A colonoscopy is a visual examination of the colon that is performed to detect any abnormalities. The gastroenterologist doctor inserts a long flexible tube with a light and tiny video camera at its tip, into the colon.
The tube (colonoscope) is inserted all the way into the entire colon (through the rectum and into the large intestine). The video camera transmits images (from inside the colon) to an external monitor.
This procedure can identify the presence of polyps or internal bleeding and diagnose the cause of other problematic abdominal symptoms. It is also done as a screening test for colorectal cancer.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy
Preparing your body for a colonoscopy involves some dietary precautions. Since this procedure is performed to view the inside of the colon, it is important to empty your bowels for unobstructed visibility.
The doctor may suggest a special diet in order to prepare your body for a colonoscopy. You may be asked to avoid certain solid foods a week prior to the procedure. Most importantly, a clear liquid diet will be necessary the day before a colonoscopy.
The following liquids are usually consumed as part of this diet:
- Tea or coffee (without milk)
- Clear broth
- Gelatin (except red gelatin)
- Sports drinks (except flavors such as orange, grape etc.)
The clear liquid diet prohibits all other types of solid food and beverages. Red and purple drinks must also be avoided (as they may be mistaken for blood during the colonoscopy). High-fiber foods are also prohibited
Sometimes, you may be asked to take a strong laxative to empty your bowels. This is usually in the form of a solution. Many people find it unpleasant and difficult to drink the laxative. However, minor improvements such as refrigerating the solutions, using a straw, etc. can make the process easier.
Once the procedure is done, the patient must take special care to recover from the effects of the procedure, as well as the effects of preparation.
Usually, the patient is given a sedative or anesthesia before the procedure. The effects of this may last for up to an hour after the colonoscopy. The patient is kept in the recovery room during this time. Even after the anesthesia has worn off, the patient must not strain themselves for the rest of the day. Tasks such as driving back home can be left to a friend or relative.
Recovering from a colonoscopy also involves returning to your usual diet. When preparing for a colonoscopy, solid food is usually prohibited. This might make your body sensitive to complex solid food.
Doctors often advise their patients to continue with the liquid diet and “soft food” for a day or two after the procedure. Drinks with electrolytes are particularly recommended to regain energy and normal hydration status.
The following foods can be consumed in the first days after a colonoscopy:
- Tender, cooked vegetables
- bland table crackers
- Vegetable juice
- Canned peaches
Some of the common things to expect after a colonoscopy is a “cramping” feeling and bloating. This discomfort will quickly pass in a day or two. Further, the first bowel movement post-procedure may have traces of blood.
This is considered normal and is not a cause for concern (unless there is excessive bleeding or clots and/or increasing pain). Most people do not experience too much discomfort after a colonoscopy. Following any special precautions suggested by your doctor will help put your mind at ease and aid the recovery process.