They say preparation is the key to success. This is especially true for colonoscopy.
In order to have a successful exam, your colon needs to be as clean as possible. The cleaner your colon, the easier it is for your gastroenterologist to detect polyps – small growths on the lining of the colon that have the potential to become cancerous.
To be honest, preparing for a colonoscopy can be a pain in the you-know-where, but here are some tips to make for a smoother process:
Have a plan
You’ll be given a set of instructions upon scheduling your colonoscopy. Read them thoroughly, and call your doctor before your appointment if you have any questions.
In the instructions, you’ll be given a list of supplies to purchase. Stock up on these items several days before your prep day. The last thing you’ll want to do is have to run to the store at the last minute.
Tweak your diet
Preparing for a colonoscopy involves sticking to a strict diet of clear liquids for 24 hours prior to your exam. You can enjoy sports drinks, juice, clear broth, coffee or tea (without milk or creamer), popsicles and Jell-O. Just be sure nothing is tinted red, blue or purple, as these colors can stain your colon and make it harder to see polyps during the exam.
Consider switching to a low-fiber diet for the three or four days leading up to your procedure. Foods that are easy to digest include:
>> White breads, pastas and rice
>> Lean meat, chicken and fish
>> Well-cooked vegetables without skin
>> Fruit without skin or seeds
Talk with your doctor about whether or not you will need to stop taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications you may be using during this time.
Change your perspective
Once the laxative starts working, think of the experience as a “spa cleanse.” As you’ll be in the bathroom for some time, create a relaxing environment by lighting scented candles, putting on a calming playlist and having a few magazines or books available to keep your mind occupied.
Don’t forget to have your phone fully charged and within arm’s reach – you won’t be leaving your seat for a while.
After the worst of the “emptying” has passed, treat yourself to a luxurious shower or bath, then get to bed early.
As solid food isn’t an option until after the procedure, many patients have said going to bed at an early hour helped prevent them from feeling tempted to snack.
If you’re worried about having an accident during the night or on the way to your appointment, consider wearing adult diapers.
Though it may be inconvenient, and a little embarrassing, remember that the experience is temporary and could save your life.
Dr. Romeo Esquivel is a gastroenterologist with Kaua‘i Medical Clinic and Wilcox Medical Center. Esquivel is a member of the American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association and American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.