Colonoscopy prep options: They’ve gotten easier

Colonoscopy prep has gotten much easier in recent years. Better-tasting prep liquids and lower-dose regimens make it easier to get ready for a colon cancer screening.

Maybe you’ve heard a story that you’ll have to drink some kind of awful-tasting liquid, and then you’ll be in the bathroom all day and night. Maybe you’re afraid colonoscopy prep will be so bad you’ll feel sick.

Whatever rumors you’ve heard, the truth is that colonoscopy prep options have gotten much easier in recent years, thanks to lower-dose regimens and better-tasting prep liquids. Colonoscopy prep is very important — a squeaky clean colon gives the doctor a clear view to be able to do their job best. It also helps the doctor find any polyps and remove them before they could become cancer. If the prep is not done properly, you may have to reschedule your colonoscopy.

Don’t let fear keep you from getting a screening that could save your life.

Half the day before, half the day of

Drinking the prep drink every 10 minutes or so may not be necessary anymore. Split-dose bowel prep allows you to take half of the prep drink the night before and the other half the morning of the procedure.

Depending on the prep type, your provider may recommend splitting the dose in half or thirds. If your exam is in the afternoon, you can drink the last of the prep the morning of your appointment. If you have an exam before noon, you can take the last dose about four hours before the colonoscopy. It might make for an early morning, but you will be ready and less likely to have to reschedule due to incomplete preparation.

Studies have shown that split-dose regimens are easier to tolerate, and they clean the colon better — which helps your provider do a thorough evaluation. One study found that doctors find more benign tumors (adenomas) in people who prepared with split doses. Another study found that split-dose prep made prescreening bowel movements easier.

Colonoscopy prep doesn’t have to taste bad

Afraid of having to drink a gallon of bad-tasting laxative solution? If so, you can rest easy — you’ve got options.Newer bowel-cleansing liquids are better tasting and you don’t have to drink as much. Some prep liquids include flavors and can have lower-volume dose sizes at 3 liters, 2 liters and 10 ounces. Lower-volume doses will require drinking extra liquids, such as water, to work best.

Still worried? Try these tips

  • Talk to your provider about your concerns. She or he can work with you to find a prep option that can work for you. Following their instructions will be very important for prep.
  • Schedule some time for prep. You’ll likely want to stay home, without distractions, while you prep. Consider this when scheduling your colonoscopy.
  • Cut back on fiber a few days before your appointment. Fiber leaves a residue in the colon, so cutting back on beans, nuts or high-fiber foods can help make prep a little easier.
  • When it’s time for a liquid diet, change it up a little. You probably won’t feel full drinking just water. You can have coffee, tea, clear broth, popsicles and gelatin. Avoid any red or purple liquids, since the coloring can affect the results of your exam. Also avoid milk, dairy products and nondairy coffee creamer.
  • Hack your prep drinking. Here’s how to make drinking prep liquid a little easier:
    • Prep liquid doesn’t come with a flavor packet? Add Crystal Light or Kool-Aid powder.
    • Drink it cold. Many prep liquids can be made the day before and refrigerated.
    • Use a straw.
    • Suck on a lemon or hard candy afterward.
  • Have your bathroom ready. Once you’re finished drinking the prep liquid, you’ll want to stay close to the bathroom. Wear loose-fitting, comfy clothes and make sure you’ve got:
    • Soft toilet paper.
    • Skin-soothing products, such as a lotion or baby rash ointment.
    • Entertainment, such as a book or magazine you’ve wanted to read.

Still on the fence?

If you have a colon, you are at risk for colon cancer. The American Cancer Society states that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women in the U.S. It’s expected to cause about 50,630 deaths during 2018.

A colonoscopy is the best way to find and remove polyps (small growths that can become cancer) as well as small cancers before they can spread. Everyone over age 50 should have a colonoscopy every 10 years. You may not love the prep, but you can have peace of mind that you’re taking steps to be cancer-free.


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