The Secret to Making Your Colonoscopy Preparation Less Crappy

Many signs can tell you that you are becoming an old person. Your neighbors suddenly seem loud and obnoxious instead of hosting amazing parties, for example. You suddenly prefer comfortable shoes. You realize that you have no idea who is the highest paid celebrity on the planet. See also: Colonoscopy.

Usually the offer to let someone stick a camera up their ass ended either with a swipe to the left or a discussion of perversions, but sooner or later each of us will reach the age when our doctor begins to strongly suggest not only allowing, but actively pursuing him. The magical age used to be 50, but recently the medical community has shifted it to 45 as more young people get colon cancer .

Good news? Well, actually, there are a lot of them. Colonoscopy is by far the most accurate way to screen for colon cancer, detecting more than 9.5 % of all colorectal cancers. And that’s great, because colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, and it’s also easily preventable and almost always treatable if caught early. In other words, a colonoscopy is not a way to have a good time, but it can save your life. And once you do one, you won’t need another for 10 years unless your doctor advises otherwise. But if colonoscopy is good and necessary, preparing for it is not exactly fun.

Preparing for a colonoscopy is the hardest part.

Of course, a colonoscopy is performed while you are sedated, so you can never truly appreciate the humiliation and discomfort of having a team of people standing around you with a flexible camera, to use the medical term, poking your ass. This means that the real horror of a colonoscopy is the preparation. Your doctor needs your colon to be spotlessly clean so he can examine it well, which means two things: a clear liquid diet and some extremely effective laxatives. How effective? Let’s put it this way: your doctor will most likely advise you in a very serious tone to plan not to leave the house after taking it.

As a rule of thumb, you are advised to follow a clear liquid diet all day before the procedure and split laxatives into two doses: one a day, which isn’t too bad, and a second about six hours before the colonoscopy. This second dose is when your body betrays you and you become intimately familiar with your toilet.

The preparation is so legendaryly unpleasant that it’s the main reason many people avoid a colonoscopy (the risk of injury during the actual procedure is about 0.04 to 0.08 percent ), despite the obvious benefits of getting one. But there are a few ways to make getting ready for a colonoscopy more enjoyable, or at least less frustrating .

Plan smart

The timing of your procedure will have a huge impact on when your preparation begins, so give it some thought. Generally speaking, the second dose of laxative should be taken about six hours before the procedure. This means that if you schedule a colonoscopy in the morning hoping to be done with it, you will have to wake up in the middle of the night to take your dose and then spend the wee hours of the day in the bathroom. It might be worth it if you want to be free for most of the day, but scheduling your treatment in the afternoon means you can get a good night’s sleep.

skip fiber

Most doctors advise you to start preparing the day before your procedure, but it is recommended that you start adjusting your diet a few days before your procedure. Reduce your fiber intake – avoid beans and nuts, most vegetables, and anything high in fiber. Fiber is good for a healthy colon, but it sticks pretty well, so cutting it down will make the whole process of cleaning out your nasty internal organs a little easier.

Vary liquids

Many people assume that a “clear liquid” diet literally means colorless liquids, but “clear” actually means that it has no pulp or anything. So coffee and tea are fine (you can usually even add sugar, unless your doctor recommends doing so), and broth is, as are most gelatins (avoid red, purple, or orange dyes to be safe, as they can complicate the visual effects for your doctor) and frozen ice. Stock up on variety so you don’t have to drink just one thing in 24 hours. (Also, drink as much as you want because staying hydrated will also make your routine smoother.)

Manage laxatives

The situation with laxatives in preparation for colonoscopy has improved significantly in recent years. You used to be sent home with what looked like an oil barrel filled with horrible-tasting stuff, but these days you drink much less. Put it in the refrigerator, as it will be much more pleasant to drink cold. Add some flavor to it if you want/need it (Crystal Light is often recommended) and drink it through a straw to avoid the taste as much as possible. It can be helpful to have a soft drink or hard candy on hand to get rid of the aftertaste.

Finally, this is not a speed competition. The point is to have your drink at the right time, but you don’t have to do it like you’re drinking a bottle of cheap tequila at Cinco de Mayo while people are chanting your name. Do not rush.

Get comfortable

As soon as you take your second dose of laxatives, you will soon feel the power of modern chemistry gurgling through your body. At this point, you will be in the bathroom a lot , so prepare yourself and the poop chamber:

  • Put on comfortable clothes, because in the next few hours it will be worn all the time. Also, wear something you won’t cry over in case you don’t make it to the bathroom on time.
  • Fill your bathroom with fun and accessories. A tablet to watch Netflix, a few books and music – in other words, be prepared to spend a lot of time there. Transform your bathroom into a candle-lit, music-filled oasis.
  • Take care of your ass. Buy washable wipes and baby rash ointment, because all those wipes can be very irritating.

Preparing for a colonoscopy is never pleasant, but you can minimize the hassle by planning ahead and taking care of yourself. And maybe it will inspire you to leave your bathroom as a permanent “poop oasis.”

This post has been updated since publication to correct the risk of injury during a colonoscopy.


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