Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Dreaded Bowel Prep

Whether is for a diagnostic colonoscopy or to prepare for excision surgery, many endometriosis patients have to endure the dreaded bowel prep.  For some patients who have not experienced “bowel prepping,” it can seem like an extremely intimidating task.  Patients that have endured bowel prepping multiple times know it is more of an unpleasant inconvenience as opposed to the end of the world. Listed below are tips that can help make the bowel prep experience more tolerable and less daunting.

1.       Eat lightly sooner than later. It is never too early in the week to start thinking about your upcoming bowel prep. The saying, “What goes in, must come out!” certainly applies in this case. There has been many a patient regret over having a large Mexican feast as the last meal the night before bowel prep festivities begin! A decadent meal might be better had a week before your procedure rather than the day before!  A few days before the bowel prep, it is smart to start eating lighter and healthier than usual. Most importantly, start hydrating your body by drinking a lot of water.  The actual prep will go so much smoother if you are completely hydrated.

2.       J-E-L-L-O.  What is your favorite kind of Jello? What broths or teas suit your fancy? Do you have a favorite Gatorade flavor? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself the week before your bowel prep. Make sure to get to the grocery store and have everything in place for fasting day. Make your Jello the night before so it can set. The day before the actual procedure, patients are usually allowed a very light breakfast and then encouraged to stick to clear foods and liquids for the rest of the day.  Some patients opt to skip the light breakfast and have their last light meal the night before the prepping starts. Some doctors discourage eating or drinking items that are red or purple. Some patients have found that mixing their bowel prep with lemonade or Gatorade can help make the often gross taste that it has seem less pungent. Again, Keep drinking water!  Also, make sure not to eat or drink after midnight to prepare for the procedure the next day.

3.       Get clear directions from your doctor.  Dr. Seckin gives his patients clear pre-operative directions which includes the directions for bowel prep. If your doctors’ directions aren’t as clear, it is important to read the directions in advance of the bowel prep and ask any questions or concerns that come to mind. One question I always encourage patients to ask their doctor is, “If the assigned bowel prep isn’t working after a multiple hours, what should I do?”  Some doctors will encourage you to take another dose of the bowel prep, but it is good to know that ahead of time instead of having to call their service panicked after hours.  Some women also battle severe nausea and cannot get all of the bowel prep down. Ask your doctor what you should do if you happen to throw up some of the bowl prep.  

4.       Get where you need to go. Although every patient is different, in general, most patients spend a good amount of time in the bathroom or waiting around on the couch close to a bathroom, after drinking the prep. Even though it may take some time for the prep to kick in, it is wise to get where you will be for the night before taking it. Also, if you have small children, it may be wise to ask for help taking care of them once the prep is in full effect.  If you have a dog that needs to be walked at a certain time, ask someone to come over and help you.

5.       Little Luxuries can make a difference.  Some recommended items to buy to make the experience a little more pleasant is:  nice hand soap, a candle for the bathroom, a fun magazine or reading material for the evening, flushable wet wipes, movie rentals. Also, make sure you have enough toilet paper for the evening. It is not the time to run out!

Some patients experience uncomfortable cramping during the bowel prep. Check with your doctor before you take any medicine to ease your cramps as it may not be advised. Also a heating pad and a warm bubble bath can help reduce the stress and discomfort that the bowel prep can bring. Doing a bowel prep isn’t ideal, but it is manageable and you will be okay! For a good laugh read what comedic writer Dave Barry said about his:


  1. Thank you for your post! I think I will translate this into german if that's ok with you? Very important and not much discussed information! Nice way to write about bowel prep! Greetings from your german endosister!

  2. Had my op & bowel prep a week ago. That stuff works pretty quick and really well, so be close to a bathroom at all times, and if you're doing it at work like I had too, try and avoid getting tied up in meetings etc. You want to be able to go when you need to go! My bowel prep was a 2 part affair and by the second sachet my poor bottom was starting to hurt. So a little tip is to have soft wet ones or moistened wipes on hand for a gentler touch. All in all its not as bad as you'd think. Good luck!