I never expected my all-time most popular blog post to be about colonoscopy prep.
And yet that post officially has more than twice as many pageviews as my second-most popular blog post.
Apparently the Internet likes it when I talk shit about… well, very liquidy shit.
So I am back again to give honest answers to real questions about colonoscopy prep!
Before I get started, let me write this huge massive disclaimer in bold font.
I am not a doctor. I am not a nurse. In fact, I am not a medical professional whatsoever. However, I have had Crohn’s Disease for over 20 years, during which I’ve had at least 4 colonoscopies, an endoscopy, and a flexible sigmoidoscopy. These are my experiences, NOT medical advice. If you are concerned about your colonoscopy prep, I encourage you to talk to your doctor.
But let’s be honest, you’re reading this post because you’re in the middle of your colonoscopy prep, possibly at night… And you’re desperately hoping I can tell you how long the diarrhea lasts with colonoscopy prep.
I hear you.
My gastroenterologist doesn’t answer those questions in the middle of the night either.
Without any further ado, here are all the colonoscopy prep FAQs I can imagine!
Colonoscopy Prep FAQs
I have tried to include as many colonoscopy prep FAQs as possible. If you leave a question on this post, I will update my colonoscopy FAQs to the best of my ability. I came up with most of these questions from my original post on colonoscopy prep as well as my search analytics.
How do I drink colonoscopy prep without throwing up?
Drinking colonoscopy prep without throwing up depends on what kind of colonoscopy prep you’re using and how much you dislike it.
For me, the most difficult colonoscopy prep to drink without throwing up is the polyethylene glycol solution, which you might know as GoLYTELY Prep. This is the safest prep for patients with kidney problems.
Chilling your colonoscopy prep solution is an absolute must. The cool temperature makes the taste slightly more palatable.
I also cheated slightly with my GoLYTELY Prep, but my colon was still sufficiently cleaned. Instead of drinking the recommended 8 oz every 10 minutes, I diligently tried to finish 6 oz every 15 minutes. Also, I didn’t slowly sip it. Each approach, I would try and get down 6-8 swallows. Then I let myself have a quick break for a yummy beverage or a bite of gelatin. Eventually I got through maybe 75% of my GoLYTELY Prep, and I called that a night.
If you’re experiencing nausea while drinking your colonoscopy prep, take a break for up to an hour. Allow the nausea to subside. When you resume your colonoscopy prep, trying drinking it more slowly. That doesn’t necessarily mean tiny sips–just don’t chug it.
I’ve also found that taking slow, deep breaths helps suppress my gag reflex when I feel like I’m about to throw up.
If you already have an anti-nausea medicine at home that you’ve tolerated before, you can also take that.
Miralax colonoscopy prep alternative
Okay, so you should really seriously talk to your doctor well before your colonoscopy about any concerns you have with the colonoscopy prep.
If you’re googling “can’t keep colonoscopy prep down” the night before your colonoscopy, you need advice NOW.
And my “I’m not a doctor” advice is to swap out part of your colonoscopy prep with Miralax mixed with the sports drink of your choice. The sports drink helps rehydrate you. You really need after both the diarrhea and any vomiting. I can’t even taste Miralax when mixed with lemon-lime Gatorade.
Still try to finish as much of your prescribed colonoscopy prep as possible. But a bit of Miralax with a sports drink can help compensate if you’re throwing up your colonoscopy prep.
Am I done with my colonoscopy prep once my diarrhea is cloudy yellow?
The purpose of colonoscopy prep is to clean your colon prior to your colonoscopy. If you’re anything like me, you’re hoping that you don’t need to finish all of your colonoscopy prep! But how do you know if you’ve sufficiently cleaned your colon?
If your diarrhea is a cloudy yellow, then your colonoscopy prep isn’t over. Cloudy yellow indicates that your colon isn’t clean enough. You need to continue drinking your colonoscopy until your diarrhea is clear yellow.
Fun fact: your yellow diarrhea comes from digestive juices!
How long will diarrhea last during colonoscopy prep?
Unfortunately, there’s not a definitive answer to this. Every body is different, and everyone will experience diarrhea differently during colonoscopy prep.
With all of my colonoscopies, I’ve been able to go to bed without any accidents. I had some diarrhea in the morning, but not a lot if I just did a single dose of colonoscopy prep the night before.
Will I be up all night with colonoscopy prep?
The most important thing to do to sleep the night before a colonoscopy is start the colonoscopy prep when described. Your doctor will prescribe a dosage schedule along with the actual prescription for your colonoscopy prep. While you can start it 1-2 hours early or late, starting it late will keep you up later at night.
In my experience, the split dose colonoscopy prep makes the diarrhea slightly easier to tolerate. I’m able to go to bed at a reasonable hour without any urgency to run to the toilet. And even though I have sharted in the past, it’s never been during colonoscopy prep! I’ve always been able to sleep without waking up for urgent diarrhea (or without having an accident in my sleep).
With the split dose, you take the second half of your colonoscopy prep in the morning before your appointment. This helps clean out anything that might have accumulated in your colon overnight. You’ll then experience a fresh wave of diarrhea as you finish clearing your colon. However, your prescription is timed so that you’ll be done, at least with the urgent diarrhea, well in advance of your appointment.
