Prep – it’s one of the most dreaded steps involved in getting screened for colorectal cancer via colonoscopy. There’s a lot of reasons why. The prep drink tastes salty to some. Few enjoy a mad dash to the toilet. Plus, there’s several prep options to do and it can get confusing when GIs differ on which prep is best.

While teams are working on how to improve and better colonoscopy prep, the simple fact remains:  your entire colon needs cleaned out before this test. There’s no getting around that. (You do have other screening options, by the way, that do not require this entire colon cleanse.) But for a colonoscopy, everything has got to go. Literally.

Tips to Endure “Prep Night”

If you’ve chosen to undergo a colonoscopy for your colorectal cancer screening, we’re here to help. We polled some of our top volunteers – many of whom receive colonoscopies very frequently because of their personal cancer history or family risk.

Here’s some of their best tips for surviving the night before a colonoscopy:


“Personally, I start decreasing the size of meals two days prior to starting prep. This makes for a much easier prep night. I’d also recommend getting a box of Dude Wipes prior to starting prep.” – Chris Ganser, survivor


“Here are several of my tips:  have plenty of clear liquids available (like broth); have something to sip after each drink of the prep; a few days before the test I like to start gently cleansing by drinking digestive tea once a day – it makes for a much easier and quicker prep; keep vaseline or coconut oil nearby; wear elastic-waisted pants (you will have no time to mess with buttons); start the prep a few hours earlier then recommended so it does not disrupt your sleep; charge your phone and get a good book to read (you will be in the bathroom a lot!); even if you’re running clear, drink the second half of the prep so you get an effective scope; remember that once you’re through the prep you’re through the worst part; LAST –  plan a good meal for afterwards – I always make my driver take me out for a big breakfast! Then, go home to nap.” – Amanda Houston, survivor


“I avoid things like nuts, popcorn and seeds beginning the week prior. Same with avoiding things that are bright red. I try to stick with lighter-colored foods a few days prior. I don’t eat red meat a lot anyway, but I definitely don’t eat it the week before and I eat smaller portions of meat starting two days before my test. I make sure the prep I am drinking is cold. It makes it so much easier for me to drink it. Plus, I put it in my large Tervis Tumbler with a straw. For some reason drinking it with a straw helps me. After the colonoscopy, it is sooo important to EASE back into regular eating. I also take a probiotic for a few days afterwards to help my gut get back to normal.” Trish Lannon – survivor


“I like a long, hot bath after the fireworks have calmed down. Nothing is more soothing and relaxing.” – Walter Hickman, survivor


“I like to buy really soft TP before the test, it helps (along with some vaseline) to tame the savage beast.  I also find a cool wash cloth can help as well. I usually start a bland diet the entire week prior for just a few days. That really helps things move more smoothly.” – Maria Williams, advocates in memory of her friend Belle


“I taper my food a few days before and ease back into food afterwards. I avoid spicy stuff after the test, especially if they have removed a polyp.” – Sheila Schrack, survivor


“I treat my prep & colonoscopy like a special event. It is my cleanse, so I treat myself well during this time. I eat light, bland foods a couple of days leading up to the prep. I buy organic low-sodium broth and eat it for my lunch and dinner. I find a really good JELL-O and make it ahead. (Boxed JELL-O comes in so many different flavors.) I splurge on good apple juice – like Martinelli’s Gold Medal – it’s my favorite. I also buy white grape juice and usually some flavored sparkling water or Diet 7-UP to settle my stomach. I also drink the prep solution COLD and through a straw. It’s easier to suck it up. I know it’s hard to drink all of these liquids, but another thing I found very helpful is to drink Pedialyte. This hydrates me better than water. I become dehydrated very easily and it makes for difficulty when putting in my IV before the test. Drinking Pedialyte has helped tremendously. It also now comes in packets so you can mix it yourself. Of course the wipes are essential. One last thing I sometimes get is gummy bears – pull out the red and purple ones and suck on the light ones for a little treat.” – Kristen Keesen, survivor


“I also eat lighter meals about a week before the prep. For my first colonoscopy I had a chicken Philly sandwich for my last meal before the test, and that was a big mistake! The next time I had a nice dinner of salmon, rice, broccoli and salad. Everything went so much smoother. 😉 Definitely have some wipes available, I prefer Preparation H.” – Marsha Baker, dad passed away from colorectal cancer

What Do YOU think?

These are some of our tips for surviving prep night, but what are some of yours? Leave a comment and let us know! 

And, if you’re ready to meet some of these advocates, get involved! Sign up and share your story. Then, join our Advocates group on Facebook to connect. Let’s fight colorectal cancer together!

