How Do I Prepare For a Colonoscopy?

Without tooting my own horn too much, I have a butt-load of experience with colonoscopies. I’ve been going to the same crack team for over 10 years. So don’t go poo-pooing my advice – it’s based on the experience that many others only get to enjoy a few times in their life.  I used to go to lunch with a few coworkers who were members of the MOTH (Men Over The Hill) club.   They also considered me a member because we could all commiserate together about our health and procedures.

What do you need to know?

#1 – The prep is the worst part (and it’s not horrible).  How else can I say it?  Why do people hate going to the doctor or the dentist?  Anticipation.  Think about a colonoscopy this way – it’s a race and you’re preparing. Instead of carbo-loading, you want to liquid-load.  Drink lots of liquid (as much as you can) during the prep. It makes everything better. And don’t go to a Brazilian steakhouse before the prep and gorge yourself. You can trust me, or just go ahead and try it.

#2 – Follow the instructions. All doctors and hospitals probably do the prep differently.  And I’ve had at least 4 different prep procedures.  The summary (as I know it) is:  No seeds or peels 3 days before the procedure – these can stick to your intestinal walls. Nothing containing artificial red food coloring – your body doesn’t digest those red dyes, and it could look like blood.  Nothing to eat the day before (this was modified by my doctor this year, who allows an easily digestible lunch – i.e. cottage cheese, but your doctor may have different instructions), but you can have as much liquid as you want.  Then, that evening, you’ll start the actual prep. Don’t start it at work (like a coworker I know did).  Be comfortable at home, and wear sweatpants. Buttons and belts are bad news. Before you know it, it’s bedtime!

#3 – You can always opt out of anesthesia. But why would you? I’ve heard some people try to do this, and they end up asking for the anesthesia during the procedure. I have also been half awake for it one time and I didn’t like it. I felt like I was in the movie Alien. A former co-worker used to have the procedure without any drugs, but I also think he ate rocks for breakfast and rode a mule to work – he gave Chuck Norris a run for his money. They have changed the anesthesia over the years, and the recent preference seems to be Propofol. You may recognize the drug from following Michael Jackson’s death and subsequent trial on the news.  Rest assured – I brought it up to the anesthesiologist the last time I went in and they explained that it should never be used without significant supervision – something Michael Jackson could have used. You can try to be like Chuck Norris, but I prefer a quick snooze while they’re doing their business.

#4 – Recovery is quick – I’m told (and read) that propofol wears off very quickly and from my experience I say it’s true. There’s no nausea, and it’s like waking up in the morning. After 1/2 hour (or less), the hospital is ready to kick you out so they can clear the bed for the next person. It’s really like an assembly line. It’s in the hospital’s best interest that they give you a medication with little to no side effects and quick recovery so they can maximize the number of colonoscopies. And, by the way, ensure that you have a healthy colon tract.  And when you get home, you’ll hang out but feel like you can do almost anything – but don’t go signing legal papers, or operate heavy machinery, etc.

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