A Survival Guide to Bowel Preps

Woman on the toilet
I just love bowel preps!Said nobody ever

The purpose of the pre-operative bowel preparation is to cleanse your intestinal tract so that it can be safely operated on. While this process is unpleasant to endure it is absolutely necessary in minimizing the risk of complications during bowel surgery.

There are several bowel preparations on the market. Some involve drinking large volumes of laxative drink while others combine a single laxative drink with an enema solution or oral tablets. The prep may be combined with a low fiber diet during the days that precede it, and on the day of the prep (the day before surgery) you will be required to follow a strict diet of clear liquids only. Whichever method you are given, be sure to follow all instructions carefully.

  • Eat lightly the days prior to the prep. This should make cleansing your intestines a little easier.
  • Some patients find the prep drink difficult to palate because of the unpleasant taste. Allowing it to cool in the fridge or packing it in ice in the sink may make the drink that little bit more palatable.
  • To get the unpleasant taste out of your mouth, follow-up the prep drink with something pleasant tasting such as broth, a hard boiled sweet, or chewing gum (but be sure to keep to the dietary instructions provided by your physician).
  • Drinking the prep through a straw can help reduce contact with your taste buds as the liquid passes through your mouth.
  • If you feel nauseous try alternating between a pleasant tasting liquid, such as broth, clear fruit juice, and ginger ale, and the prep. Ginger is good against nausea. Either sipping ginger ale or sucking on boiled ginger candy may help. Another trick is to compensate and counteract the unpleasant taste with something pleasant smelling, such as scented candles or a handkerchief sprayed with your favorite perfume. Lavender scents are good against nausea and can help boost pain tolerance (such as intestinal cramps).
  • Be sure to remain hydrated during the prep. Drink plenty of clear fluids throughout.
  • Once the cleansing process begins, use wet wipes instead of regular toilet paper and apply topical non-prescription hemorrhoid cream, which contains a local anesthetic and will numb the area. This will help prevent soreness and discomfort.
  • Once the prep begins to take effect you may start to experience intestinal cramping. Applying a heat pad or ice pack may help sooth this pain.
  • Provide yourself with pleasant distractions – reading materials, puzzles etc. to tide you over during the prep.
  • Lastly, remind yourself that many have gone before you and that this is the last hurdle before a surgery that will hopefully provide you with ongoing relief from your pain. You can do it!
Remember, this is the last hurdle before a surgery that will hopefully provide you with ongoing relief from your pain. You can do it!


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