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23 comments on “Colonoscopy Prep Tips”

  1. 1
    Lee on October 16, 2017

    My Colonoscopy Experience:

    AI avoided headache and drinking all that nasty prep beverage!

    I didn’t do everything they told me to do and all went swimmingly anyways. But of course, what worked for me may not work for everyone.

    I am 36 year old female, 130 lbs, don’t typically eat large meals, have regular bowel movements one a day if I maintain proper fiber in my diet.
    – 2 days before: just snacking most of the day. No major adjustment; that’s how I eat.
    – 1 day before: Clear fluids: plain tea, apple juice, water, chicken broth *BM normal –started getting a headache by noon so I took 400mg ibuprofen and electrolyte tablet in water, headache gone in 30 mins–
    – *2pm BM normal (the double BMs might be because I was getting a little nervous about taking the laxatives – nerves are my natural laxative)
    – 3pm took 4 Bisocodyl tablets followed by 1 Litre of watered down Gatorade and then beef broth
    – By 4pm, I was actually feeling full. *BM loose
    – 5pm suppose to drink 4 litres of Peglyte (1 glass every 10 minutes) YEAH RIGHT! I put ice in it but after two glasses, there was no way I could down anymore. I had to take breaks and sip. For me, it wasn’t so much the taste as it was just feeling too full to drink anymore of anything. I have acid reflux to boot so it wanted to come up. But I wasn’t going to force myself. And it turns out I wouldn’t have to.
    – 7:30pm and I finished only 1/3 of Peglyte, but after *5 BMs, my stool was already liquid and yellow (Use Vaseline if you’re anus is sore, or have shallow bath; I was fine just being gentle and using wet cleaning cloths.)
    – About 4 more small runs to the washroom (all yellow and rushes out like pee), some water, Gatorade and beef broth (to compensate for giving up on the Peglyte) and in bed by 10pm — a slight bit of heartburn made it difficult to sleep at first but I got there.

    8am procedure: opted for full anesthetic. Came out fuzzy but no pain or nausea. Needed to pass all the air gas they put in me. That was the only uncomfortable moment.

  2. 2
    William Geeslin on October 10, 2017

    This prep is one that has been modified a bit over the years but works really well and is far less difficult to tolerate than the (IMO) antiquated Golytely and Magnesium Citrate type preps.

    I am about to go in for my 9th colonoscopy since 2000 having found a small cancerous polyp and had it removed by colon resection back in 2002. My first colonoscopy prep was recommended to me by a very nice lady I met on an IBS friends board on the internet. She found that eating a light, lower residue meal the night before prep day and taking two dulcolax tablets that same night at 10PM was a good start of the prep. The then next day you went on a clear liquid diet, took 2 more Dulcolax at 10 AM, slammed liquids all day and took two more Dulcolax at 4pm with nothing else by mouth after midnight. This worked well for me.

    However, my gastro doc wanted more…so she modified the prep for subsequent procedures to taking 2 Dulcolax at 12 noon, drinking 64 oz of Gatorade mixed with the huge 238 mg bottle of Miralax in close intervals until its gone… plus two more Dulcolax at 4pm and nothing after midnight. This also worked well though for me I have a rough time drinking that much liquid of any kind, much less in a limited amount of time.
    Now, for this upcoming prep, she has me taking 4 Dulcolax at12 Noon, and at 1PM start drinking that same volume of Gatorade/Miralax mix (8 oz every 30-45 minutes), and then 4 more frigging Dulcolax at 4PM, nothing after midnight. I am a bit skeptical about being able to tolerate this level of Bisacodyl as well that much Polyethylene Glycol. I think I might just do “the best I can” with it and let it go at that. After 8 previous colonoscopies, I’ve pretty much learned that they tend to overkill the prep a bit, which I can understand….but even if you don’t toe the line on the instructions, you’re going to come out clean enough to get a good procedure.

  3. 3
    Kathy B. on October 5, 2017

    This is my 3rd colonoscopy, you don’t feel anything. Some people sleep when they give them their medicine , i was awake and watched it on the screen what they were doing. the last one i kept dosing on and off. i am having my 3rd one on October 10 2017. They are checking for polyps and seeing what causes my lower stomach to hurt.

  4. 4
    Carol Hall on September 22, 2017

    The best advice I give family and friends during the prep stage is to apply Desitin or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste to the “area” prior to beginning prep and to reapply several times. Also, use soft TP and after the first few “explosions “, pat clean instead of wiping.

