Tips to make colonoscopy bowel prep easier

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

By Deb Balzer

For many people, one of the most uncomfortable parts of a colonoscopy is the preparation for the procedure.

The purpose of a colonoscopy is to examine the colon and rectum for abnormalities such as polyps, tumors or inflammation, aiding in the detection and prevention of colorectal cancer. And to do that, it's important your medical team has a clear view. 

Watch this "Mayo Clinic Minute" video to hear Derek Ebner, M.D., a Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center gastroenterologist, offer tips on how to make colonoscopy bowel prep, essentially a strong laxative, easier:

"The entire spirit of doing the colonoscopy prep is to make sure that there is nothing in the colon," says Dr. Ebner.

That's so your medical team can detect and remove polyps or lesions.

"We frequently hear that the colon preparation can be a challenge," he says.

When to start bowel prep

Review your prep guidelines one to two weeks before your procedure for any special instructions. You may be encouraged to make small changes in your diet starting a week before the procedure.

Often, the day before the colonoscopy is when you'll start the bowel prep solution. Dr. Ebner says this is where people may struggle.

Tips for taking bowel prep solution

"There's a couple of tricks. Often, cooling the solution and drinking it through a straw can be helpful. Others like to have a small lime or lemon wedge that they just bite into after doing some of the solution," says Dr. Ebner.

Chewing gum between sips of the solution also may help. And he says taking the solution is often spread out over two days, and that can help too.

"Half of the volume is done the day before the procedure, the other half is done the day of the procedure. That helps make it a lot more tolerable. And, in fact, we get a better cleanout by doing that splitting," he says.

Dr. Ebner says some adnominal cramping, bloating, discomfort or nausea during the bowel preparation is normal. "For those that do have nausea, slowing down how fast you're consuming the fluid can oftentimes be really helpful," he says. 

Learn more

Learn more about colon and rectal cancer and colonoscopy.

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A version of this article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.