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December 2022

Get Ready for Your Colonoscopy with These Tips  

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who says, “I am excited about my next colonoscopy.” Though it’s an important tool for detecting colon cancer and other serious conditions, it’s also something most people don’t look forward to.

The good news: For people at average risk for colon cancer, colonoscopies are only recommended once every 10 years. And the procedure itself is safe and usually lasts about 30 to 60 minutes.

Many people say the worst part of a colonoscopy is actually the preparation. But there are ways to make it easier.

Bowel prep

To get the best view of your colon and intestines, your bowels will need to be as cleaned-out as possible. To do this, your healthcare provider will give you instructions to follow at home. In the few days leading up to the colonoscopy, you may need to follow a clear liquid diet. This usually includes:

  • Clear broth

  • Clear fruit juice (apple or white grape)

  • Plain coffee or tea

  • Sports drinks (lemon, lime, or orange)

  • Gelatin (lemon, lime, or orange)

  • Clear soft drinks

  • Water

Avoid eating or drinking anything with red or purple dye. Your provider will tell you how long before the procedure you will need to stop eating and drinking completely.


Another unavoidable part of the prep is laxatives. Depending on your provider’s orders, these could come in the form of a liquid, a pill, or a powder you mix into your drink. You may also be prescribed an enema.

These laxatives will cause diarrhea, so be sure to stay close to a bathroom. You might want to use moist wipes instead of dry toilet paper.

Other ways to make this part of the prep go smoother include:

  • Mixing the laxative with a flavored drink, sugar-free water flavoring, or soft drink mix powder (avoid red, blue, or purple colors)

  • Keeping the liquid very cold to dull the taste

  • Drinking through a straw at the back of your mouth

  • Masking the taste by sucking sugar-free menthol candy

Medical experts recommend beginning screenings for colorectal cancer at age 45. When it’s time for your colonoscopy, talk with your provider about the best way to prep, and ask them any questions you may have. It’s very important to follow their instructions when preparing for a colonoscopy. Otherwise, you may need to do it all over again!

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2022
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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