Preparing for a colonoscopy can be a hassle. Your colon has to be as empty as possible so that your doctor can look for polyps and other signs of cancer. So while it’s an exam most people dread, it’s worth the effort involved.
Before a colonoscopy, you should avoid solid foods for at least 24 hours and stick to a clear liquid diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ask your doctor about what you can have and when, since in some cases you may be allowed to eat easily digestible foods up to 14-16 hours before the procedure if you aren’t able to fast for long.
What should you avoid having before a colonoscopy?
Following a clear liquid diet means you should avoid eating any solid foods, including:
- Bread, grains, rice or cereals
- Soups with chunks of food
- Milk or dairy products
Liquids to avoid include:
Clear liquids you can have include:
What’s involved in preparing for a colonoscopy?
Your doctor will give you instructions when scheduling your colonoscopy. Make sure to read them carefully and talk to your doctor if you have any questions.
Stock up on these items before the procedure:
- Low-fiber foods
- Sports drinks, juices and broths
- Wet wipes
- Diaper cream
- A prescription or over-the-counter laxative specified by your doctor
Change your diet
Eating light foods 3-4 days before the procedure can help ease the colon-cleansing process. Low-fiber foods are generally recommended because they are easy to digest.
You can eat:
- White bread, pasta and rice
- Well-cooked vegetables without skin
- Fruit without skin or seeds
- Lean meat, chicken or fish
Do not eat:
- Seeds, nuts or popcorn
- Fatty foods
- Tough meat
- Whole grains
- Raw vegetables
- Fruit with seeds or peel
- Corn, broccoli, cabbage, beans or peas
Stop taking vitamins or other supplements at this point. If you are taking blood-thinning or other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines, make sure to ask your doctor about whether you should stop.
Fast for 24 hours
As discussed above, you should stop eating solid foods a full day before the procedure. Stick to only clear liquids.
The night before your colonoscopy, you will need to take strong liquid laxatives, usually a half gallon, to clear your digestive tract. Six hours before the procedure, you will need to take another half-gallon of liquid laxative.
Since laxative solutions often have an unpleasant taste, you may want to mix yours with a flavored sports drink or powdered drink mix.
Once the laxatives start working, you will experience frequent, forceful diarrhea. You may also experience:
The purging process can be rough. Here are a few tips to make yourself as comfortable as you can:
- Stay in the bathroom and entertain yourself by reading a book or listening to music.
- Apply diaper cream before diarrhea starts.
- Use medicated wet wipes to clean yourself.
While it’s not easy, remember that the better you prepare, the faster the procedure will be, and you may not have to do it again for another 10 years.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
UCLA Health System. Preparing for Your Colonoscopy. https://www.uclahealth.org/Workfiles/brochures-programs/preparing-colonoscopy-en.pdf