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Diet And Colon Preparation

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Your health care provider will explain the procedure to you and answer your questions. You’ll sign a consent form that gives permission for the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if anything is not clear. You’ll be given directions on how to prepare; it is mandatory to follow all instructions. You may be asked to take a laxative, an enema, a rectal laxative suppository, or drink a “prep,” a special fluid that helps clean out your colon. You will be expected to follow a low fiber diet and/or clear liquid diet in the days prior to your procedure. Specific preparation instructions will be provided when you schedule your appointment. 


Why does the preparation procedure need to be followed? What happens if I fail to follow the procedure?

Follow ALL directions that you are given regarding diets and prep prior to your procedure. The instructions for prescription prep, low fiber diet and clear liquid diet are meant to clean out your bowel for your provider to screen the inside of your bowel. Failure to follow your instructions will result in the cancellation of your procedure. If your procedure is canceled due to failure to prep correctly, you WILL need to reschedule and be required to follow the preparation procedure again, correctly. 

Why do prep instructions differ between patients and/or procedure location?

Your prep instructions may differ from others. Your prescribed prep (e.g., Colyte/Golytely/Nulyte, SuTab, etc.) will depend on your condition and other factors. SuTab, an oral tablet that may be used to prep for a colonoscopy, may only be an option for patients with no complicating health risks. Other prescription preps are liquid-based. It’s critical that you follow your given prep instructions. If you have any concerns about the prep, discuss those with our schedulers at 508-334-8036

Where do I get or pick up my prep?

Your prescription prep will be sent to your preferred pharmacy. When scheduling your colonoscopy, make sure to confirm the location of your pharmacy. 

Why can’t MiraLAX/Dulcolax be sent to the pharmacy?

MiraLAX/Dulcolax have been discontinued as a preferred prep, however, some colorectal surgeons may still prescribe it. When you’re scheduled for your procedure with one of our colorectal surgeons, their office will mail the instructions for MiraLAX/Dulcolax. Since the prep is over the counter, you don’t need a prescription and can purchase it at your local pharmacy. Your requesting provider may be consulted if they need to send it as a prescription, but that is uncommon.

What do I need to purchase before my procedure?

Below is a list of optional items you may want to purchase before your procedure:

  • Petroleum jelly or diaper rash ointment – used around the anus to minimize irritation
  • Alcohol and fragrance-free baby wipes – to minimize anal irritation
  • One (1) saline fleet enema – used on the day of your procedure if your prep did not work;  meaning your stool is not clear or light yellow 
  • Sugar-free drink mixes such as Crystal Light that are not red, purple or blue – to mix with water and drink with the prep
  • Sugar-free clear beverages – to drink during the clear liquid diet

Will I need to stay home from work and other obligations while I prep, or can I continue with my normal schedule?

The prep doesn’t require that you stop all obligations prior to your procedure. However, the prep is a laxative, causing you to use the bathroom very frequently the day before your procedure. Keep in mind you will want to be very close to a bathroom the day and night before your procedure.

What are common side effects I might experience from the prep? What can I do to remediate them?

Common side effects of colonoscopy prep are nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating and thirst, watery stools or extreme diarrhea. If you are lightheaded, lie down, don’t take a shower or bath until it passes. If you are experiencing nausea or vomiting, wait 30 minutes then continue drinking the prep in smaller amounts.

When will I start to have bowel movements after taking the prep?

Bowel movements should begin about two to three hours after beginning to drink the prep. The exact time varies based on the prescribed prep and your individual response to the prep. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in the bathroom.

What should I do if I have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or constipation?

If you have GERD, you may continue to take your GERD medication while prepping for your procedure. If you have constipation, the prep is a laxative that will produce bowel movements and relieve constipation. If you have a history of severe constipation, you may want to do a two-day bowel prep instead. Discuss your options and the best course of action with one of our nurses at 508-597-2233, 508-334-6484 or 774-442-2154.

Will my bottom be sore from all the loose stools? What can I do to remediate that?

Your bottom might be sore from loose stools. To help with this, use baby wipes along with petroleum jelly or diaper rash ointment around the anus to minimize anal irritation. You may find it convenient to purchase these optional items in advance in case you need them.

How will I know if the prep worked?

When the prep starts to work, it’s hard to hold bowel movements back. At this point you will want to stay in or near the bathroom. Keep drinking the prep even if you haven’t had a bowel movement as it may take longer for the prep to begin working. On the day of your procedure, when your stool is clear or light yellow, you’re ready! If you’re stool is not clear or light yellow, use one (1) saline fleet enema, which can be purchased at a pharmacy. You may find it convenient to optionally purchase an enema in advance of your prep time in case you need one.

Should I continue taking my daily medications (e.g., blood thinners, antibiotics, vitamins, iron pills, liquid antacids, diabetes medication, other prescribed medications)?

It’s important that you contact your prescribing provider regarding your medications in advance of your colonoscopy to confirm which you should stop and which you should continue to take. Very often, prescribers recommend that most patients continue heart medications, such as beta blockers and medications to control your heart rate. Medicines to control neurological conditions (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, seizures), some anti-anxiety and pain medications are often continued. As a general prep rule, stop using fiber supplements (e.g., Metamucil, Citrucel, Fiberall), iron pills, fish oil, vitamin E and supplements.