  5. 5
    Tessie Pino on September 20, 2017

    I have an upcoming colonoscopy. My “first” colonoscopy ended up having to be done 3 times because the preparations would not cleanse me completely. The 2nd time/no go (pun not intended); when I woke up the dr said he had just ordered another gallon and that he would try a 3rd time later in the afternoon. As you can imagine, I don’t want to go through this again. I seem to have a very slow metabolism and this time I’ve been given 2 moviprep solutions. The instructions say to start at 6pm (should end the first solution by 7:30pm). My question is I’m not sure how much time I should give between one solution and the second one. Recently, I had diarrhea and had blood (from either a hemorrhoid or an anal fissure). I’m afraid that so many solutions will cause the anal fissure to start bleeding again. Any suggestions or thoughts? I’m to the point of cancelling because I’m so scared. I have an auto immune disease that wipes me with these types of procedures. Thank you.

  6. 6
    Victoria P on September 14, 2017

    I have scope scheduled for the 26th. Prescribed OsmoPrep. This is new to me. The last time I had the 4 liter jug and started vomiting just part way in. Not fun. I hope this works better but was told to “keep a glass of liquid in your hand at all times the day prior”. Has anyone used this? Suggestions?

  7. 7
    Sam on September 6, 2017

    Can someone answer this question. I followed the prep instructions using a gallon of gavilyte/golytlely. I drank the 1st half in about two hours this evening. I went about four or five times it was loose. The last bowel movement occured three hours after the start of the drink. It was brown. I have to do the other half late tonight. Is it normal that so far, this evening, the bm is not clear? Should it have already been clear? It’s still brown . I followed the dietary instructions all day. No solid food, nothing red or blue no dairy.

    1. 8
      Danielle Burgess on September 11, 2017

      Sorry Sam we are just now seeing your comment but hope that all was clear on your colonoscopy!

  8. 9
    Darlene ferris on August 28, 2017

    Thank you. Good advice. I will use

  9. 10
    Karen on August 12, 2017

    thank you for sharing!!!!i was stressed because in the past i used HalfLIghtly prep where i did that the morning before the procedure and did not have to do it a second time later..i liked that one but guess it has been now this time will have to use one of the new ones..I have a hard time with change:) this will be my 4th colonoscopy..used the phosopho soda one the first time and then the HalfLIghtly twice..(i wonder if there is something out there that iworks like the to do what gotto do..thanks all

  10. 11
    Laura Stacet on August 10, 2017

    My boyfriend is having stomach issues. Nor sure what yet. He’s doing the colon prep. But he’s in big pain and he has thrown up. He has done half of the prep and he’s not going like he should. In fact, he’s hardly all. My question is, should he contenues the prep and just deal with the agonizing pain? He has a Dr. but doesn’t want to call him. He has the nausea pills and he did take one. But his pain is intense. Should he contenue?

    1. 12
      Danielle Burgess on August 14, 2017

      Hi Laura, this is a good question for his doctor. It can be hard to call, but best to work alongside the professionals who can help understand what’s happening.

  11. 13
    Momof2 on August 10, 2017

    Wanted to weigh in here as I had my first colonoscopy yesterday. Can I just say I don’t know what the big deal is with people? I lost a cousin to colon cancer at 36, leaving behind 2 toddlers and seeing that… well I decided to go at 51 years old.

    Any Moms out there – compared to childbirth this is a walk in the park. I thought I did something wrong because I kept waiting for some violent explosion or something but God’s honest truth having the Norovirus was 50 x’s worse than this colon prep. Seriously – Diarrhea – Yes, but not out of the ordinary. I read all the tips. I think the reason it was so easy was a few days before I changed my diet. It was scheduled for Wednesday 6:30am. Saturday before had Chinese with chicken, veggies, white rice. Stayed away from whole grains and nuts/fiber. Sunday I again just ate light, cheese pizza. Monday, white rice for breakfast, mashed potatoes for lunch, tuna sandwich for dinner. Prep day, coffee, tea, clear gummi bears at work. Started my prep at 4:30pm. Set up in the bathroom with laptop, radio, applied diaper rash cream, baby wipes. An hour later movement. But it was no big deal – again, nothing as violent like norovirus was. Drinking the lemon-lime prep – I did refrigerate in morning. Drank in big gulps with straw toward back of throat. Sucked on a lime in between. Was done in no time. Salty lemonade was the taste but not enough to make me vomit or anything. I wasn’t “rushing” into the bathroom either. I got a pkg of depends and wore them under a sundress just for piece of mind and ease off/on. Drank the rest of prep at 10:30pm. Was done at 11:30pm. My elimination looked like chicken broth at that point.

