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Colonoscopy Prep Tips: Easy and Comfortable

Congratulations for choosing to get the only cancer screening exam that is actually preventative! Here you will learn some tips and tricks from a pharmacist, who has been through it. I hope to help you make your colonoscopy prep as easy and comfortable as possible. This information is not intended to replace your doctors instructions. These colonoscopy prep tips are merely a supplement to your doctor’s instructions. If we differ in any way, please follow your doctor’s instructions first.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. I earn commission at no additional cost to you. Always follow your doctor’s advice first. This information is intended to be a helpful supplement.

Colonoscopy Prep Timeline

This post contains valuable colonoscopy prep timeline tips for all of the following colonoscopy prep steps:

  • Make your colonoscopy appointment
  • Choose your prep
  • Pick up your prep
  • Read you doctor’s instructions
  • Pick up other needed items
  • Find out what to do about your current medications
  • Eat a low fiber diet
  • Transition to a liquid diet
  • Transition to a clear liquid diet
  • Confirm appointment time and prep instructions
  • Start your prep
  • Go to your appointment
  • Post colonoscopy tips

Tips for making your colonoscopy appointment

Things to consider before making you appointment:

Who will drive you to your appointment?

You will need to have a driver for your appointment. Make sure you have both your schedule and your driver’s schedule available when you make your appointment. You will need to start your prep the night before your appointment, so make sure you do not have any plans for the evening before your appointment. After your appointment you will not be able to stay home alone, so make sure you have someone available to stay with you after your test. You should be able to return to work the following day, as long as your doctor says you are able to.

Insurance coverage

Before you make your appointment you should check with your health insurance company to find out where your should go for your test. Also, ask which prep they will cover. There are multiple preps available, best to find out which one is covered by your insurance before you make the appointment. When you make the appointment you may be offered more than one prep option. Be prepared!

Timing of your appointment

Colonoscopy appointment timing tips based on when you have to start your prep.

You will likely have to start your prep 4 hours before you appointment time. If you schedule an early morning appointment, you will have to wake up 4 hours before that time to begin your prep. Keep that in mind when choosing a time.

You will be on a clear liquid diet on the day of your appointment. If you choose an afternoon appointment you will be able to sleep in, but you will be very hungry. Keep this in mind when choosing a time. I think the best time for a colonoscopy appointment is between 10:00 and 12:00. That way you wake up between 6:00 and 8:00, and you will only be on the clear liquid diet in the morning.

Choose your prep

This decision is ultimately made by your doctor, although your doctor may give you some options. Here are some things to consider if you are given an option:

Cost of the prep

If cost is a concern, contact your insurance provider to determine which prep they will cover. There is a very big difference in cost of the available preps.

Volume and flavor of the prep

Four common colonoscopy preps:

NOTE: Follow the directions provided by your doctor. These directions are just sample directions to give you an idea of what to expect. The goal here is to help you make a decision about the prep you want to try.

Gatorade (not red or purple)+ MiraLAX prep

MiraLAX generic
MiraLAX generic

This prep is very tasty. Patients love it. If you like Gatorade the prep will be tasty. This prep may not be allowed by your doctor. It also may not be covered by insurance since MiraLAX is over-the-counter. It is not very expensive so that may not be a concern. Find the MiraLAX generic here. You will likely be required to consume 32 ounces of the prep (MiraLAX mixed with Gatorade) followed by 32 ounces of any clear liquid. This will be repeated again in the morning.

GoLytely or GaviLye-G

GaviLyte-G
GaviLyte-G

This is the least expensive option because it is most likely to be covered in full by your insurance. It will require you to consume 4 liters (~1 gallon of gross tasting liquid) likely in two 2 liter servings. You may also have to follow this with more clear liquid of your choice. Don’t worry, I have some tips to help. Remember, it’s worth it for your health.

Suprep

SuPrep Generic
SuPrep Generic

This prep requires a reduced volume of gross tasting liquid when compared to the GoLytely. You will be required to consume 16 ounces of the prep, followed by 32 ounces of water. This process will be repeated in the morning. This prep is covered by most insurance companies, if not covered by yours you can use this coupon.

SuTab

SuTab
SuTab

This prep does not require any gross tasting liquid. Instead you have to swallow 12 tablets with 16 ounces of water, then another 16 ounces of water 60 min later and another 16 ounces 30 min after that. Much more tolerable if you can swallow tablets. The only problem is that it is very expensive and not covered by many insurance companies. If you still want this option you can check out this offer to see if you qualify for a coupon.

