Colonoscopy Prep Guide

The key to preparing for your colonoscopy with as much grace – and as little discomfort – as possible is to carefully follow the instructions provided by your physician.
People who’ve never had a colonoscopy before dread the procedure; those who have had a colonoscopy know the hardest part is the preparation for the procedure.
Ultimately, the steps to prepare for a colonoscopy are designed to cleanse your colon, so it is free from any waste or debris that prohibit the doctor from getting a good view, or that could lead to false results.

Follow Our Colonoscopy Prep Guide & You’ll Do Great

Cleansing the colon takes place in three phases:

  1. Using dietary restrictions to minimize the amount of waste that enters the colon, starting the few days before your procedure. The day before your procedure, your diet will consist of clear liquids only.
  2. Drinking and/or taking the supplements that encourage the complete release of the contents in your bowels.
  3. Finalizing the colon cleanse using fleet enemas (provided by the physician) if necessary. Many people never move through this phase since Phases 1 and 2 are usually sufficient.

Read instructions & watch videos provided by your physician’s office

Your physician will provide you with instructions explaining everything you need to know about the procedure, as well as the colonoscopy prep steps to complete beforehand. They may even provide you with video links explaining more about the procedure and what you can expect.

By now, you should have provided your physician with a list of any medications you are taking, including over-the-counter meds. If you realize you’ve left something off the list, contact the office immediately and let them know so the doctor has a chance to determine whether or not it will impact your current instructions and scheduled procedure.

Schedule the day off work

Make sure to schedule a day off work for the actual colonoscopy procedure.

Unless you work night shifts, patients find they are fine to work the day before – even during the liquid diet phase – without any problems. Pre-existing medical conditions may require more time off work, which you can discuss with your physician beforehand.

If taking the day off Monday – Friday isn’t an option, ask if your doctor offers weekend colonoscopies.  At CRS we routinely schedule Saturday colonoscopy screenings to serve our patients varying schedules.

Enlist a driver to get you home safely after the procedure

While you’re more than welcome to drive yourself to the colonoscopy appointment, you will need to enlist a driver to take you safely home again. The sedative provided to help you relax and experience a pain-free and comfortable procedure can take some time to wear off, so it’s not safe to drive while it’s still in your system.In most cases, you won’t be allowed to leave on your own, even if you call a taxi, Uber or Lyft so it is best to arrange for a family member or friend to help you.  S/he will need to sign you out, so the office knows you have a safe ride home. For patients who don’t have anyone to help, please let your physician’s office know so they can work with you to find a safe driver.  They would rather work with you to troubleshoot transportation than have you miss this very important health screening.

Three Days Before: Switch to a low-fiber (or low residue) diet

Three days before your procedure you will need to make some adjustments to your diet, minimizing the amount of high-fiber foods you ingest.

Most of the year, the providers at CRS recommend eating a high-fiber diet, but fiber is harder for the body to digest, and during the colonoscopy prep we want things to move as quickly and efficiently through the gastrointestinal tract as possible.

During the days before your procedure, avoid eating things like seeds, nuts, dried fruit or raw fruits and vegetables (cooked veggies and fruits are just fine since cooking breaks the fiber down).

The Day Before: Begin liquid diet fast the day before the procedure

For most CRS patients, the liquid diet begins at 11:00 a.m. the day before the procedure. This time may be slightly earlier if you have an early morning procedure.

Following the instructions regarding the liquid diet is important for two reasons:

  • It ensures there are no solid pieces of material or food dyes/additives that block the doctor’s view of the colon or that provide a false diagnosis. Many food dyes appear similar to blood in the rectum and colon, which could lead the doctor to a false diagnosis or require a second colonoscopy to verify the results of the first.
  • Switching from liquids to solids makes the final preparation involving the colon cleanse easier, more comfortable and more complete.

The foods and beverages approved for the liquid diet portion of colonoscopy prep include:

  • Water
  • Black coffee or tea (no dairy or dairy substitutes)
  • Apple juice or grape juice (no other juices are recommended due to their natural dye and fiber content)
  • Sports drinks with electrolytes
  • Carbonated beverages and sodas, preferably clear
  • Broth
  • Gelatin produces (again, lighter colors are best)
  • Popsicles
  • Sorbets
  • Fruit ices

Foods you should avoid during your liquid diet phase include:

  • Dairy (including milkshakes or malts)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat products
  • Seeds or nuts
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Rice and other grains
  • Cereals
  • Alcoholic beverages

In almost all cases, patients who abide by the low-fiber phase and the liquid diet phase have successful colonoscopies.

The Night Before: Take bowel prep tablets or liquid as directed

You’ll be given bowel prep tablets or a liquid beverage designed to cleanse the bowels as completely as possible. There are specific instructions regarding the administration of these products so follow them closely and do not vary from the time increments instructed.

It can take anywhere from two to four hours for you to notice any effects after beginning this final phase of the bowel prep. Contact the doctor’s office if it’s been more than four hours and your bowels aren’t responding.

Once the bowels respond to the prep, it takes about 6 to 8 hours for them to empty.

Do NOT eat or drink anything after midnight

Do not eat or drink anything after midnight on the evening before your procedure. This is the final step in ensuring your bowels are free and clear during the endoscopy.

Dress comfortably and prepare the bathroom for quality time

You’ll be spending a lot of time in the bathroom once the bowel prep takes action. Have plenty of reading material, gadgets, and chargers on hand and dress comfortably. Patients who sleep with their partners often opt to bed down elsewhere – the couch or a guest room – since you’ll be up several times through the night until the preparation has worked its magic.

If you are still passing brown liquid or solid waste the morning of your procedure, contact our office immediately. You may need a fleet enema or – in some cases – we may need to reschedule your appointment.

Arrive on time to your appointment

Finally, make sure to arrive on time or a little early for your appointment to keep things on schedule. You should dress comfortably and bring your ID and insurance card(s) with you. Leave all valuables at home.

Handling Colonoscopy Prep With Ease

Please feel free to read, Colonoscopy FAQs, to learn more about the colonoscopy prep process.

You can always contact us here at CRS to ask questions or double check anything you aren’t sure about leading up your colonoscopy procedure.

Time for your next colonoscopy? Click to request your next colonoscopy appointment in any of our three Richmond area locations. Request Appointment

Learn more about routine colonoscopy screenings.