Bowel Preparation: Before Your Procedure (2023)

What is bowel preparation?

Bowel preparation (or bowel prep) empties and cleans out your large intestine (colon). Bowel prep is done before tests that look inside your colon, such as a colonoscopy. These tests look for small growths (called polyps), cancer, or other problems like bleeding. The colon has to be empty and clean so the doctor can see problems.

For many people, the bowel prep is worse than the test. The liquid you may have to drink can taste bad, and you may feel hungry on the clear liquid diet. You may also spend a lot of time in the washroom.

But it is very important to do the prep exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you do not, the doctor will not be able to see the entire lining of your colon. This may mean that you have to repeat the test and will have to do the prep again.

(Video) Bowel preparation - Moviprep

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

(Video) What is a colonoscopy and how do I prepare for it?

What happens before the procedure?

Preparing for this procedure can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect and how to safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • 1 to 2 days before the test, you will stop eating solid foods and will drink only clear fluids, such as water, tea, coffee, clear juices, clear broths, flavoured ice pops, and gelatin (such as Jell-O).
    • Do not drink milk or juice with pulp, such as orange juice. These are not clear fluids.
    • Do not drink anything red, purple, or blue, such as grape juice or fruit punch.
    • Do not eat red, purple, or blue foods, such as grape Popsicles or cherry Jell-O.
    • Drink plenty of clear fluids to stay hydrated.
  • To clean out your colon and rectum you will need to drink large amounts of a bowel preparation (laxative) solution. The solution can taste bad and may make you feel sick to your stomach. But it is important to drink all of it or the doctor may not be able to do the test and you will have to do the prep and test again. Here are some tips:
    • After you drink a dose of the solution, drink some water or clear fluids to help get rid of the salty taste.
    • You may find it easier to drink the solution if you chill it in the refrigerator first.
    • Suck on lemon wedges after you take a drink.
  • Stay home the evening before the test. You will need to use the washroom often.
  • Do not eat any solid foods after you start the bowel prep.
  • You will be told which medicines to take or to stop before your procedure. Some medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and certain vitamins and herbal remedies can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with sedation medicine you may get to help you relax. You may be asked to stop these before the test.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking, or your test may be cancelled. If your doctor has told you to take your medicines on the day of the test, do so using only a sip of water.

At the hospital or clinic

  • Your doctor may have you use an enema 30 to 60 minutes before the test.

When should you call your doctor?

Bowel Preparation: Before Your Procedure (1)

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You think you're having a problem caused by the bowel prep.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Severe reactions to the bowel preparation can happen, but it is rare. Call 911 or seek immediate medical attention if you:

  • Have vomiting that will not stop.
  • Feel like fainting.
  • Have swelling or hives (itchy red patches in your skin).
  • Have very bad pain in your abdomen (belly).

Adaptation Date: 3/3/2022

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

(Video) MY COLONOSCOPY PREP & After The Procedure


What are the recommendations for bowel preparation before colonoscopy? ›

Preparing for your colonoscopy
  • Three days before your colonoscopy, eat only low-fiber foods. ...
  • Two days before, continue eating only low-fiber foods.
  • One day before, go on a clear-liquid diet.
  • The evening before, drink half of a prescription laxative drink to clean out your colon for the procedure.

How do you prepare your bowels before surgery? ›

Before the surgery
  1. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery.
  2. If you are given a liquid bowel prep, take it as your doctor tells you. ...
  3. If you are told to give yourself a Fleet enema, follow the directions on the package. ...
  4. In some cases, you may be given antibiotics.

How do I know if my bowels are clear enough for colonoscopy? ›

If your last bowel movements were clear enough that you were able to see the bottom of the toilet you should be fine. You must, however, continue to drink ALL of the prep solution. It is ok if you have some flecks of material. The yellow color is a result of the bile that normally colors the feces.

How do I make sure my colon prep is complete? ›

If there is any cloudiness to your liquid stool, your bowel prep is not complete. If you can see the bottom of the toilet after a bowel movement, this means your bowel prep has been effective and the procedure can go forward.

