Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing for Colonoscopy
Let’s talk about colonoscopy, even though the topic may be a bit uncomfortable, especially the idea of preparing for a colonoscopy. This routine medical procedure is a vital part of maintaining your health. While it may be a bit more involved than going to the dentist or for your annual primary care check-up, it’s important to keep your colon healthy and cancer-free.
Whether you need your first colonoscopy or you’ve already had several, we’ll guide you through the colonoscopy prep process to make sure your colonoscopy is a success.
Step 1: Schedule Your Colonoscopy
The first step, which for some may be the most difficult, is to schedule your first appointment. For most people, that means starting at age 45. You may need one sooner if you have a family history or other risk factors. Mark the date of your first colonoscopy on your calendar and the evening before — that’s when you’ll start the colon cleaning process and will be unavailable for other engagements.
Step 2: Read Up on the Process
Knowledge is power, and the more you know about colonoscopy prep, the less daunting it will feel. Your doctor will provide you with instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. Make sure to read these carefully and ask any questions you may have.
Step 3: Plan Your Colonoscopy Diet
Once your appointment is on the calendar, it’ll be time to plan your colonoscopy diet. You’ll need to avoid seeds, nuts, and popcorn for a few days leading up to the procedure. It’s best to stick to low-fiber, easily digestible foods several days before your colonoscopy.
Also, you’ll be on a clear liquid diet the day before the colonoscopy. Think chicken broth, apple juice, sports drinks, and Jell-O (but not the red or purple kind, as they can stain the colon and make it difficult for your doctor to see clearly).
Step 4: Get Ready for the Prep Solution
The most important step of preparing for colonoscopy comes next: the laxative or prep drink. You’ll be given a special solution to drink the night before your colonoscopy, which will clear out your colon. As you might imagine, this step is challenging, but it’s important for your colonoscopy to be a success.
Pro tip: mix the laxative with a cold, clear sports drink to make it more palatable. And remember, this is temporary. Without a squeaky clean colon, your colonoscopy won’t be as thorough. You don’t want to have to come back for another round, or worse, have a spot of colon cancer or a polyp missed.
Step 5: Make Your Bathroom a Sanctuary
Since you’ll be spending quite a bit of time in your bathroom, why not make it a haven of comfort and relaxation? Put on calming music and stock up on soft toilet paper and soothing wipes. You could even create a “Colonoscopy Prep Survival Kit” complete with your favorite magazines, a cozy blanket, and a portable phone charger.
Step 6: Enlist a Support Team
Going through colonoscopy prep can be challenging, so make sure you have a support team in place. Whether it’s a family member, friend, or neighbor, having someone to care for your kids or pets, help you manage household chores, or keep you company can make a world of difference. Plus, you’ll need someone to drive you to and from the procedure, as it won’t be safe for you to drive due to the sedation.
Step 7: Take a Deep Breath and Relax
Once you’ve checked all the boxes on your colonoscopy prep to-do list, it’s time to take a deep breath and relax. The anticipation may be nerve-wracking, but remind yourself you’re taking an important step towards maintaining your health. The procedure is relatively quick (usually around 30 minutes) and painless, thanks to sedation. A colonoscopy is one of the few tests that can actually prevent cancer, and that is worth any inconvenience of the prep.
Preparing for Colonoscopy: The Bottom Line
Preparing for a colonoscopy may not be the most glamorous or enjoyable experience, but it’s a necessary part of preventing colon cancer or catching it early enough that it can be easily treated. By following this step-by-step guide and approaching the process with a sense of humor and optimism, you’ll make it through the prep with ease.
If you’re 45 or older, it’s time to schedule your colonoscopy!