Busy lifestyles sometimes lead to patients putting off appointments until their schedule is free enough to accommodate checkups and appointments. While a colonoscopy itself is a short procedure, prepping for it can take a few hours. However, there are many reasons you shouldn’t put off a colonoscopy. Colon cancer affects about 1 in 20 people in the United States and is being diagnosed at a considerably younger age over the past few years. 

Knowledge is power—and knowing exactly how to prepare for your colonoscopy exam can help give you some relief before, during, and after your test. Read on to learn why this is the one test you should make time for and the steps you should take to prepare you for the procedure. 

What Is Colonoscopy and Why Is It Important?


Colonoscopies are the gold standard for detecting colon cancer. In 2018, the American Cancer Society lowered the guidelines for the first colonoscopy from age 50 to 45 for both women and men. However, many patients are still wary of the procedure because of the preparation involved. One of the reasons that a colonoscopy is the gold standard is because this one test can detect and remove cancer on the same day. Often they can detect pre-cancerous polyps, and your physician can remove the polyps right there.

Removal of colon polyp

With the statistics of colon cancer rising, it’s imperative to schedule your first colonoscopy on time. Early detection is critical, and colonoscopy is vital. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or those with a history of inherited syndromes like Lynch syndrome, you should be tested even before the age of 45. 

 

Colon screening stats

In order to perform the procedure, the colon needs to be empty. While the colonoscope can remove colon polyps, fundamentally speaking, a colonoscopy is an imaging study that gives the physician a clear view of your colon. As such, they to be able to an unobstructed view of the colon. To accomplish this, you’ll go through a routine of both using laxatives and fasting prior to your procedure. 

More About General Colonoscopy Prep


Once you schedule the procedure, your doctor will give you clear instructions on how to prepare. It’s important that you clear your schedule the day before your procedure as it takes time to prepare beforehand. Plan to have a loved one accompany you, not only for support but to drive you home afterward. 

Before your procedure, you’ll need to stock up on the supplies you’ll need during the recovery time. Make sure you have plenty of clear broth, Jell-O or gelatin, sports drinks, juice, and other clear liquids. For comfort, you may also want to have baby wipes on hand as well as zinc oxide-based diaper rash cream to soothe any discomfort you may have.  

Avoiding Certain Foods, Stopping Iron Supplements, and Other Do’s and Don’ts


For most healthy adults, colonoscopy prep just covers the 48 hours prior to the procedure. In some cases, your doctor may want you to begin even earlier. Following your doctor’s orders is the most important part of the prep. If you are advised to begin several weeks before your colonoscopy procedure, there are certain things to think about, foods to avoid, and other issues you should discuss with your doctor. 

Colonoscopy prep also requires avoiding certain foods. You may also want to discontinue specific vitamins or supplements that you take, so inform your doctor of everything you take on a daily basis, even if it seems minuscule or is an over-the-counter medication. As far as foods go, it’s a good idea to stick to low-fiber foods, avoiding whole grains, tough meat, whole foods, and raw vegetables, corn, fruits with peel or seeds, and seeds or nuts. 

The medications you currently take are vitally important when it comes to information you should tell your doctor. If you are on any type of anticoagulant (blood thinner), you should inform your doctor immediately. Certain blood thinners include Plavix, heparin, and warfarin, although there are many others. More than likely, your doctor will advise you to discontinue the medication until the procedure is complete, but always check to make sure. 

Other medications that may interfere with a colonoscopy include medications for diabetes. Your doctor may want to lower the insulin dosage before the procedure. If you take other diabetes medications, such as metformin or medication that contains metformin, you should not take it the day before your colonoscopy.

If you have an automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD), let your doctor know immediately. In this case, you will need a letter of clearance from your cardiologist before your colonoscopy is performed. 

Colonoscopy prep also requires avoiding certain foods. You may also want to discontinue specific vitamins or supplements that you take, so inform your doctor of everything you take on a daily basis, even if it seems minuscule or is an over-the-counter medication. As far as foods go, it’s a good idea to stick to low-fiber foods, avoiding whole grains, tough meat, whole foods, and raw vegetables, corn, fruits with peel or seeds, and seeds or nuts. 

One Week Before Your Procedure


It is important to think about colonoscopy prep up to a week before your procedure. Although you may have been starting to avoid certain foods before this point, this is when you should concentrate on only eating low-fiber foods. 

Think of things that will be easy to pass during the actual prep time. This includes foods such as:

  • Cooked vegetables with no skin
  • White rice, bread, and pasta
  • Eggs
  • Lean meat, chicken, or fish
  • Fruit with no seeds or skin 

This is also at the point where your doctor may advise you to stop taking certain medications. While insulin and blood-thinning medications are the most important to mention, your physician may also advise the cessation of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. 

When it becomes closer to your cancer screening, make sure that you are drinking plenty of clear liquids and water. This essential step keeps you hydrated and will make the procedure easier for you.

The Day Before Your Procedure


The day before, you will also be concentrating on cleaning out your colon. Most doctors will give you a solution the night before and the day of the colonoscopy to ensure that you clean out the colon and go to the bathroom regularly. These bowel movements can be sudden and will turn into diarrhea, so do not make any other plans. 

It’s imperative to direct all of your attention to your colonoscopy prep. This is the point at which you can no longer eat solid foods and must be on a clear liquid diet. Stock up on clear broth, Jell-O, popsicles, sports drinks, and coffee or tea (don’t forget to skip the creamer). It’s imperative that you make safe decisions - if you have any questions about what food or drink is considered a clear liquid, ask your doctor before you ingest it.

Colonoscopy Recovery Time


Following your procedure, your IV is removed, and nurses and doctors will continue to monitor you for a short time. If you had a biopsy during the procedure or polyps removed, you might see some bleeding afterward—this is completely normal.  

Generally speaking, you can return to normal activity after 24 hours. Be sure to follow these steps to aid in your recovery processes:

  • Make sure you do have someone to take you home. 
  • Do not drink alcohol in the first 24 hours after your procedure. 
  • You can begin to eat light foods again immediately after the procedure, although you may feel more comfortable on a liquid diet for one more day as your stomach settles.

If you have any questions about colorectal cancer, are experiencing symptoms that you might be concerned about, or have a family history of the disease, make an appointment to see one of the GI doctors at Carolina Digestive Health Associates. If you’re approaching 45, or if you’re already 45 and have yet to receive your first colonoscopy, make sure you book an appointment for that procedure as well. You very well might be saving your life.