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The Night I Slept Through My Colonoscopy Prep

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My grandfather died from colon cancer at age 39, and others in my family have intestinal diseases, so I am in the “early adopter” club for colonoscopies. Of course, most people aren’t afraid of the colonoscopy itself—it’s the prep that strikes fear into the hearts and minds of otherwise stalwart individuals.

I recall waking up in a panic the morning of my first colonoscopy. Why? Because I had slept peacefully through the entire night despite hearing that I would spend it in and out of the bathroom with all sorts of unpleasantries. Had the prep not worked? Had my adjustment of the medications been foolhardy? You see, at that time, the prep called for five Dulcolax laxative pills…followed by magnesium citrate…followed by an enema. Since I am a small person, extremely drug-sensitive and virtually never take medications, I was concerned that taking five laxative pills would be too much for me. After all, that same protocol was given to everyone from seven-foot-one-inch basketball player Shaquille O’Neal to four-foot-nine-inch gymnast Mary Lou Retton. So I took only three laxatives and slept through the night. Then had a “normal morning” with “normal excretions.” Oh, no!!!

The good news is that when all was said and done, the colonoscopy went without a hitch and my colon was in perfect condition for viewing.

What was the difference for me? My naturopathic physician, Dr. Andrew Rubman, had been working with me on healthy digestion, including eating a healthy diet…taking digestive-supporting supplements…and including the fiber glucomannan in my daily regime. With Andy’s guidance, I have come to understand how important healthy digestion is to our overall health and well-being.

Fast-forward 15 years, and I am once again prepping for the big event. The protocol is slightly different now. No more Dulcolax and no more gallon of goo to be consumed. Instead my doc prescribed the prep ClenPiq, a low-volume bowel prep that wasn’t covered by my insurance and cost $100 out of pocket even after the $40 manufacturer’s coupon was applied!!

Nonetheless, I am dreading the prep for this colonoscopy—not because of the overnight experience but because I was incredibly hungry the last time during the pretest diet and, more importantly, my electrolytes were thrown off so significantly that I was dizzy for days.

I had a new strategy this time to try and reduce the stress of it all—and I thought I would share it with you…

  1. I scheduled the procedure for Monday morning and, of course, as early as possible. Studies have shown that morning colonoscopies get more thorough results. And the great thing about Monday is that you get to prep in private without juggling work obligations. I was able to give myself the weekend off!
  2. I took the prep time as a mini-vacation. While I did a little bit of work over the weekend, generally, I simply relaxed. I went on some nice walks with my dog…got a pedicure…and finished reading a novel. Colonoscopies are incredibly stressful—the less stressful you can make them, the better.
  3. I ate a big night-before dinner. I indulged in a big dinner Saturday night—no fruits or veggies, of course—but enough food so that I was still a little full Sunday morning and didn’t miss food too badly while on the clear-liquids prep.

That leads me to a question for both my doctor and one of our experts—“Why don’t they let us eat a little the day before a colonoscopy?” I did some research about colonoscopy prep and found that a 2016 study at University of California showed eating fibrous foods the day before a colonoscopy cleaned the colon better than having just clear fluids. I could have been eating protein and potatoes instead of lime ice pops?!?!? Keep this in mind when scheduling your next colonoscopy. Ask your doc. I didn’t learn about this until it was too late. Darn…missed that one.

  1. I replaced those electrolytes. As mentioned earlier, after my last colonoscopy, my electrolytes were a mess and I was dizzy for days. So this time, I stocked up on high-electrolyte liquids such as Trader Joe’s Alkaline Water Plus Electrolyes for before and after the procedure.

Post-Procedure Update

How did it go? Easy-peasy! While expensive, the ClenPiq was easier to take than other products because there wasn’t much to drink. It was horrible going down—but there was less of it. A few big sips did it…and then lots and lots of water afterward—but drinking water is easier than drinking quarts of “goo.”

More importantly, this is one test that I don’t skip because of my family history and the friends who have died of colon cancer. While I have my philosophical differences with Western medicine, colon cancer screening is one place where Western doctors have made tremendous inroads. Some cancers are not detected until it’s too late—that is not so for colon cancer.

But here’s a frightening fact—the rate of colon cancer in younger people is growing, thanks to poor diet and lack of exercise. So the American Cancer Society now is recommending that screening start at age 45 instead of 50. That’s not a good thing, folks. We are giving ourselves this cancer. Sure, early detection can reduce the odds of death from colon cancer. But why not reduce those odds even further with some simple and smart dietary changes?

And when you do need to have that colonoscopy…a few simple steps can make that easier, too.

Be well.

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