Before my most recent colonoscopy, my husband drove us about 40 minutes from our house to the outpatient center. I was fine during that entire drive, even after taking my second colonoscopy prep that morning. Once at the outpatient center, I think I used the restroom once or twice, but it was more of a precaution. My diarrhea was not high in volume at that point.
What if I don’t finish my colonoscopy prep?
You couldn’t finish your colonoscopy prep.
It happens to the best of us.
Worst case scenario, your colon won’t be sufficiently cleaned, and your gastroenterologist will request another colonoscopy for you.
However, there are steps you can take now, while looking at your unfinished colonoscopy prep, to help you clean out your colon.
Do you still have time to finish your colonoscopy prep? Then keep working on it. You might need to dilute it further, or add ice cubes to it, to make the taste more palatable.
As I mentioned above, you can try adding some Miralax to a sports drink. Drink the equivalent amount to the colonoscopy prep you haven’t finished.
If you do NOT have a split dose for your colonoscopy prep, you could call it quits for tonight and wake up early in the morning. Drink a bit more of your prep in the morning. Be sure to finish at least 2 hours in advance of your procedure.
Finally, you can use an enema. While an enema alone does not sufficiently clear the colon for a colonoscopy, it can be effective as a final step in your colonoscopy prep. You can buy an enema kit at your local drugstore. This guide explains how to use an enema.
You can also talk to your doctor the morning of your procedure. Explain how much prep you consumed, and ask if an enema can be performed prior to a colonoscopy. One study suggests that this will adequately clear your colon.
Is there an alternative to drinking colonoscopy prep?
For some patients, a colonoscopy is necessary, and no colonoscopy alternative will suffice. If you have a family history of colon cancer, or you have an Irritable Bowel Disease, you need the occasional colonoscopy so that your gastroenterologist can get a good look at your colon and even part of your small intestine.
If you must have a colonoscopy, you might still have a choice of colonoscopy prep. Talk to your doctor in advance about your options for colonoscopy prep. I cover all colonoscopy prep alternatives in the next question.
Some patients don’t need a colonoscopy, though. There are multiple tests to detect colon cancer other than a colonoscopy. These include:
- Fecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT)
- Fecal Occult Blood Tests (FOBT)
- Stool DNA
A recent multi-study analysis of the effectiveness of FIT found that a one-time FIT screening caught up to 91 percent of colon cancers in people at average risk of the disease.
Stool tests need to be done more often than colonoscopies, but they’re a great alternative for qualifying patients.
Other colonoscopy alternatives also exist, but they still require thorough cleansing of the colon beforehand.
Are there any colonoscopy prep alternatives?
No… and yes. If you need a colonoscopy, then you need to drink colonoscopy prep.
However, there are multiple colonoscopy prep options, and some might be easier for you to tolerate.
- 4 liters of a solution of polyethylene glycol (PEG): When people complain about colonoscopy prep, this is usually what they mean. The day before your colonoscopy, you drink 8 ounces of this solution every 10 minutes until you finish it off. Sometimes you might split this dose, drinking half of it the night before and half of it about 5 hours before your procedure. GoLYTELY Prep
- 2 liters of PEG solution: The evening before your colonoscopy, you drink the first liter of solution spread out over an hour, drinking about 8 ounces every 15 minutes. You then drink 16 ounces of any clear liquid. You repeat this in the morning, finishing at least 1 hour prior to your procedure. MoviPrep
- Dulcolax and Miralax: The day before your colonoscopy, around 1pm, you take 4 Dulcolax (or store brand) tablets. Around 4pm, you start drinking 64 ounces of a sports drink mixed with a large container (8.3 ounces) of Miralax (or store brand). You drink about 8 ounces every 15 minutes until you finish the solution. However, there are variations using these products, including a split-dose schedule. There are risks associated with using Miralax as your colonoscopy prep, but your doctor might decide the benefits outweigh the risks.
- Sodium Picosulfate, Magnesium Oxide, and Anhydrous Citric Acid: The day before your colonoscopy, you drink 5 ounces of this solution. Then you drink 40 ounces of clear liquids. The morning of your procedure, you drink 5 ounces of the solution again 5 hours prior to the colonoscopy. You also drink at least 24 ounces of clear liquids, finishing at least 2 hours before the procedure. Prepopik
- Sodium Sulfate, Potassium Sulfate, and Magnesium Sulfate: The day before your colonoscopy, you drink 6 ounces of this solution diluted with 10 ounces of water. Then you drink 32 ounces of clear liquids. The morning of your procedure, you again drink 6 ounces of the solution diluted with 10 ounces of water, followed by another 32 ounces of clear liquids. You must finish at least 2 hours prior to your procedure. Suprep
Talk to your doctor before your colonoscopy about your colonoscopy prep options. Keep in mind that you might have medical conditions that require a specific colonoscopy prep. Regardless, be honest about your concerns about finishing your colonoscopy prep thoroughly.
Final Thoughts on Colonoscopy Prep
Y’all, I get it.
Going through colonoscopy prep is rough.
Stomach cramps. Nausea. Vomiting. Marathon shit sessions with no end in sight.
But if your doctor has recommended a colonoscopy for you, then you probably need one. Colonoscopies are especially important for patients with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
I hope this post answers all your colonoscopy questions! But if not, please leave a comment below. I want to help as many people as I can!
Is your colonoscopy still a few days or weeks away? Then you need my colonoscopy checklist! I’ve designed a handy checklist that starts a week before your colonoscopy.