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How bad is the prep for a colonoscopy?

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Quick Answer

Some people complain about the side effects of the prescription laxative administered the night before and/or the morning of the procedure, and the diet restrictions for the days leading to the procedure can also be aggravating. The benefits of cancer prevention and detection make it worthwhile, states Harvard Medical School.

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For a colonoscopy to provide the doctor with an accurate view of the entire bowel, it's important to eliminate as many solid particles as possible. During the day before the procedure, no solid foods are allowed. Instead, patients only ingest clear juices, sodas and broths as well as clear liquid foods such as Jell-O and popsicles. Even a few days beforehand, individuals remove fiber from the diet in order to speed up the process of digestion, states Harvard Medical School.

The prescription laxatives have a number of different side effects that make them particularly unpleasant. Polyethylene glycol, sold as Colyte, Miralax and some other brands, has a salty taste and requires the consumption of a full gallon. This volume of fluid can lead to cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Oral sodium phosphate works differently, pulling water into the gastrointestinal tract. However, this can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances as well as kidney damage. Oral sodium phosphate also comes in tablet form, but tablets still have the same side effects, according to Harvard Medical School.

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