Other Medications you may need

Your doctor may also want you to pick up other medications for your prep. The most common are Dulcolax (a laxative) and simethicone (anti-gas medication). You will likely need only 4 tablets of each. You may be able to find a pharmacy that will sell you only the 4 tabs you need. I suggest you call first. This could save you some money. I suggest you look into this option ahead of time. If you can’t find a pharmacy to sell you only 4 tabs, you can find the generic Dulcolax tablets here, and simethicone tablets here. Make sure the simethicone tablets you buy do not have red color, and do not take with food as the package directions suggest, instead follow the directions provided by your doctor.

Read your doctor’s instructions

Once you make your appointment and choose your prep, your doctor should send you some instructions. Make sure you read through them when you get them. Note the timeline. It is very important to read over these instructions to make sure you stop any supplements you make be taking and make arrangements for any medications you doctor wants you to stop taking.

When to pick-up your prep

You should plan to pick up your prep at least 2 weeks before your appointment. This will give you time to troubleshoot any problems that could happen. Maybe you were wrong about the amount your insurance will cover and want to choose a different prep. If you plan to pick up your prep 2 weeks in advance you will be able to contact your doctor for a new prescription and still have your prep in time for your procedure. This will also help if for some reason your pharmacy is out of your prep or maybe the prep you chose will end up being backordered, you never know. Just take my advice, pick it up early and be prepared!

Items to pick up 2 weeks before your colonoscopy

  • Your prep, as discussed in the previous section.
  • Other meds required for your prep, check your instructions. Most likely you will need Dulcolax and Simethicone
  • Ointment to protect your sore bottom from excessive wiping. The least expensive options are: generic Vaseline, or zinc oxide ointment. Zinc oxide is the active ingredient in many diaper rash ointments, like Desitin and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste which are also great options. If you do not have this near your toilet when you start your prep, you will be sorry!
  • Premium Toilet Paper -Now is not the time for cheap toilet paper. You should be prepared to pamper you bottom with the best. Try Cottonelle Premium Comfort, this should make you more comfortable.
  • Flushable wipes – There will be a lot of mess to clean up. So why not make your life easier with some flushable wipes. You can can even use Preparation H medicated wipes to help sooth your sore bottom. Dude wipes also come in medicated and regular options. Both are great options for colonoscopy prep clean up, even if you are not a dude. Honestly I preferred the regular Dude wipes, and I’m not a dude!
  • Boost or other protein shakes, with no added fiber. More on this later.
  • Clear liquids: You will need to go on a clear liquid diet the day before your colonoscopy. So stock up on Jell-O, chicken broth or bone broth, hard candy/popsicles (not red or purple), and clear juice like apple, white grape and white cranberry.
  • Cough Drops with menthol, also not red. If you end up having to prep with GoLytely, SuPrep, or any other gross tasting prep, menthol cough drops can help mask the flavor, making the prep easier and more palatable. Try lemon, ginger or honey flavor.
  • Low fiber foods. More on this later.

Find out which medications need to be discontinued or stopped prior to your colonoscopy

Once again: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS FROM YOUR DOCTOR. This is very important especially if you are taking blood thinners or you are diabetic. It could also be important if you have a seizure disorder. It may be important even if you are just taking a multiple vitamin. Find out which medications your doctor wants you to take and which ones will need to be held during your prep. If you are diabetic you may require adjustments to your usual medications due to changes in your diet.

Pre-Colonoscopy Low Fiber Diet Tips

Your doctor may request that you go on a low fiber diet 3-5 days prior to your test. This is important to follow for two reasons: The low fiber diet will make the prep easier and more comfortable for you, because there will be less bulk to pass. Also, the low fiber foods will clear easier making it less likely that food residue will block your doctor from seeing a polyp. Both good reasons for following your doctor’s advice. Please read your doctor’s specific instructions for your low fiber diet. Most doctor’s will want you to avoid whole grains, oats, most fruits and vegetables, beans, tough meat with gristle, nuts and seeds. Here are some meal suggestions for low fiber meals and snacks:

Low fiber meal ideas infographic

Pre-colonoscopy Low fiber breakfast ideas:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Plain bagel with cream cheese
  • Yogurt-avoid berry flavors or any fruit with seeds -choose vanilla, honey, plain or peach.
  • Pancakes or French toast with maple syrup, honey or seedless jelly
  • White toast with peanut butter or seedless jelly
  • Scrambled eggs with hashbrowns
  • Rice Krispies

