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How to make colonoscopy prep easier

Colorectal cancer is highly preventable, and timely colonoscopies are the only way to achieve that goal. Don’t wait for symptoms!

If you’re apprehensive about your next colonoscopy, you’re probably dreading not the procedure itself, but the preparation for it—and for good reason. Getting ready for a colonoscopy can occupy an entire day of dietary restrictions, powerful laxatives, and diarrhea. If your fear of a colonoscopy are based on a previous experience you may be pleasantly surprised to know that thing have changed. Days of consuming up to 4L (135 oz.) of a poor-tasting liquid are gone and have been replaced by a easy- (or “split-”) prep method.

As lousy as the prep liquid might be think of how much better it is than colon cancer. Just remember colonoscopy enables gastroenterologists to detect and remove polyps—the small growths that can develop into colon cancers—as well as small cancers before they have spread to other parts of the body.

What is the prep for a colonoscopy?

We’re not going to lie – colonoscopy prep is generally considered the most difficult part of the procedure. The good news? Recent advances have made it much easier and more bearable. Once you’re done with the prep, the rest is easy!

To get ready for a colonoscopy, full bowel prep is required. Your doctor will give you specific directions on how to prepare, but generally, all solids must be emptied from the stomach and bowel by following a clear liquid diet for 1-3 days before the procedure. You should not drink beverages containing red or purple dye. A few examples of what you can drink:

  • Fat-free bouillon or broth
  • Strained fruit juice
  • Water
  • Plain coffee or tea
  • Sports drinks, such as Gatorade
  • Gelatin

A laxative may also be required the night before a colonoscopy as to loosen stool and get your bowels moving. You won’t be permitted to drive immediately following the procedure, so be sure to arrange a ride home beforehand.

What happens after the colonoscopy?

Patients may experience cramping or bloating in the hour following the procedure. The sedative takes time to completely wear off, so patients may need to remain at the clinic for 1-2 hours, or until this happens. The upside: full recovery is expected by the next day. Side effects of colonoscopies are rare, but patients should contact their doctor if they experience:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Bloody bowel movements
  • Dizziness

Rarely, a patient may experience tearing or perforation of the lining of the intestine. If this happens, surgery may be needed to repair the injury. Another risk is bleeding, usually at the site of a biopsy or polyp removal. Most cases of bleeding stop without treatment or can be controlled at the time of the procedure.

It may help to keep in mind that colonoscopy can save your life. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the U.S. combined. What’s worse than the colonoscopy prep, you might ask? Simple – having to do the prep twice because it wasn’t done correctly the first time (meaning your doctor couldn’t complete the scope – ekk!)


Gastroenterology Consultants of San Antonio (GCSA) accepts most insurances, including HMO, PPO, Medicare and Medicaid plans.

Colonoscopies typically receive excellent insurance coverage, and we accept a wide variety of plans to make screening for colorectal cancer affordable for as many people as possible. However, your plan may still require some out-of-pocket contribution. We offer CareCredit® and in-house financing to make sure you can access this important procedure. To learn more about insurance and financial policies, visit our FAQ.

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