sugar.

Ask your doctor plenty of questions about prep and timings. We recommend giving yourself plenty of time to take the laxatives unless you want to be up all night in the bathroom!

What to eat for colonoscopy preparation

You’ll need to stick to a liquid diet the day before your colonoscopy. This makes it easier to clear your bowel and means that you won’t add anything else to your bowel after the laxatives.

Although we often think of high fiber foods as being good for keeping us regular, they aren’t a good option before a colonoscopy. This is because fiber can leave residue in your colon which makes it harder for you to fully clear your bowel.

You could consider eating a low-fiber diet for a few days before your colonoscopy and prep process. High fiber foods include fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds.

Read more about low residue diets and IBD.

During the liquid diet, we recommend opting for mostly savory liquids – we find that our patients tend to get tired of the sweet stuff fairly quickly. Savory options include clear vegetable broths, soup bases, and bouillon to help satisfy those salty cravings. 

Tea and coffee is another recommended option, just remember to forego the creamer or milk. Fruit teas can also help give you some variety, and apple juice is a popular one with our doctors.

What to do on colonoscopy preparation day

You’ll no doubt be apprehensive on prep day. You should take the full day of work if possible so that you can pace your laxatives properly and reduce any stress.

Ask your doctors if they have any tips for colonoscopies and the preparation that goes with them, along with any questions you may have. Ensure that you have discussed any medications that you take beforehand.

We find it’s a good idea to schedule distractions for prep day. Take some time to enjoy your favorite (easy-going) hobbies and perhaps some light projects that you have been putting off. You don’t want your day off to go to waste, but you will want to be taking it easy at home.

It goes without saying that you’ll also need to be near the bathroom. 

This is not the time for substandard toilet paper – treat yourself to something soft and strong (stock up on soft toilet paper!), and you could try some unscented wet wipes/baby wipes. Wear clothes that are easy to take on and off in a hurry, as the laxatives can work surprisingly fast.

Colonoscopy prep tips for the day of your procedure

Once you’ve completed the prep, that’s the hard part done! But here are a few colonoscopy tips to keep in mind for the morning of the procedure:

  • Arrange for someone to drive you to and from your colonoscopy (you won’t be able to drive for at least 24 hours after being sedated)
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothes and shoes
  • Ask as many questions as you like and don’t feel silly about doing so
  • Although you will no doubt be hungry afterward, avoid junk or greasy food that is likely to irritate your bowel – it’ll still be sensitive for a while after your colonoscopy 

The procedure will be over before you know it. 

We hope these tips for colonoscopies will help your preparation and procedure go as smoothly as possible. A colonoscopy isn’t a pleasant experience, but they’re an essential tool for GI doctors, preventing colon cancer, and are always carried out with your best interests in mind.

At Crohn’s & Colitis Dietitians, our specialist team is here for you. We understand the experiences of IBD patients firsthand and can provide tailored nutritional therapy to reduce symptoms and flare-ups.

Contact our team of dietitians today and get the tailored support you deserve in both the United States and Canada!

Ashley and Leah, talk with an IBD dietitian today

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  1. Gerry

    My doctor still has not forwarded what I can eat the day off. Maybe nothing. Do I need to fast before this test? I have had it before but do not remember. I know about preparation. That she gave me. Also liquid diet the day before. What about the day of. May I drink water, ginger ale, clear liquids, coffee etc.please advise. Gerry

    • Ashley Hurst, R.D.

      I’m not sure what you are asking but maybe give your doctor a call! Good luck on your scope!

  2. Heather kowalchuk

    I just had a colonoscopy last week and couldn’t keep the drink down. I just kept vomiting therefore dr said it was very dirty. Is it possible for the hospital to do an enema?

  3. Jackie Ward

    💃🎄 happy holidays Dr Ashley Hurst.. I’m Jackie Ward caring for my dad getting older well needless say he’s in a nursing home and he’s getting ready for the colonscopy (g.i.) daughter and it’s a local hospital here in Texas and I was concerned that you have to start on the liquid diet he’s had this procedure before it was a VA Hospital out of Houston and he still was able to eat solid food even a day before the procedure I guess they’ve changed this up message me back dear God bless


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