When you first learn you need to have a colonoscopy, several things go through your mind. The first is probably that your doctor is going to put a scope with a light on the end into your rectum. Why? In order to check your colon for disease such as colon and rectal cancer. And then your thought process probably stops.
But wait! For the test to be accurate and useful, your colon must be clear of stool. What exactly does this mean?
This means that you will need to complete a colonoscopy prep. The physician performing the colonoscopy will give detailed instructions on how to follow the prep in the days prior to the test, and those instructions should be followed carefully. It is very easy to make a mistake, and below I have listed several of the ways that you can inadvertently ruin your colonoscopy prep.
1. Don't Try to Leave Your House
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To be comfortable while prepping for a colonoscopy, you will want to be at home near your own bathroom. The prep will cause you to have many watery stools
, and you will be most comfortable if you clear your schedule and plan on spending the day resting, reading, watching movies, and following your prep directions.
2. Don't Eat
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It may seem as though this would go without saying, but many people get quite hungry during the prep. In most cases, the prep calls for a liquid diet
the day prior to the colonoscopy and nothing to eat or drink after midnight. Some people may forget that they shouldn't eat anything, and get up in the morning and have some coffee or breakfast out of habit. Your colon needs to be free of waste material when you have your colonoscopy, and eating solid food would, naturally, keep that from happening.
3. Don't Eat or Drink Certain Artificial Colors
Photo © Michael Lorenzo
Many foods and drinks contain artificial coloring
. The red, purple, or orange food coloring used in sports drinks, gelatin, or popsicles may linger in your intestinal tract, and cause the tissue in your colon to appear redder than it actually is. The problem with this is that the red color could mimic the appearance of inflammation
, when there actually is no true inflammation present. If you are unsure about a particular food or drink, call your doctor, or better yet, choose something that you know does not have artificial coloring.
4. Don't Give Up in the Middle of Prep
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Preparing for a colonoscopy isn't pleasant, and many people agree that it's worse than the actual test. You may get to the point where you really don't feel like continuing, especially if you feel very tired and hungry. Stopping in the middle, however, could jeopardize your physician's ability to perform the colonoscopy because your colon may not be totally free of stool. That could lead to an incomplete test, which may have 1 of 2 possible outcomes: your physician will be unable to make sure your colon is free of disease or you may need to repeat the test (and therefore, the prep). If you find yourself unable to complete the prep for any reason, are unsure of the directions, or feel very ill, call your doctor immediately.
5. Don't Take Certain Medications
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Bring a list of medications you are taking to your doctor before you have your colonoscopy. Your physician will go over your medications with you and make adjustments to dosage accordingly. Certain medications may need to be taken at a lower dosage or even discontinued in the days prior to your colonoscopy. Don't forget to mention any supplements -- some fiber supplements
may need to be stopped for a period before your test. Other common medications that may be problematic include aspirin
, blood thinners
, and iron supplements, so be sure to tell your physician about all your medications.