New guidelines recommend a colonoscopy at age 45—down from 50. Most say the prep drink is worse than the actual procedure. Here’s how to make drinking it more tolerable.
What is your bowel baseline?
Everyone will tolerate colonoscopy prep differently. It depends on how your bowels are functioning before the prep. “For instance, someone with severe irritable bowel syndrome may not tolerate a bowel prep very well,” says Jeffery Nelson, MD, FACS, Surgical Director, The Center for Inflammatory Bowel and Colorectal Diseases at Mercy Medical Center. But sometimes, even people with no prior digestive problems can have issues like stomach pain or nausea. If you are constipated before prep begins, let your doctor know as they may suggest a laxative to help with overall prep. These are the things your bowel habits can reveal about your health.
Eat these foods before bowel prep
“It always helps to start prepping a few days prior, but it is not always feasible or desired,” says Rashmi Kumar, MD, a gastroenterologist with the Banner University Medicine Digestive Institute. Pamela Caesar, a retired clinical endoscopy technician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has dispensed her fair share of colonoscopy prep tips in the twelve years she was an endoscopy technician. “I recommend a soft, low-fiber diet a couple of days before bowel prep. Eating foods that digest easily and leave your system quickly help with the bowel prep,” says Caesar. She suggests mashed potatoes (no skin), white rice, pasta, bread, canned fruit, veggies, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
But stay away from these foods
A clear liquid diet is necessary the day before a colonoscopy and will be prescribed, but there are some other restrictions you should know about that begin three to seven days before. “I recommend a low-residue diet that avoids foods containing seeds, corn, nuts, and other indigestible substances,” says Dr. Kumar. Indigestible foods including anything with whole wheat in the ingredients, raw fruit with seeds or skin, raw veggies, legumes, beans, lentils, and popcorn. Basically, any higher fiber foods should be avoided. It may seem counterintuitive, as including high-fiber foods in your diet is one of 12 everyday habits that can help reduce your risk of colon cancer, but avoiding anything that is slow to digest will ensure the scope can get a clear view.