What are the two preps for a colonoscopy? ›

Prep solutions used vary from surgeon to surgeon and can include Suprep in liquid form and Sutab in pill form, as well as over-the-counter options such as Miralax and Dulcolax mixed with clear fluids.

What should you avoid 3 days before colonoscopy? ›

The biggest culprits that will show up in a colonoscopy and obscure our view are foods like nuts, seeds and high-fiber cereals. You also want to avoid granola, coconut, dried fruit and fresh fruit with the skin on, like apples and pears, or fruit with seeds, like strawberries and raspberries.

What are the different types of bowel preparation? ›

Bowel preparation can be divided into 3 categories: isosmotic, hypoosmotic, and hyperosmotic agents. Isosmotic agents include high-volume polyethylene glycol (PEG) preparations, low-volume PEG preparations, and sulfate-free PEG-electrolyte solutions (ELS).

Is there a procedure to empty bowels? ›

Enemas can help someone poop if they become constipated or have another problem moving their bowels. The most common type of enema (EN-eh-muh) puts liquid directly into the rectum, the last part of the large intestine, to help release poop. It's simple to do and does not involve any kind of surgery.

How long does bowel prep take? ›

How long does it take a bowel prep to kick in? It depends on the formula you're taking. A PEG-based bowel prep may take one to three hours, while a NaP-based bowel prep may take three to six hours to start. If you are severely constipated and your bowel movements aren't progressing, contact your healthcare provider.

How can you tell if colon is empty? ›

Signs Your Colon is Clear

The morning of your exam if you are still passing brown liquid with solid material mixed in, your colon may not be ready and you should contact your doctor's office. Passing mostly clear or only a light color, including yellow, is a sign your colon is clean enough for an accurate examination.

Can you drink colonoscopy prep too fast? ›

After your nausea has decreased or stopped, you can start the bowel prep again, but you should drink it at a slower rate. Sometimes, drinking too much, too quickly is too much for your system to handle. Another tip is to make sure the prep is chilled. It helps to refrigerate the liquid prep.

Will I be up all night with colonoscopy prep? ›

The good news is that there is usually very little discomfort. You will likely be able to sleep through the night once the first round of evening prep is over. Finding colon polyps early before they can become cancerous can save your life and doing the prep is worth it.

Do you have to drink all 4 liters of colonoscopy prep? ›

Yes. You must drink all the prep to fully clean out your colon for a safe and complete colonoscopy. I feel like throwing up (nausea) or did throw up (vomit) after taking the bowel prep.

How many times should you poop for a colonoscopy prep? ›


bowels at least 10-15 times. By the end of your prep, your stool should become a clear, yellow-tinged fluid.

How many hours after colonoscopy prep do you stop pooping? ›

Most people stop moving their bowels about 2 – 3 hours after finishing the solution. People are different and some have liquid movements until the time of the procedure.

What is the gold standard for colonoscopy prep? ›

The gold standard for colonoscopy preparations are PEG derivatives. PEG is an isosmotic agent, and is safe and effective to cleanse the bowels without causing major shifts in the fluid-electrolyte balance. The standard PEG preparation is a 4-L solution that patients consume in 8-oz proportions at 10-minute intervals.

What flavor of Gatorade is best for colonoscopy prep? ›

64 oz bottle of Gatorade, Powerade or Propel that are light in color. Lemon-lime is preferred. AVOID red, purple, blue or green varieties.

When should I start prep for a 7am colonoscopy? ›

Typically, bowel prep medication is a solution that you will need to drink starting one day before your procedure. You will be asked to take the colon prep in two doses: the first dose, 3-6 pm the night before your procedure; the second dose, 6-8 hours before your procedure.

Is orange Jell-O OK for colonoscopy prep? ›

Avoid red, orange and purple colored Jell-O and Gatorade. This discolors your stool and interferes with the colonoscopy.

What foods should I avoid 2 days before a colonoscopy? ›

It is recommended that you follow a low-fiber diet (simply put, stay away from foods that can't be digested as easily, such as fiber, seeds, or nuts, for example) for two to three days before your colonoscopy.

