Your gastroenterologist (aka the wizard who will perform your colonoscopy) will likely tell you that three to five days before C-Day, you should start eating a low-fiber diet.
That includes all the stuff your guilty conscience will usually curse you for eating: McDonald’s-type junk food, coffee, white bread, white rice, white potatoes, frosted cornflakes, puffed rice cereal, mushy baby carrots from the can, diced peaches in heavy syrup, chicken fingers, fish sticks.
Anything even remotely healthy-looking is strictly prohibited. No nuts, seeds, fresh fruit or veggies with skin, no leafy greens, no legumes, no squash.
YAY! To someone who smuggles wrapped chocolates out of the kitchen cupboard in her wallet, that sounded like paradise.
Who hasn’t dreamed of indulging in junk food—just like the doctor ordered?
However, the reality was quite different. On the second day, the low-fiber foods started making me constipated. Me, a woman who used to brag that “I’m like a dog. I eat and twenty minutes later, I go.”
My low-fiber diet took care of that. Which freaked me out because I had thought the dreaded Prep Day—also known as “T-Day” (for Torture), “24 Hours of Hell,” and “Never Again”—would be a breeze for a loose woman like me.
I do understand why they want you to eat a low-fiber diet—so they won’t mistake that pumpkin seed or arugula stem for terminal cancer. But in terms of emptying your colon, it’s the least crappy diet you could probably come up with, and in this case, that's a bad thing.
So make sure you drink enough liquids during those low-fiber days to get your bowels moving.
2. Prep Day can be pretty easy-going if you do it right.
Prep Day is bowel-flushing day, so you’re not allowed any solid foods… plus, you will have to imbibe a terrible-tasting liquid named GoLytely or NuLytely (henceforth referred to as Goop) that will make your bowels do an impression of the Freefall slide at the waterpark.
I heard the most horrendous things about Prep Day—for example, that it’s worse than the colonoscopy itself. (That’s actually true, considering that I don’t remember the colonoscopy at all. One second, I was talking to the nurse, the next I woke up and they said it was all over.)
However, Prep Day doesn’t have to be the nightmare it’s rumored to be when you stick to the tips and tricks I’m listing here. Some of them I found in my extensive online research, others I just happened to discover myself.
3. Do not mix the Goop with your favorite beverage.
My gastroenterologist’s office—as well as several online sources—recommended to mix the Goop powder with yellow Gatorade.
Now, I happen to dislike Gatorade, so I figured if the Goop was so yucky, maybe I should mix it with something better-tasting.
I’m glad I listened to my neighbor, who strongly urged me to reconsider. “You’ll never be able to enjoy your favorite drink again,” she warned, “it’ll always remind you of the Goop. You’re better off sticking with the Gatorade.”
And oh, how right she was. Unthinkable if I had mixed the Goop with ginger ale or lemonade. So fortunately, all that happened was that I now dislike Gatorade even more.
That being said, I found all the horror stories about the Goop’s taste to be vastly exaggerated.
Granted, I’m probably not as finicky as some other people when it comes to disgusting beverages. When I was sick as a kid, my mother forced me to drink “Irish Moss” tea—a bitter, revolting concoction that tasted like a mix of filtered mud, moldy leaves, and regurgitated bile.
My mom insisted that the tea would strengthen my immune system. I don’t know if that’s true, but it did cure me amazingly fast. Mostly because I’d rather have gone to school with a debilitating cough and a 103-degree fever than drink one more cup of that hellish brew.
So when I took my first tentative sip of the GoLytely-Gatorade mix, it wasn’t so bad, really. It had a weird, slightly bitter aftertaste, but you could just pretend there was gin in it. Round-the-clock happy hour, kind of.
I think the real problem is not the taste, but the fact that you have to down a gallon of the stuff in a relatively short time. But there’s a remedy for that too.
4. Drink half of the Goop on Prep Day and half on C-day.
I read online that many doctor’s offices tell you to drink the whole gallon of Goop in one day, which seems exceptionally cruel to me.
My gastroenterologist’s office advised to take four pills of a laxative they’d prescribed, then drink half a gallon of Goop on Prep Day in the late afternoon and half a gallon on C-Day in the morning.
The pills caused quite a bit of cramping and already did a good job of cleaning me out, so when Goop time came around, it wasn’t all that bad.
Here’s a psychological trick: The gallon jug the Goop powder comes in looks pretty intimidating, so what I did was add the two bottles of yellow (not red, orange, or purple!) Gatorade, shake it up, and then refill the two bottles with the mix.
That way, I ended up with a much smaller per-day amount. It’s a lot easier to envision drinking one medium-sized bottle of Gatorade than a gallon jug of Goop.
Make sure the Goop mix is well refrigerated—you'll thank me later. A warning, though: if you have family members who like refreshments, you might want to label the bottles in the fridge with a skull and cross bones.