Low Fiber pre-colonoscopy Lunch ideas:

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich on white bread
  • Cheese or chicken quesadilla made with flour tortillas
  • Chicken noodle soup with saltine crackers
  • Peanut butter and jelly on white bread

Low Fiber pre-colonoscopy Dinner ideas:

  • Baked boneless skinless chicken breast with mashed potatoes
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Cheese Pizza
  • Shrimp with white rice
  • Miso soup with tofu

Pre-colonoscopy Low Fiber Snack ideas:

  • Applesauce
  • Cheese sticks
  • Jello
  • Ice cream or sorbet without seeds or nuts
  • Cookies and cakes with no seeds, nuts or fruits
  • Ripe Honeydew melon or cantaloupe

Liquid vs. Clear Liquid Diet Pre-Colonoscopy

Read the instructions from your doctor. You may have to go on a liquid or clear liquid diet when you wake up the day before your appointment. There is a difference.

If you are placed on a liquid diet you may be able to have Boost or other protein shakes, with no added fiber, in addition to any clear liquid. The reason I suggest Boost is because I did small taste test with some co-workers. It was blinded, so we did not know which one was which. We tested Ensure, Boost, Premier, Kate Farms and Fair life. All chocolate flavors. Boost was the clear favorite, find it here!

Boost

Clear liquids are any liquid that you can see through, and have no pulp or other solids at room temperature. However, Jello-O and popsicles are also allowed as long as they are not red or purple. Your doctor may also limit orange and/or blue. Here are some examples of clear liquids:

  • Chicken, vegetable or beef broth or bouillon
  • Bone broth
  • Beef Consommé
  • Apple, white grape, or white cranberry juice
  • Jell-O
  • Popsicles
  • Sports drinks: Gatorade or Power aid
  • Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up, Sprite or other sodas
  • Water
  • Pedialyte, Prime, or liquid IV
  • Hard candy
  • Coffee black or with sugar-no milk or cream
  • Tea-except red herbal teas
  • Coconut water
Fancy Clear Liquid dinner
Apple Juice, Beef Consommé and Lemon Jell-O, a fancy clear liquid dinner.

Tips for starting your colonoscopy Prep:

Make sure you have the following items within reach of your toilet if possible. Listed in order of importance!

  • generic Vaseline or alternative suggested above.
  • Dude Wipes and soft TP.
  • Water or another clear liquid- both would be preferred.
  • Something to keep you occupied, e.g.: a book to read, smart phone games or activities. Plan to be on the toilet for 30 to 60 min.

Tips to help with colonoscopy prep flavor and nausea: Prepare your prep early if possible and refrigerate it. A cold prep will taste better. Each prep has specific instructions for when it will expire after mixing. Read the instructions for your prep. If your prep has a gross taste I recommend Cough Drops with menthol to mask the taste and using a straw to help you consume it faster. If the prep makes you nauseous drinking a few sips of regular cola can help.

Make sure you stay hydrated during your prep. You will lose a lot of fluid during your prep, so the more clear liquid you can consume, the better!

Benefits of staying hydrated during your colonoscopy prep:

  • You will need to have an IV placed to administer your sedation for the prep. It is much easier to place an IV in a hydrated patient. Use this to motive you to drink more fluids. More fluids = Less pokes!
  • Hydration will make you feel better. Check out this post for some hydration tips.
  • Woman of childbearing age your doctor will ask you to provide a urine sample for a pregnancy test before your procedure. This will be much easier if you are hydrated. Bottoms up!

Tips for appointment day

  • Read your doctor’s instructions again
  • Confirm your driver. Make sure your driver has some activities to keep them busy in the waiting room.
  • Set your alarm to start your second round of prep
  • Only take the medications approved by your doctor
  • Stop all fluids at the time designated by your doctor
  • Leave home in time to make it to your appointment

Post Colonoscopy Tips

  • Have someone stay home with you
  • Do not drive, operate heavy machinery, or make any legal decisions for the rest of the day or until your doctor suggests. You may not even remember the drive home.
  • Eat small light meals, however, try to incorporate some fiber into your diet. This is not the best time for a Big Mac or a Big salad.
  • Continue to stay hydrated.
  • Thank your driver and pat yourself on the back. You did it! Congrats!

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