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Colonoscopy - No Big Deal: Helpful Tips and Recommendations For an Easy Colonoscopy

2021 Editors' Update.  Wow, time flies. We first posted tips to survive a colonoscopy back in 2011. That post follows this update. Since then, we've learned a few things. Our third procedure was this week and we have new tips. 

1. Meet with your doctor before scheduling the procedure to discuss any issues or anxiety. It can make a difference. Since we pretty much live on a diet of fruits, raw and cooked veggies, and high fiber carbs, any "low residue or low fiber" diet is a BIG change. Four years ago we were ordered to follow a "low residue" diet for the 3 days preceding the day of clear liquids, so a total of FOUR days of food deprivation! Ouch!  There HAD to be a better way! There is. Our new Doc dispensed with this diet change and made it very simple. Drink 40 oz of Gatorade (or the like) after a normal dinner, and start a clear liquid diet the following day (the day before the procedure). So eat normally, drink 40 oz, wake the next day and consume clear liquids only. EASY! PHEW!

2. We enjoyed a completely normal dinner two nights before our procedure, which in our case meant a HUGE salad, ahi poke, sourdough bread, glass of wine and roasted vegetables. We also had a big bowl of cereal an hour or so after dinner. We were done eating by 7:30p. And while it is tempting to load up on food, we tried not to (although we did enjoy an extra favorite Bonk Breaker PB Dark Choc Chip Bar). We've heard from others that stuffing oneself prior to the liquid diet creates more hunger the next day. We're not sure... We did as our Doc ordered, noshed and sucked down 40 oz of Gatorade.

3. And despite all this flexibility we were afforded, we still cheated on the clear liquid diet! We allowed ourselves a small amount of milk in our tea, as well as almond milk and banana milk. NO solids, but our banana milk resembles a thin smoothie. We did eliminate nuts/seeds 5 days prior to our procedure despite not being directed to do so. We typically consume chia seeds daily. Why did we cheat? Well, there have been small studies suggesting that following a low residue diet prior to the procedure does not adversely affect results! So, we felt justified. And it did not affect our results!

4. On the clear liquid day, we got necessary protein by sipping bone broth. It tastes quite good, and a 6 oz serving yields 9g protein! Wow! We tried two brands and liked the one from Pacific Foods better. We accidentally ordered unsalted, so we added our own. This could become a new "thing."

5. Coconut water is our friend. It's on the approved list and our Zico yields a welcome 90 calories for 16 oz. And we love the taste.

6. Our prep medication was the BEST improvement. We were directed to consume the slightly more than 5 oz liquid at 4p and 9p. The taste was tolerable and LEAPS and BOUNDS better than our prior two solutions. The brand/med we were prescribed is Clenpiq. We didn't chill it or do anything to it. We gulped it fast and chased it with 40 oz of liquid over the next 30 minutes. We created a mix of Gatorade, Coconut Water and Bai5. 

7. The poop games began 1-2 hours post the first dose. The second dose at 9p took longer to kick in and had us up at 1:30a. Still, no big deal. 

8. Our procedure was at 9a. We were directed to stop liquids 4 hours prior to that. Since we are early risers, we had a big bottle of coconut water right around 5a and that kept our energy up until the check in time of 8:30a. 

9. We had a clean colon and NO polyps. We have had had polyps previously and our last prep wasn't deemed "clean." But we really think this is because our previous Doc did NOT understand our diet and did not take the time to consider the most appropriate medication to prescribe. This brings us back to tip #1, meet your doctor first and discuss. There is not just ONE way to go about the prep. We learned the hard way.

10. We'll let you know how our next procedure goes in 5 years! :) 


This week, I underwent my first colonoscopy.  The following tips and recommendations should help make the prep and procedure a “piece of cake”.

Although medical recommendations are for men and women to have their first colonoscopy at 50 years of age, Gastroenterologists (MDs who perform the procedure) will tell you that they see a lot of colon cancer in people aged 30’s and 40’s.  A firefighter friend relayed that his city/union requires all firefighters have a colonoscopy at age 40.  Because early detection can be the difference between removing a benign polyp and deadly colorectal cancer, and the prep/exam is so easy, people should get a colonoscopy in their early 40’s.

You can find general information about the procedure on other websites.  Here I will focus on a few very specific tips that helped me:

1)    Schedule the exam around 12Noon – Because my appointment was at 12:30pm, my sleep the night before went undisturbed.  My first laxative drink was at 5pm the evening before and I was finished going to the bathroom by 1030pm that night.  I did not wake up during the night to use the bathroom.  I drank the second laxative at 7am (5-6 hours prior to the procedure).  An 8am appointment, for example, would have required me to wake at 230am to drink and then likely wake several times thereafter to use the bathroom.  A late exam appointment is KEY.

