What Is A Colonoscopy Like?

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I find it a little bit weird that there’s something kind of taboo about this whole thing.

It’s just a medical procedure, like anything else.

But I’ve had digestive issues for over 20 years. So I guess I’m more comfortable talking about these things than other people might be. But there’s really nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

I’m gonna tell you about my colonoscopy prep and then my colonoscopy procedure. Then I’ll talk about what I went through afterwards.

And there was a very unpleasant side effect that I wasn’t expecting. And I wasn’t warned about.

My Colonoscopy Experience

I wanted to get a bit personal and share my colonoscopy experience. This is for those of you who perhaps have an upcoming colonoscopy and are a bit wary about it. So just to give you a little bit more information and hopefully feel more comfortable about the process.

Very big WARNING here. Remember as I go through this information that I’m not a doctor.

I’m just a person sharing their experience.

Always follow the directions that you’ve been given your doctor, because procedures do vary in terms of prep. And they do vary between countries and from doctor to doctor.

What Is A Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is an examination of your large intestine and then part of your small intestine. In total for your large and small intestine, it’s about 26 feet long. And it all winds around. It’s a long way for the camera and scope to be winding its way through your body.

I can understand why people feel a little wary of this.

Colonoscopies are used to detect inflammatory bowel disease or to look for polyps that may or may not be cancerous. I’ve had IBS irritable bowel syndrome for over 20 years. And my current gastroenterologist decided that she it to rule out colitis or something more serious.

The Colonoscopy Prep

So for the week before you recommended to eat just low fiber foods, because that means that there’s less undigested fiber to be eliminated from your colon in the instructions I was given, it says one week prior to your procedure, stop eating whole grain, nuts seeds, dried fruit, and raw fruits and vegetables.

Apparently nuts and seeds can clog up the scope. Or it can make it very hard to find smaller polyps.

The Day Before The Colonoscopy

Now, the day before the procedure, I was thinking that there was a really big drama or something like that, but it’s actually just that you have to eat your meal first thing, and then you don’t get to eat anything at all after breakfast.

Cleansing Of The Colon

The actual cleansing of the colon with the pills and with the solution doesn’t come until later on in the day. So you still have your day where you can kind of do everything normally. And it’s not until the evening where you need to stay close to the toilet.

And after breakfast on that day, I could only have just some clear fluids. Tea and coffee is totally fine. I had mostly tea. You just can’t have dairy products in there. I think it’s something to do with how they coat the inside of the colon. So you’re not supposed to have any dairy products. I just had my tea without any milk inside of it.

And then in the afternoon, you kind of start that process. So at 3:00 PM, you take all three Bisacodyl tablets that came with the kit. So this is the kit of the Bi-Peglyte that I was given. And inside were the pills that I took then in the evening at 7:00 PM drink 250 mills of Bi-Peglyte every 10 to 15 minutes over an hour until one liter of solution is finished.

The Prep Solution

Now we come to the prep solution. The combination of the pills and the liquid helps clear out your colon. It’s a laxative and it’s trying to get everything out of your colon. So I’ve got my Bi-Peglyte here and a couple of containers of water. It’s about a liter. Now I’m gonna take this out.

One sachet goes into each. I’m gonna mix it up really quickly. And the same thing with the other sachet. I’m just mixing up now to make sure that it’s clear. Now I’m gonna cover these up and I’m gonna put them in the fridge.

The Taste Of The Prep Solution

There are all sorts of horror stories about the taste of this solution. A lot of people say it’s very salty and it makes them retch, or it makes them nauseous.

I don’t know if it’s the flavor of this one or this particular brand. I have heard that solutions have become better tasting over the years. So this one for me had a fruit flavor and it was actually really pleasant. That was surprising. I was kind of enjoying it actually, because I wasn’t eating anything. The fruit flavour was actually quite refreshing.

And once you’ve had a litre of that solution taken gradually, then you wanna drink an additional litre of water as well. It says to expect multiple bowel movements, sometimes immediately and sometimes after a few hours. So for me about an hour afterwards, I started to notice that sensation and that I had to spend some time in the bathroom.

The Evening Before The Colonoscopy

The evening before your colonoscopy, it’s good to be near a toilet. I didn’t find it as urgent as some people are saying. Like I always had time to get to the bathroom. And I was there multiple times. But then, and I also expected perhaps something much worse and often that’s the thing. We get these things into our heads that it’s gonna be really, really bad.

And then when you actually get to that situation, it’s not so bad at all.

The Day Of The Colonoscopy

Now we come to the day of the colonoscopy. On the morning of the colonoscopy, I had to drink another litre of the solution and some more water spent some more time in the bathroom. My colonoscopy wasn’t scheduled until 2:30 in the afternoon. And at that point I and eaten since the morning before. So for me, that’s a long period of time, but you are drinking this solution.

So it kind of keeps you full anyway. And then you’re drinking a lot of water to try to flush everything out.

I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I would be. Although I definitely had plans for what I was gonna eat afterwards.

