Thursday, April 10, 2014

Vegan Colonoscopy Prep

I haven't blogged in ages, but I felt that having my first colonoscopy warranted a post. I've been suffering from some mysterious ailment lately and my doctors have been using the process of elimination to try and determine what's making me feel like I've been hit by a bus. And so, I ended up being scheduled for a colonoscopy.

There are three parts of the colonoscopy process - the prep, the actual procedure, and the recovery. Let's start by talking about the prep.

I was given a sheet of very unhelpful instructions from my doctor regarding what I could and couldn't eat in the days leading up to my procedure. I found this colonoscopy guide from UCLA to be much more helpful. (or frightening, based on your perspective) For two weeks before the procedure you need to avoid things like sesame and caraway seeds because those little suckers take longer to pass through your intestines apparently. Too bad my appointment was scheduled merely a couple days after I'd eaten some sesame seed laden noodles. Oops. (it wasn't my fault! I can't help that they wanted to get me in ASAP) A few days before your colonoscopy, you're supposed to go easy on raw fruits and vegetables, fiber, meat, and dairy. As a vegan, the meat and dairy part was easy. The fiber was more difficult. Again...oops.

I decided to do a one day juice cleanse 2 days before my colonoscopy. Juice cleanses always make me feel better anyway, and I wanted to have less in my system to have to flush out on my actual colonoscopy prep day. Juicing is easy peasy for me.

What wasn't easy was the actual colonoscopy prep. As my handy dandy UCLA guide told me, I needed to have a clear liquid diet the day before my procedure. Clear is defined as clear enough that you can read a newspaper through the liquid. So that eliminated things like green juice, miso soup, and a lot of the other things I'd planned on eating. To prevent dehydration and increased misery, I drank lots and lots of apple juice and vegetable broth. I could have had a "sports drink" but I don't like those things to begin with. I also had a lot of electrolyte water. This kept me fairly satisfied.  Until the real prep began.

At 4 pm the day before my procedure I was told to take a 6 ounce bottle of Suprep (filled by prescription at my local CVS) and mix it with 10 ounces of water. If you're not familiar with Suprep, it's a ridiculously strong liquid laxative. (Fun, right?) With a happy little name like Suprep, you'd expect the liquid to be kind of mediciney, but not terrible. However, it tasted like liquid death.

Suprep tastes like cold medicine mixed with metal mixed with melted plastic. It's awful. I'd read online that drinking this terrible stuff was easier with a straw so I gave that a shot. It did make it a little easier, but I can tell you that it was so awful tasting that the liquid kept trying to make its way back up. Ugh.

After choking that 16 ounces of awfulness down, you have to drink 2 more 16 ounce glasses of water in an hour. Chug a lug. That part wasn't so bad, actually. I had to chase every sip of the Suprep mixture with water, so that got me through 16 ounces right away. And then to get the taste out of my mouth, I had 16 more.

This is where the fun part begins. For me, the gurgling in my stomach didn't start for about an hour. But once it did...look out! I won't tell you how much time I spent in the bathroom, but I can tell you that Suprep does an amazing job of cleaning out your insides. If you, yourself, are going through this process, I highly recommend buying baby wipes, vaseline, and maybe even some diaper rash cream. I didn't think I'd need it...but I did.

Fortunately for me, my evening prep wasn't all that terrible because I'm a vegan and had juiced the day before. Some people spend all night on the porcelain throne. I made a few trips there, was nothing worse than what you'd experience if you had food poisoning or the flu.

A went to bed afraid that the party in my stomach would never stop, but it did. At 7 am I had to take yet another bottle of suprep with water and repeat that whole process. Somehow it was better the second time around. Taste-wise and physically. I was able to leave my house and go to Whole Foods to pick up some cashew milk for after the procedure without having to worry about running to a restroom.

My procedure was scheduled for noon, so my mom and I got in the car and went to the outpatient facility. Honestly, I was more nervous about the sedation than the actual procedure. And both were less awful than I expected. My very nice nurse put my IV in my arm (not my hand, which is the preferred and more painful method) and stated me on some fluids while I waited to be taken into the exam room. Shortly after I was whisked into an exam room, given some drugs to sedate me (I was awake the whole time but felt nothing, thank goodness), and off the doctor went exploring my insides. The drugs I was given made me chatty and a little confused. I was in front of a monitor where I could see my insides and I asked to change to a better tv channel. D'oh! In about 10 minutes she was all done and I was wheeled back to a recovery area. (This facility was like a colonoscopy factory, honestly. Oil changes for my car have taken longer.) Friends had told me they said some whacked out things when they came out of the exam room, but alas, since I was pretty much awake I was just chattier than normal.

Afterwards I was super thirsty initially and then super tired. Once I got home, I ate some fried rice from Bowl of Pho and then crashed for hours and hours. And after I woke up again, I peeled my contacts of of my eyes and went right back to sleep.

The next day I felt completely normal and got a call letting me know my insides were also normal, which was a relief. It's kind of funny to get a voicemail telling you to schedule your next colonoscopy appointment in 17 years.

Stay tuned for more adventures in mystery ailment diagnosis.


  1. Thanks very much for posting this. I'm getting ready for my first colonoscopy & reading about your experience has really helped to know what to expect. Glad to hear your results were good & I hope you're feeling better now.

  2. Thanks you sooooo very much for your blog. Helped my out tons as I get ready to schedule my first colonoscopy.

  3. opps just noticed the typos! ugh

  4. I'm in Canada, and we have something called Pico-Salax - the cranberry flavor is vegan. Tastes amazing and works well!

  5. Thank you very much for this post. I am vegan and I will be having my colonoscopy tomorrow. I just drank my first dose of Pico-Salax (I am in Canada too) so wish me luck. I am nervous about the whole thing. I enjoyed this post. It kindda help me. I so not feel like the only vegan going through this procedure LOL Thanx!

  6. Thank you so much for this! I was getting nervous and unsure of whether or not I could have vegetable broth. Have the same anxiety about the anesthesia. Great post! I feel more at ease now. Thank you.

  7. thank you, also- i too am scheduled for my colonoscopy this thursday. juicing apples all day tomorrow, veg broth maybe for the evening and wednesday... this really has eased my mind! mostly, im excited about the part you posted how the prep really cleans out your innards... that is the main reason for the procedure, which has been years and years coming... wish me luck! :)

  8. Replies
    1. Google 'colonoscopy guide from UCLA' it'll come up in the results with a PDF.

  9. Gastroenterology is a medical specialty that deals with the digestive system and its disorders. gastroenterology

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