Four Tips for Prepping for a Colonoscopy

by Bill Brenner on June 21, 2012

I wasn’t going to write about going for a colonoscopy. Not because I’m embarrassed or because I’m worried about grossing you out. But because it’s been done so many times by so many other people. What could I possibly add to the discussion?

Mood music, in honor of my only nutrient for the next several hours:

Since most of you will have to go for a colonoscopy at some point, let me help you make the best of it. After all, thanks to a lifetime of Crohn’s Disease, this is old hat to me. I have to have the procedure every two to four years because all of the scar tissue in me has raised my colon cancer risk significantly.

If you have to have a test like this, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Your ass is nothing special to the doctors performing the procedure. They see scores of butts every week, and to them that’s no different than the car mechanic who stares at scores of tires, timing belts and radiator hoses every week. When’s the last time you got excited about staring at those things?

I’ve developed my rituals over the years, as any good OCD case will do, and they have made this procedure a lot less dreadful. This is a good time to share.

  • Drink plenty of black coffee, tea and water. Black coffee and tea are among the liquids you’re allowed the day before, so drink lots of them. The caffeine will keep you going in the absence of food. But drink a lot of water, too, because too much caffeine will dehydrate you. I normally don’t worry about that, but fasting is a different story. I have a steady flow of black coffee on hand today, and while I prefer a little cream in there, black suits me fine.
  • Watch good TV to distract you. During the clean-out part, you’ll have to drink massive amounts of water or clear juice loaded with a laxative. I have to drink four big bottles — 8 ounces every 20 minutes or so until it’s gone — of green Gatorade with a mountain of Miralax dumped in. That’s actually a lot better than the 2 gallons of gross salt water they used to prescribe, but you still need a distraction. This time, I’ll watch the American Masters episode on Pearl Jam’s 20 years of music making.
  • Move as little as possible. I’ll spend most of the day sitting at my desk working, another welcome distraction. When I get home, I won’t do much that doesn’t involve lying on the couch, until the bathroom trips commence. You won’t have much strength, so don’t blow it all early in the day.
  • Read about other people’s colonoscopies. Reading about others’ colonoscopies will make yours seem a lot less scary. Ozzy Osbourne’s account is worth the price of his memoir, I Am Ozzy, all by itself. Also worth a read is this account by author Laurel Hermanson. My favorite part is her account of the recovery room, where farting is a sure sign of success.

Boy in Giant Colon

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha June 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm

One more hint don’t drink the drinks on ice or right out of the refrigerator, it takes your body longer to process the liquid if it has to warm it up first.this will make it less likely to be thrown up instead of making it to your Colon I learned that the hard way:) good luck ! The prep is the worse part ! The rest is a cake walk!

Cindi Basiliere October 29, 2014 at 9:39 am

I have had more than my share of colonoscopies. The procedure is a piece of cake. They give you a sedative, and I sleep through the whole thing. What does suck is the prep. Though it has gotten a little better since I had my first one. One nurse told me it is easier if you go on a liquid diet 2 days early, soup broth, jello, liquids. The less solids in your system, the less to come out. Due to my acid reflux, I also have to have an upper endoscopy done. That is an easier prep. You just need to have an empty stomach. Though the first one of those I had was a little scary. Once I had both ends done at the same time! Good luck Bill, I hope your test goes well, and you’ll be good for another 3 years.

Faylinn September 15, 2016 at 9:59 am

Next week, my husband will be going in for his very first colonoscopy, and so I think that he would definitely like to watch TV during that so that he has some distraction. However, I think that you wrote that tip for while drinking the bottles of laxative. That is a good idea, but I think that he would want to watch TV while the colonoscopy is going on too.

Bill Brenner September 16, 2016 at 8:27 am

During the colonoscopy he’ll be asleep. They sedate you quite well. 🙂

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