    With my depends on placed a towel on the bed just in case and went to bed. Woke up later just because I was thirsty/dehydrated but no big deal. Wore depends in car (did not need though). Got to hospital, twilight sedation – don’t remember a thing. They removed 3 polyps so awaiting pathology. Definitely glad I had a driver, was a little more groggy than I thought I would be. Hubby took me to breakfast, got home and took a nice nap. Piece of Cake. Don’t be scared of this. People need to read the directions and prep correctly. Also did learn that I could have asked for the prep where you only drink like 2-12oz bottles of a different prep and then sub in your own drinks in between. She said they automatically just give the gallon prep stuff because it is cheap for insurance ($5) and they know all insurances will pay for that one. But I know I’d rather just pay extra on my own and drink less next time. No big deal though.

    1. 14
      Danielle Burgess on August 10, 2017

      Great to hear you had such a positive experience and the tips for how you got ready days before. Thanks for sharing!

  12. 15
    Lindsey on July 25, 2017

    How did this prep work for you? My prescription is 89.00 and do not want to pay this! Having colonoscopy on Friday

    1. 16
      Danielle Burgess on August 1, 2017

      Hey Lindsey, one option is to work with the office and see if there’s any over-the-counter prep alternatives they can suggest, or any coupons or samples they can offer to help you get the prep you need.

  13. 17
    Val Hopfinger on July 13, 2017

    I took Movi-Prep the night before, sipping it slowly as instructed, using a straw.
    After two hours I vomited it all up. Mild diarrhoea next morning, but then told by hospital they were cancelling my appointment as the prep hadn’t worked.
    Dreading the next time. Does anyone have any advice?

    1. 18
      Danielle Burgess on July 13, 2017

      Hey Val, there should be other prep options… I would ask your GI clinic. Some require prescription and costs vary, but you do have options when it comes to prep.

  14. 19
    Preparing for a Colonoscopy doesn't have to be scary. - Big Cheese Studios on June 25, 2017

    […] @FightCrC Colon Cancer Alliance […]

  15. 20
    Cathy W. on June 2, 2017

    Clear broth, chicken or beef is very satisfying. It makes me feel so much better than using only the sweet options.

  16. 21
    Trish Smith on June 2, 2017

    You know you gotta do what you gotta do and this is the way my doctor prescribes the prep that I feel is really the way to go….literally! It’s easy to get down and the finish time is early enough to get a good night’s rest before the colonoscopy.

    *PLEASE NOTE*- No prescription is required. These items are all sold over the counter.
    You do not have to purchase the name brand, Generic works just as well.
    4 DULCOLAX tablets. (LAXATIVE NOT STOOL SOFTENER). Generic name is Bisacodyl.
    64 oz. of Gatorade or Powerade (CANNOT BE RED IN COLOR OR CONTAIN RED DYE).
    238 Gram bottle of Miralax (14 day supply). Generic name is Glycolax.
    You will need to mix your Miralax powder with your Gatorade or Powerade.
    *Please do NOT mix your solution more than 24 hours before you are going to start drinking it.*
    Before putting the Miralax powder into the bottle, you will need to pour a small amount of the liquid out to prevent it from overflowing.
    Mix the entire bottle (238 grams) of the Miralax powder with the Gatorade or Powerade.
    Refrigerate the mixed solution.
    At 4:00 pm, Take 4 DULCOLAX tablets by mouth.
    At 6:00 pm, Drink ONE 8 (eight) ounce GLASS OF THE MIRALAX/GATORADE SOLUTION MIXTURE every 15 minutes until half of the solution mixture is gone. (This should be 4, 8 oz glasses)
    At 8:00 pm, Drink ONE 8 (eight) ounce GLASS OF THE MIRALAX/GATORADE SOLUTION MIXTURE every 15 minutes until you have finished the remainder of the 64 oz. mixture. (This should be 4, 8 oz glasses)

  17. 22
    Angie W on June 2, 2017

    Love the tips! I will defiantly try the eating smaller non meat based meals the week before.

  18. 23
    Dana cannon on June 2, 2017

    I find that if a take some of the prep then suck on a Lemon right after don’t get the seeds .It helps me so much ! Had a polyp as big as a grapefruit in my stomach at 27 . Surgery removed it. After removing my whole stomach . Now me and my two daughters have to get our colon checked often. I of my daughter ‘s had 80 polyps in her colon at the age of 16. Both daughters are doing awesome now . We all have no stomach. My other daughter has no stomach and just a little bit of her colon. We eat everything we want r doing great. But can’t wait for the day they get a better tasting prep . But the Lemon 🍋 helps so much!!

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