2)    Use MoviPrep as the laxative drink – While it doesn’t taste great, I’ve sampled sports drinks with worse flavor.  And, I’ve heard horror stories about the pill preps.  MoviPrep has a lemon-lime flavor and is mixed with water inside a provided container.

3)    Chill the drink to make it more palatable – stick the mix in the reefer a few hours prior to drink time.

4)    More tricks to help get the drink down – if necessary, the following suggestions will help get the drink down (but really the taste is not THAT bad):  Hold your breath while drinking; dry the rim of the container so your lips don’t taste it; count how many gulps it takes to finish 8 ounces.  

5)    Chase the laxative drink with chicken broth – something about the salty chicken broth that eliminated the laxative drink’s flavor from the mouth.  Only a few slurps will do the trick.

6)    Pooping doesn’t hurt – no cramps, etc, just outbound liquid instead of solid.

7)    Hungry but not unbearable – After a full day of liquid restriction, you’ll be hungry, but drinking Gatorade and slurping chicken broth throughout the day minimized it.  Personally, I’ve been hungrier after running a marathon or competing in an Ironman triathlon.

8)     "Twilight" anesthetic - Although I thought I was awake during the entire procedure, I really wasn't.  I didn't feel a thing.  Getting a DRE (digital rectal exam) in the doctor's office is more uncomfortable than a colonoscopy.  No anesthesia makes for an easy recovery.  The procedure lasted 20 minutes and the nurses monitor for 30 minutes in recovery--I could have walked out of there after about 10 minutes if necessary.

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I felt more relaxed on the

I felt more relaxed on the trip to and from the hospital because I wore a pair of adult pampers. As a man, the wearing of an athletic supporter (jock strap) during the exam gave me additional personal privacy and reduced the chance of an inguinal hernia caused by the air inflation. My jock strap still allowed the doctor to have the required access to my anus as the exam required. I felt relieved that my "junk" would not be on display. In closing, I have to say that there is no reason for any patient to be anxious about having this exam. The doctor and nurses do all the work, all you have to focus on is the prep. Once you finish the prep, you have it made in the shade.

My instructions were to drink

My instructions were to drink a 10oz bottle of magnesim citrate 2 days before (yesterday) and 4 hours later it caused a Mt Vesuvius-like eruption. Quite painful. Today is liquid diet til late this afternoon then the first half of MoviPrep, the rest at 5 am for a noon procedure. I've been just explosively evacuating liquid since the big bang yesterday, got up once during the night, and off and on today, but hoping it will go clear (no, I'm not a scientologist) so I wont have to do the 2nd dose of MoviPrep. I've heard that happens sometimes. I cut food intake a bit for a few days prior to begining this so hopefully it will pay off. I don't like being hungry, I get very cranky and irritable so the popsicles and broth are making me minimally happy. I am very grateful for having multiple bathrooms at this point.

This is GREAT advice. I had

This is GREAT advice. I had an 8am appointment and used a product called Prepopik. Was very easy though, since I took it at 3pm and again at 9pm, was up a couple of times throughout the night. The procedure itself was ridiculously easy. I was surprised at the 2-hour nap I needed when I got home to sleep off the Demerol they used an anesthetic.

The "clear liquid diet" the day before provides enough options to make it through the day. Being "hungry" was not the end of the world...and, based on what much of the population of the world experiences, couldn't really be classified as true hunger. Maybe the preparation even gives you a heightened awareness of what you put in your mouth on a day-to-day basis which might just improve your diet afterwards.

All in all, the anticipation and trepidation I felt - and which I think is completely normal - was unnecessary and I'm happy I did it. It's nice to know that all is well and, based on the statistics, was my best shot at early detection of colon cancer. Early detection is your best bet for survivability.

So, if you've got family history of polyps, colon cancer, stomach cancer,etc. and/or are 50-years old or more, stop putting it off. Like the Nike ads say, Just Do It.

If you eat a healthy diet

If you eat a healthy diet with vegetables and fruits you should switch to a low-residue diet AT LEAST several days before the prep. A week is better. If you don't, the Moviprep will likely be marginal or even inadequate for the exam. The Moviprep instructions don't mention this fact. No one warned me about cutting out roughage foods, and although I followed Moviprep instructions perfectly, there was still so much vegetable particles in colon that the exam was canceled after 18" and I have to do the whole thing over again. Too bad Moviprep isn't honest and caring enough to provide full instructions. I complained to them on the phone afterwards, and their corporate attitude is "tough luck."

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