Preparing for a colonoscopy is no fun task—especially if you want to do it holistically or you follow a Paleo or Autoimmune Protocol (AIP diet).
If you’re wondering “what to eat” or what to expect the day before a colonoscopy (and how to survive with a holistic colonoscopy prep), here’s all you need to know.
Standard Colonoscopy Prep Instructions
In the big scheme of things, colonoscopy prep and procedure really only involves about 48-hours of your time.
In order for the doctor to be able to fully see clearly into your colon with the scope, all needs to be clear, which means:
- Fasting for about 24 hours prior to the colonoscopy
- Ingesting a large amount of special “poo juice” (i.e. stool softeners and laxative)
- And making friends with the toilet for the latter part of the day
Some doctors will suggest you eat a softer foods diet at least 3 days prior to the appointment in order to make things easier to pass and this can be helpful, but may not be 100% necessary to do.
Unfortunately, however, colonoscopy prep ALSO typically includes some non-holistic rituals that can make one who is used to eating a real food, Paleo or AIP-based diet think twice.
Additional (Non-Paleo Friendly) Colonoscopy Prep Recommendations
Non holisitc colonoscopy prep instructions the day before your exam may include:
- Drinking Gatorade and Propel to re-hydrate with electrolytes
- Sucking on sugary popsicles and candies
- Eating Jell-O
- Drinking Kool-Aid and sodas
In other words: Starve.
You Can Do Anything for a Day
True, your fasting colonoscopy prep diet is really ONLY for a day (you can do anything for a day—even buck your usual “norm”!), but, if you’re NOT used to blood sugar rushes, food dyes and artificial sweeteners, even one day of these things can feel long and agonizing.
If anything, the MAIN objective of your colonoscopy prep is ONE thing:
- Stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes in balance.
—Which is EXACTLY where I personally went wrong. I’ll briefly share with you what I did “wrong” during my Colonoscopy Prep—and how it went down—then give you a play-by-play of steps to take and what to eat in order to have an amazingly easy Colonoscopy.
My Colonoscopy Prep Gone Wrong: What NOT to Do
Long story short: My colonoscopy prep went south QUICKLY because I missed ONE step—I failed to ingest ENOUGH electrolytes during the day!
The result? A midnight trip to the local Emergency Room where I spent 3 hours with my body in “shock” from dehydration as the ER staff nourished my electrolytes back to balance with an IV pump.
I’ll admit, when I saw the words “Gatorade” + “Miralax” as part of my colonoscopy prep, I did not think TWICE about substituting out water for the Gatorade.
I don’t remember the last time I drank Gatorade.
However, looking back on it, I understand WHY the docs prescribe the artificially sweetened beverage—electrolytes.
Your body loses a TON of water, sodium and potassium during the Prep do to all the poo you will be doing. If you DON’T have enough of these minerals, then you can bet your bottom dollar that your body will be in shock!
I Went into Shock
Somehow, I managed to make it the whole day, just fine, no real difficulties, minus hating going #2 every 45-60 minutes near the later hours of the day.
However, come 10 pm as I laid my head down on my pillow to rest, it all of a sudden hit me:
- Lightheaded and dizzy
- Cold sweat on my brow
- Heart beating faster
- Shortness of breath
I thought I was having a “low blood sugar” dip from not eating all day, so I raced downstairs to try to get some last minute nourishment in before I was restricted from all liquids at midnight for am 7 am procedure.
Ten-minutes later, I began walking back up the stairs to climb back in bed, and the next thing I knew, I knocked on the door to my mom’s room who was in town to help me out, saying, “Mom, I don’t feel well…” and…
Passing out. On the floor.
To say the least, the event was very traumatic, as I began shaking and convulsing on the floor.
“Lauryn! Lauryn!” my mom cried, and the next thing I knew, the paramedics and ambulance was there to “save the day.”
The prognosis? Severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
I was rushed to the ER where I was “rehydrated” and nourished with IV fluids, while hunger pains and lightheadedness still continued (I couldn’t wait to eat) and I was encouraged to stick out the procedure—only a few more hours to go.
I managed to “make it through,” find out some much-needed information about my own gut health that’s been awry for a LONG TIME —and decide I don’t want to go through that for a LONG TIME.
However, looking back on it all, had I followed the following advice I am about to give you here, I would have been just fine!
The Moral of the Story
In short: Bring on the coconut water, sea salt and Ultima powder! (hydration and electrolytes)
The good news? Yup, you (or I) don’t have to turn to just Gatorade to get these electrolytes.
Don’t let my colonoscopy prep story scare you, but INSTEAD use it to encourage you in HOW to prep for your colonoscopy holistically—especially if you are looking for a Paleo or AIP-friendly approach to doing so.
Holistic Colonoscopy Prep in 3 Steps—Paleo & AIP Friendly
Step 1: Begin Eating Easy-to-Digest Foods 1-3 Days Before Your Prep Day
This step is not ESSENTIAL, but most folks don’t complain when they DO eat with “easy digestion” in mind 1-3 days leading up to the Colonoscopy Prep Day.
Essentially, this means, avoiding some harder to digest foods like:
- Nuts & Seeds
- Raw Veggies & Raw Fruits
- Breads, Crusts, Crackers & other Grains/Glutenous Foods
- Pork (slower digesting protein)
Aim to eat:
- Bananas, cooked apples or pears/apple sauce
- Cooked, sautéed and steamed veggies (cauliflower mash, steamed broccoli, sautéed greens, etc.)