5. Pretend your bathroom is a spa.
As some online prepper said, don’t think you can hang out in the living room and watch TV and every once in a while move into the bathroom for some poopin’.
The poopin’ will be going on pretty much the whole time. That means you’re in it (“it” being the bathroom) for the long haul.
Before you start taking those laxative pills and/or drinking the Goop, make sure you have everything you need with you, ideally at arm’s length.
For my Prep Day, I propped my laptop up on the lid of our antiquated laundry chute and binge-watched old House of Cards episodes. I also kept a book and my Kindle nearby for more variety.
A big Styrofoam cooler with ice and drinks stood right next to me in easy reach. I alternated drinking Goop and other beverages to get the taste out of mouth and stay well hydrated.
By the way, if you’re looking for a great, non-nauseating drink for Prep Day: white grape juice mixed with plain seltzer water is great. It provides calories, keeps your blood sugar levels up, and feels refreshing. Drinking plain water all day is not advisable.
Make sure you drink enough. The Goopin’ and poopin’ will actually dehydrate you, so there’s a good chance that you’ll develop a major headache if you don’t get at least half a gallon of other fluids into your body.
6. Have some soup on Prep Day.
You’re going to crave warm, savory foods after a while, so your GE office will probably tell you to drink some broth.
However, I found that broth is rather tasteless and a little yucky—and there’s already an oversupply of “yucky” on Prep Day.
So instead of broth, I bought Campbell’s organic chicken noodle soup (which comes in a box, not a can). I warmed it up on the stove around noon on Prep Day--before I took the laxatives!—and filtered it through a sieve to remove all the solids.
It tasted a hundred times better than plain broth and really got me through the day. Highly recommended.
7. You can have hard candy and gummi bears.
Get yourself some hard candy, but it can’t have a soft center. Lifesavers literally became that for me during the long hours of Goop chugging.
If you’re not used to fasting, you can get pretty desperate for something to chew on after a day of juice, broth, and Goop.
Gummi bears apparently dissolve in your stomach to a clear liquid, so they won’t ruin your colonoscopy. And it will feel like heaven to have something you can sink your teeth into.
But beware: with candy as well as bears, you need to stick to the green, white, and yellow ones. No red, orange, or purple allowed because the dye can look like blood to the camera and falsify the results of the colonoscopy.
8. Drink the Goop from a measuring cup.
The GE office’s instructions told me to drink eight ounces of Goop every 10-15 minutes.
Instead of using a drinking glass, I poured the cold mixture into a glass measuring cup up to the 8 oz mark. It helped me see how much I was drinking and somehow made the portions look smaller and more manageable.
Anything that helps you minimize the task at hand (at least in your mind) is a good thing.
9. Take a pinch of salt every once in a while.
REAL salt or Himalayan pink salt are the best types to use. A tiny pinch of salt, followed by a sip of juice, helps with the nausea and keeps your electrolytes up.
10. Keep some Desitin at hand.
Like, close at hand. Turns out that crapping explosively for hours and hours leaves your bottom in pretty rough shape—not unlike beef that was repeatedly stabbed with a meat tenderizer.
In case you’re not a parent, Desitin is a zinc oxide-based diaper rash cream. It not only moisturizes but also lightly numbs your hurting nether zones. Get a decent-size tub; you’ll need it.
11. Stay warm.
Somehow, emptying your bowels violently and repeatedly can give you the chills and make you feel like you’re coming down with a cold.
Also, remember that sitting on the toilet for an extended amount of time, your legs will be uncovered the whole time. So dress warmly in a few layers (a tank top + long-sleeve T-shirt + warm hoodie worked for me), and spread a warm blanket over your legs.
12. Adjust the Goop launch time to your bedtime.
My GE office told me to take the laxative pills at 2:00 PM and start on the Goop at 6:00 PM.
However, that would have put my bedtime at midnight. I usually go to bed at 10:00 PM. I didn’t look forward to being both exhausted and sleep-deprived, so I started the pills at noon and the Goop at 4:00 PM instead, which worked out perfectly.
13. Know when enough is enough.
The goal is to get your colonic output to a clear yellowish liquid (yellow from the Gatorade) without any chunks or mush.
One caveat: even when you get to that point on Prep Day, by the next morning there might be some solids in your stool again.
However, by the time I had achieved the desired result on C-Day, I stopped drinking the Goop. There were still 8-10 ounces left in the bottle, but I felt slightly sick and thought I’d done my duty… and the outcome was just fine.
Make sure to still drink other fluids to keep hydrated—but stop drinking altogether two hours before your colonoscopy appointment.
If you follow the above tips, there’s a good chance you’ll make it through Prep Day and C-Day without any major trauma. Good luck!