Colonoscopy Without Sedation

I had originally planned to have my colonoscopy entirely without sedation. Part of that is just because I’m always wary of potential side effects from sedation and from other things. So I’m just like the less medication I take, the better I gave birth to my son without medication. So I had a very long and painful labor. I didn’t want anything else that could make me feel off.

I’ve also done an endoscopy, which is a scope of the upper part of the digestive tract into the stomach. And that was quite unpleasant, but at least it was fairly short. It’s only about 10 or 15 minutes.

Sedation Or Not?

Sedation is used for more than 90% of colonoscopies in Canada.

So it means that some people choose to do it without, and it is possible for some people. It depends a bit on your anatomy. For males, it’s typically a little bit easier just because of the way things are structured down there.

I did the majority of the colonoscopy without any sedation. So I could feel the camera going in and then the doctor’s pumping air in there. Everything became very bloated at a certain point. It became intensely crampy and I started to feel kind of ill.

I told the doctor that a little bit of sedation might be a good idea at this stage. She had the nurse give me a small amount of sedation. I also got oxygen, which is used to prevent hypoxia during sedation procedures. Those are prongs that are put into your nose.

Nasal Symptoms

I was wearing the procedure mask on top of my N95 mask and they slipped the oxygen underneath. It was very intense. I could feel like the coldness of the oxygen being pumped into my nose. And this was actually responsible for the unusual side effect that I had from this procedure, which I’m gonna tell you about in a second.

The Colonoscopy Procedure

The entire colonoscopy procedure took about 30 to 40 minutes. It all depends on your anatomy and your doctor as well. I was told that I have a loopy colon. That means that it’s really kind of windy in and out and that makes it very awkward for the doctor. And it was the reason that it was intensely crampy and unpleasant.

Colonoscopy With Sedation

For those of you, which is most of you who are doing this procedure under sedation, you’re pretty much going to get wheeled in and then you’re gonna get wheeled out. And you’re gonna wake up and you’re just gonna be a bit woozy.

That’s what I’ve been told.

There’s nothing that you need to worry about in terms of sensations, because you’re probably not gonna feel anything at all.

After The Colonoscopy

After the procedure, I was definitely really bloated and gassy. That’s from the air that they pump into the colon. So I grabbed a croissant and  matcha smoothie afterwards from the stores that were outside the clinic. I was waiting for my husband and my son to come pick me up in the car. And I sneezed a few times.

Then when I got in the car, I started sneezing some more and I started to feel like my nasal passages were quite irritated, which is really strange. Because we’ve been wearing masks, I haven’t had a cold for over two years now. So that sensation was pretty foreign. And I knew that it was unlikely that I had a cold, especially since this happened immediately after the procedure.

Sneezing After Colonoscopy

So of course I run to Google and type in sneezing after a colonoscopy. And yes, it’s a thing it’s not particularly common.

Only about 3% of patients experience these symptoms, the sneezing, the irritation (rhinitis).

So that inflammation of the nasal passages after having oxygen and sedation during colonoscopy.

Everything else was actually quite fine. I didn’t feel anything too bad from the colonoscopy, but I did have nasal irritation for a few days. After a couple of days of very intense nasal symptoms, it felt like a very bad sinus cold.

So I just picked up some Flonase. I’ve got that here. The medication is often used for allergies. I used to use it for my allergies many years ago and it just helps reduce the inflammation. So it took almost a week for my nasal passages to fully recover from my colonoscopy. But everything else I think was quite fine.

After The Colonoscopy

I wasn’t given any instructions for what I was supposed to eat after the colonoscopy.

My doctor just said, “Just don’t have like a huge pizza.”

So don’t have anything huge or something that’s gonna upset your stomach and then your digestive system, as it passes through. If you just start to eat tons of whole grains and fruits and vegetables straight away, it’s just going to create a lot of bloating. You might still be bloated afterwards.

So I kept my fiber intake fairly low for the next few days. And then a week later I was completely back to normal making sure that I was getting my regular fiber.

Discharge After The Procedure

Because I’d only had a very small amount of sedative, I was discharged immediately. If you have sedation where you’re sleeping, then you’re probably gonna have to wait a little bit afterwards for some of the anesthetic to wear off. Otherwise you’re gonna be very woozy and you do generally have to have someone to pick you up.

Even if you have a small amount of sedation. Just check all of those details with the doctor who’s performing your colonoscopy.

The Challenge

I think the biggest challenge of the colonoscopy is that you kind of have to do some stuff before and then maybe a little bit afterwards. So it is a bit more of a commitment. So it can be in that way kind of unpleasant.

Why Getting Checked Is Important

But if you are due for a colonoscopy, for some reason, it can be life saving. They may detect something that they can get rid of and then it can save your life.

It’s really important for you to have the procedure, if it’s been recommended for you. I read somewhere that younger men are more likely to get colonoscopies now for screening purposes, since the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer.

So hopefully the message is getting out.

Get a colonoscopy (because of your family history or because you have other symptoms), if you’ve been advised to get one. Just know that other people have been through this and it’s not as bad as a lot of people make it out to be. Please hit the like button.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 7-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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