- Starchy tubers (cooked and cooled)
- Shredded and flaky meats and fish
- Pastured eggs (if you tolerate eggs)
- Healthy fats (avocados, ghee, butter, coconut butter, etc.)
Some directions will tell you to “AVOID” meats, coconut, avocado and leafy greens, but I found by prepping these well, I had no issues personally with keeping to my usual diet.
Step 2: Stock Up on These Goods & Prep Any Foods You Need
Hit the store a day or two before your prep to ensure you’ve got the goods you need.
- Coconut Water
- Vital Proteins Collagen Protein or Equip Protein Powder
- Cold Pressed Green Juice
- Ultima Lemon Electrolyte Powder
- Bone Broth
- Gelatin & Fresh-Squeezed Juice (NO red, blue or purple)—to make “Jell-O” or popsicles
- Sea Salt (add liberally to your broths and juices)
Foods you love for your Post-Colonoscopy meals since you’ll be taking it easy that day. Some ideas:
- Green Smoothie: Coconut Milk, 1/2 Banana, 1 Scoop Protein, Greens, 1/2 Avocado
- Shredded Chicken, Sweet Potato, Greens, Coconut Butter
- Canned Wild Salmon, White Sweet Potato with Ghee, Asparagus
- Ground Turkey (sausage), Butternut Hash, Steamed Broccoli
- Pastured Eggs (scrambled), Mushrooms, Avocado, Spaghetti Squash
- Meatloaf Muffin, Cauliflower Mash
- AIP Pumpkin Muffin with Coconut Butter, Chicken Apple Sausage
- Chicken & Veggie Bone Broth Soup
After your grocery run, take an hour or so to prep a few goodies to have on hand for your “Prep Day.” Here are some ideas:
Holistic Recipes for Colonoscopy Prep Day
- Easy Paleo Jell-O by Wellness Mama
- Homemade Popsicles-AIP, Paleo
- Bone Broth Soup by Phoenix Helix
- Green Juice by Stupid Easy Paleo
Step 3: Eat & Drink THIS on Colonoscopy Prep Day
Technically, you are told to stick to liquids only on prep day. In my personal experience however, I ate my typical breakfast of turkey sausage, avocado, pan fried greens and roasted carrots before 9 a.m. on my prep day—and am glad I did because I don’t think I would have made it.
The good thing? I was fully clear by that time and prepped for my 7:00 am procedure.
Here’s a sample idea of what to eat in the 24-hours leading up to the procedure.
8:30 a.m, (20-24 hours before): Eat a balanced real-foods meal
12 p.m,: 8-12 oz. Coconut Water or Lite Coconut Milk with Collagen/Protein Powder; Green Juice
Prep: Take Ducolax Tablets
1 p.m.: Begin Miralax Prep in Water with Ultima Powder. Drink 8 oz. of the prepared prep
mixture every 15 minutes for a total of 32 oz. (HALF OF PREP MIXTURE). Add a pinch of sea salt to your mix.
3 p.m.: 16-20 oz. Bone Broth with Collagen & Sea Salt, Gelatin “Jell-O” or Popsicles (made with Green Juice)
4 p.m.: Take 2 Ducolax Tablets with some Coconut Water & Sea Salt
5 p.m. Prep #2: Drink 8 oz. of the prepared prep mixture in Ultima every 15 minutes until the last 32 oz. are finished. Add a pinch of Sea Salt to your mix.
6 or 7 p.m.: 16-20 oz. Bone Broth with Collagen & Sea Salt, “Jell-O” or Popsicles
9:30 or 10 p.m.:Ultima Powder in Water or more Jell-O or Bone Broth if “hungry”
Aim to “eat” every 2-3 hours, and drink liquids with electrolytes throughout the day. You will be “liquid full,” but to keep hunger at bay, incorporate collagen and protein via broth or powder in the day.
Bonus: Day of the Colonoscopy
You can’t eat or drink anything (except maybe suck on some ice chips), the day OF the colonoscopy (at least 2-4 hours before the procedure) so your food doesn’t mess with the anesthesia.
That said, I KNEW I was pretty hungry going into my colonoscopy, so went ahead an prepared my post-procedure meal—one of my faves:
- Ground Turkey Patty with smashed Avocado
- Roasted Rainbow Carrots
- Pan-Sauteed Greens in Coconut Oil
—My doc said I could go back to eating regular foods as tolerated, and I was able to tolerate this just fine.
As a back up, I kept a Banana with Coconut Butter, Green Juice and simple Beef Isolate Protein Powder to mix up on hand IN CASE I couldn’t stomach food…but I was golden (and never as happy to eat again as I was after everything was said and done).
Before you know it, your colonoscopy will come and go, and you’ll be back to your norm—doing what you love to do.
My GREATEST colonoscopy “mishap” was NOT drinking enough electrolytes during the day (since I thought water could replace Gatorade). Had I ensured I got my electrolytes in through coconut water and more holistic powders (like Ultima), I believe my experience would have been a breeze!
After the procedure, I slept for about 2-3 hours on the couch at home after eating—so thankful to be well-fed—and then popped up, ready to start the day!
While I did take the day off from my usual routine (driving, gym, etc.), I did go to town with spring cleaning my apartment, stretching at home with my own yoga practice and working on my latest book outside in the beautiful spring sunshine.
You will be JUST FINE and live to tell about it…just don’t forget to hydrate 🙂