Are bananas OK before colonoscopy? ›

Foods to avoid:

Raw fruit (bananas are OK) Canned pineapple, oranges, grapefruit sections, mixed fruit. Dried fruit. All berries, melons.

What is the most effective bowel prep? ›

In 4,339 colonoscopies performed by 75 endoscopists, researchers found that Magnesium citrate, MiraLAX with Gatorade, MoviPrep, OsmoPrep, Prepopik/Clenpiq and Suprep all had significantly higher prep tolerability when compared with GoLYTLEY (all P < . 05).

What does successful bowel prep look like? ›

Your stool after finishing your bowel prep agent can act as a guide. Your stool should be clear, yellow, light and liquid. The presence of dark particles or thick brown or black stool means you are not ready for colonoscopy.

What is poor preparation in colonoscopy? ›

Poor bowel preparation has been shown to be associated with lower quality indicators of colonoscopy performance, such as reduced cecal intubation rates, increased patient discomfort and lower adenoma detection.

What procedure removes poop? ›

A proctocolectomy is a surgical procedure to remove your colon and your rectum. These two parts make up the majority of your large intestine. Without these parts, your surgeon will have to create a new pathway for your poop to come out. You may need a colostomy, and ileostomy or an internal ileal pouch (J-pouch).

Where is your bowel left or right? ›

It is located in the lower right side of the abdomen. Ascending colon (right colon): This is the first part of the colon. Transverse colon: This is the middle part of the colon. Descending colon (left colon): This is the third part of the colon.

How much bowel prep is enough? ›

Drink 32 ounces of the mixed solution by drinking an 8-ounce glass of bowel preparation every 15 minutes for a total of four glasses. Fifteen minutes later, drink an 8-ounce glass of of clear liquid every 15 minutes for a total of two glasses. You may continue to drink clear liquids till midnight.

How long after prep do you start pooping? ›

Bowel movements can take up to 5-6 hours after beginning the prep to start. Be patient, continue to drink liquids. If you have not had a bowel movement by midnight the night prior to your procedure, you will need to reach the on-call physician for further instructions.

How many hours does it take to empty a colon? ›

After you eat, it takes about six to eight hours for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine. Food then enters your large intestine (colon) for further digestion, absorption of water and, finally, elimination of undigested food. It takes about 36 hours for food to move through the entire colon.

What should you not do after a colonoscopy? ›

The effects of the sedation could last up to a day, so you should not drive or operate any machinery until the following day. You may feel gassy or bloated for a while after the procedure because of the air that was injected into your intestine during the colonoscopy.

How long can food stay in your colon? ›

Food generally takes 5 hours to move through the small intestine and 10 to 59 hours to move through the colon.

What foods should you avoid 5 days before colonoscopy? ›

Follow these general guidelines for five days before your colonoscopy:
  • Avoid nuts, seeds, dried fruits, dried beans and peas.
  • Avoid whole grains and cereals.
  • Choose cooked or canned fruits and vegetables over fresh ones.
  • Choose white bread, white rice and products made with refined flour.
  • Drink juices without pulp.
Apr 1, 2019

Can I start bowel prep early for colonoscopy? ›

We ask that you start the bowel prep at the time we gave you. But if you do start one or two hours earlier or later than the time given you, that's fine as long as you follow the clear liquid diet for the day.

Do and don'ts before colonoscopy? ›

The day before your procedure you can't eat anything solid. you can only consume clear (see-through) liquids. It is important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of clear liquids, such as sports drinks, clear juice like apple and white grape, and clear broth. Soda is OK, and so are coffee and tea, but without cream.


1. What you need to know about a colonoscopy: Prep - the most important or worst part?
(University Hospitals)
2. Preparing for a Colonoscopy
(Dartmouth Health)
3. Preparing for your colonoscopy - Endoscopy patient information
(Gold Coast Health)
4. What can I eat or drink before colonoscopy?
(You and Colonoscopy)
5. Digestive health: Successful prep for colonoscopy
(UW Medicine)
6. What are bowel prep medications?
(You and Colonoscopy)


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