A GWG's Guide to Colonoscopy Prep
I still remember my very first colonoscopy prep. I was in the ICU, connected to an IV bag on a rolling stand, in a hospital gown, and with a night nurse telling me that even though I haven’t put anything in my mouth for the past three days, I was now expected to drink an entire gallon of something foul to prepare for a colonoscopy. I didn’t know what a colonoscopy was. I think I managed to drink about half the gallon before breaking down into tears, defeated, and begging the nurse to let me stop. She shrugged and walked away. Fortunately, since I hadn’t been able to keep down any solid food for about a week, it was enough. The next morning, I got through my colonoscopy (that part was easy!), was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and was allowed (and able) to eat a couple of slices of white bread with a piece of turkey in it. It was the best tasting sandwich I’d ever had.
It wasn’t long before I had to prep for the next colonoscopy. I knew there had to be an easier way, so I did what I always do. I researched. I talked to a few IBD friends. I read articles about different types of fiber and how long it takes for foods to digest. (For example, did you know that red meat can take the average, healthy person up to two days to digest?) Then, I collected all the information and created my colonoscopy prep survival guide.
As always, check with your doctor if you are concerned about whether or not any of the foods on my list are appropriate for you. Everybody (and every body) is different. The plan becomes more restrictive as you get closer to your prep. It’s not easy, but for some people (like me), it’s worth the effort.
Beginning 5 days before you plan to drink your colonoscopy prep (usually the day before your procedure)...
DON’T EAT THESE THINGS:
red meat and processed meats (like hot dogs and bologna)
raw fruits and veggies (except those on the “do eat” list)
anything with dairy in it
seeds, nuts, granola, dried fruits, beans, popcorn
corn or potatoes with skin
pickles, olives, horseradish, relish
whole grains, whole wheat breads, brown rice, corn meal, wheat germ, buckwheat
heavily processed foods (foods with more than a few ingredients you can’t pronounce)
DO EAT THESE THINGS:
eggs, well-cooked (very tender) poultry or fish (boneless!), cooked seafood, and tofu
small amounts of ripe banana, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon
white breads and noodles, white rice, oatmeal, simple crackers (like saltines)\fruits and veggies that have been either canned or cooked “fork tender,” meaning that you can easily squish it with a fork (if cooking, remember to remove skins and seeds first!)
sorbets, juices, jellies (without seeds), jell-o, chocolate (small amounts)
condiments (as long as they have no seeds or dairy), herbs and spices
well-cooked (fork-tender) potato and sweet potato (no skin)
sugar, syrup, honey, hard candies, marshmallows
lots of fluids: tea, juice, water, lemonade, soda, coffee (without cream or milk), broth
2 days before the day of your prep, only eat:
scrambled eggs (no milk, cooking with a little oil is ok)
cans of chicken or veggie noodle soup (white noodles)
herbs, spices, condiments without dairy are ok
white noodles with tomato sauce (or other sauce that follows rules)
white bread, saltines
canned veggies and fruits
Ensure or other protein drink without dairy
don’t forget to drink lots of fluids!!!
1 day before the day of your prep, only have:
clear liquids: soda, tea, apple or grape juice, etc (no red, orange, or purple colors)
broth of any type
Ensure (chocolate or vanilla only) or other protein drink without dairy
jello (no red, orange, purple)
Day of the prep: Clear liquids only! Remember: NO RED DYES (that means no purples or oranges either!). You can have:
hard or gummy candies (remember- no reds!)
non-dairy popsicles with no fruit or seeds
apple juice or white grape juice
any other clear drinks (clear sodas, gatorade, tea, coffee without cream or milk)
nothing acidic, like lemonade
Bonus! Here’s my list of tips and tricks for making your actual prep a little more pleasant. Every prep is different, so be sure to follow the instructions your doctor gave you, as well as those on your prep’s packaging.
“Enjoy” your prep solution ice cold and drink it with a straw (so that the taste doesn’t linger on your lips). Relax and put on a movie. Don’t be too far from a bathroom. You might not start feeling the effects for a few hours, so don’t worry if you’re drinking a lot and nothing’s happening yet.
Make sure you have different flavored drinks to mix your solution with so you don’t get burnt out on one flavor.
If you need a break, suck on a hard candy.
Make sure your bathroom’s comfy. You’ll be in there a lot once the prep starts working. Light a candle. Have books and magazines ready. Maybe keep some candies in there. Use flushable wipes instead of toilet paper. Trust me.
If you start having cramps, use a heating pad on your abdomen.
Keep an old towel under your bottom when you’re not on the toilet, in case you have any surprise leaks.
After your procedure:
Don’t be shy about getting all the excess air out of your bowels. It’s not lady-like, but it’s necessary.
Choose some easy things to eat, like the low fiber foods you started with. By evening, you should be able to eat normally again, though I wouldn’t overdo it!
Do you have questions or other tips to share? Put them in the comments!
Amy Gaspard was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2010. She is a licensed mental health therapist in Columbus, Ohio. She lives with her husband and two cats and is currently spending most of her free time remodeling their first home. When the house projects get overwhelming, Amy enjoys Zumba, running, latin dancing, board games, and retro gaming.