What Not to Do During A Colonoscopy Prep

Doing These Things May Sabotage A Colonoscopy Preparation

When most people first learn that they need to have a colonoscopy, several things go through their mind. The first is probably that a doctor is going to put a scope with a light on the end into your rectum, and that's scary. Why does this need to be done? It's to check the colon for disease such as colon and rectal cancer or to monitor or diagnose another digestive condition. And that's where the thought process may stop, because the idea is a lot to deal with.

But wait! First things first. For the test to be accurate and useful, the colon must be clear of stool. What exactly does this mean?

This means completing a colonoscopy prep. The physician performing the colonoscopy will give detailed instructions on how to follow the prep in the days leading up to the test. These instructions should be followed carefully. It is very easy to make a mistake, and below are listed several of the ways that people inadvertently ruin a colonoscopy prep. Don't do any of these things, ask questions if anything is unclear, and that colon will be ready for the scope! Not preparing well could mean that the procedure will need to be rescheduled and that means losing more time off from work and school, so it's best to get it right the first time!

1
Don't Try to Leave Your House

Door Handle
The day of your colonoscopy is not one that can be used for running errands. Hang out at home and read a book instead. Photo © sixninepixels

To be comfortable while prepping for a colonoscopy, the best idea is to to be at home near a bathroom. The prep will cause many watery stools, and most people are most comfortable if they clear their schedule and plan on spending the day resting, reading, watching movies, and following prep directions.

2
Don't Eat

Potatoes
Yes, you're going to be hungry. But don't eat -- you risk a botched prep. Photo © Monika Henkel

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 or afternoon prior to the colonoscopy and nothing at all 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. The colon needs to be free of waste material for a colonoscopy, and eating solid food would, naturally, keep that from happening.

3
Don't Eat or Drink Certain Artificial Colors

Gelatin
When you start looking for it, you see that so many processed foods have colorings in them. Look at the ingredients list and make sure what you're eating is free of dyes. 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 the intestinal tract and cause the tissue in the 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. In cases where a particular food or drink is in question, call the doctor, or better yet, choose something to eat that  does not have artificial coloring.

4
Don't Give Up in the Middle of Prep

Stop
You may want to give up, but again, if you do, you'll just have to start all over again another time. Photo © Robert Linder

Preparing for a colonoscopy isn't pleasant, and many people agree that it's worse than the actual test. Some people get to the point where they don't feel like continuing or finishing the prep, especially when feeling very tired and hungry. Stopping in the middle, however, could jeopardize the physician's ability to perform the colonoscopy because the colon may not be totally free of stool. That could lead to an incomplete test, which may have 1 of 2 possible outcomes: the physician will be unable to make sure the colon is free of disease or the test may need to be repeated (and therefore, the prep will need to be done again too). Being unable to complete the prep for any reason, such as being unsure of the directions, or feeling very ill, is a cause to call the doctor immediately.

5
Don't Take Certain Medications

Pills
Be careful about what medications you take while you're prepping and the day of the prep. Check with your doctors about what should and shouldn't be taken. Photo © Dima V

Bring a list of medications for the doctor to see before having a colonoscopy. A physician will go over these medications 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 a colonoscopy. Don't forget to mention any supplements—some fiber supplements may need to be stopped for a period before the test. Other common medications that may be problematic include aspirin, blood thinners, and iron supplements, so be sure to bring all these medications up to the physician doing the colonoscopy.

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