Alternative Colonoscopy Prep

My name is Alisa Rowland and I am proud to be contributing to this amazing site. I have been living with active, chronic Ulcerative Colitis for twelve years, diagnosed at 22. One Great Gut founder and creative genius, Joel, previously organized a support group in my local area that I attended.
It was the first time I was plugged into a community with other IBD’ers and it was a life-changing experience. For many (too many) years, I lived with my UC in a cone of silence and didn’t talk much about it to even my closest family members and friends. Being part of a supportive group enabled me to feel empowered to tell my story. I now write semi-regularly at my own blog site (Tiny Little Ulcers) and it’s both therapeutic and (hopefully) enlightening for my social circles to know what’s going on with me and my colon.
Joel invited me to share my colonoscopy prep with you all, and how could I resist such an amazing person and such a clear call? 

I could not, obviously.

Typically when someone, anyone, talks about a colonoscopy, all you hear is, “ugh, the prep is the WORST!” or “that stuff is disgusting!”. As someone with UC, I balked at the idea of ingesting something that induces diarrhea and cramping….you know, since I was living with that daily (I was in a major flare when I had my colonoscopy). It seemed very counter-intuitive to me to make my symptoms worse just to get a look inside my colon. I took it upon myself to do something different, and luckily it worked. Which brings me to my hippie alternative colonoscopy prep. I hope it helps you or a loved one in the future!!

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A few very important notes before we begin:

1) I am not a doctor.  Please do not take any of this information as a prescription.  I am simply sharing what I did.  I will say that it did in fact work: the colonoscopy went well and without any medical fallout’s.  But I can’t just go around telling you what to do with your body either.  I’m just saying what worked for me.

2) This didn’t happen overnight.  I’ve been living a very “clean” lifestyle eating mostly fruits, vegetables and whole grains, practicing yoga, doing a lot of self-reflection and self-work.  This 3-4 day experiment was done after months of inputting as few toxins as possible.  I don’t think you can be digesting a bunch of crap (in all senses) up until 3 days before your colonoscopy and expect it to go well.  But again, I’m not a doctor, so maybe you can.  ?

3) This wasn’t just about food.  I took all of these prep days off.  Off of work and off of life, basically.  I was very lucky to have the procedure scheduled for a Monday afternoon.  I teach and practice yoga on Fridays, but am always done by noon.  I don’t work on the weekends.  I completely cleared out my schedule and pretty much just stayed in bed or on the couch for 90% of the time.  Because I was taking in little to zero calories, I didn’t want to expend any either.  I knew I would have no energy physically, and needed as much rest as possible.

4) This was hard, and I didn’t cheat.  I’ve never fasted for a long amount of time before, and this was basically 2 days of liquid food and 2 days of fasting. It was an interesting mental and emotional practice.  The physical aspect was probably the easiest part for me.  I went in with a lot of self-love, openness and a positive attitude.

5) I didn’t do it alone.  Luckily, I had the love and support of my husband who was there to hold my hand, give me lots of hugs, and bring me soup or coconut water when I got really snappy.  I also called my parents and sister a bunch, and saw my friends on Saturday night, who were really nice about the whole thing.  Then a few hours after I was discharged from the colonoscopy, I went to an IBD support group meeting.  Just knowing I had other people cheering me on kept me going when I was feeling really nervous about the whole thing.

Okay, those are the ground rules.  Working off that framework, get ready for the breakdown.

Things I had on hand during my prep:

  • baby wipes (this is actually something I didn’t have, but will definitely get next time.)
  • a juicer
  • the amazing Vitamix!
  • probiotics (for afterward when I was re-populating my gut flora)
  • vitamins….I take a multi-vitamin & B12 anyway,  but I couldn’t take the multi because you’re supposed to stop taking iron a week before…weird but I followed that direction.  To help make up for it, I supplemented with vitamin C for no good reason other than I had it on hand.  I would think taking any non-iron vitamins that you feel are good for your body is appropriate.  I usually take a fiber supplement which I stopped a week prior as well.
  • a bottle of magnesium citrate.  I had decided earlier that I would take this as a less-terrible option to the prescribed GoLytely laxative.  Next time I think I’ll forgo it altogether, it made me light-headed and slightly nauseous.
  • 2 fleet enemas
  • Himalayan pink salt or other high-quality, real salt
  • massage oil (mine is almond oil carrier with lavender essential oil)
  • a yoga mat
  • fun books to read and movies to watch
  • an uber-supportive husband (or other friend/loved one)

Grocery list of what I ate/drank:

FRIDAY aka Vitamix Day

bananalaxative tea before bed, steeped twicenormal (solid) in the AM
16 oz smoothie: acai juice, apple juice, spinach, cucumber, strawberries, carrot, kale, broccoli1500 mg vitamin C (one AM, one PM)a few watery ones throughout day
3 prunesvitamin B12 with folic acidsmall, but solid in the PM
24 oz smoothie: same as aboveLOTS OF WATER
carrot & sweet potato soup
miso soup


SATURDAY aka Juice Day

18 oz green juice: celery, apple, kale, cucumber, spinach, lemon, parsley2 bags laxative tea before bedsmall but solid in the AM
16 oz orange & carrot juice1500mg vitamin C (one AM, one PM)a few watery ones throughout day
10 oz “happiness” juice: carrot, pineapple, apple, ginger, lemonvitamin B12 with folic acidnone in the PM
28 oz green juice: celery, apple, kale, cucumber, spinach, broccoli stem, green bell pepper, limeEVEN MORE WATER

SUNDAY aka Clear Liquids Day

Salt Water Flush upon rising: 2 tsps Himalayan Pink Salt with 1 quart warm watervitamin C, 1500mg (one AM)Salt water flush did not produce a BM for me
1 quart of coconut waterYES, MORE WATER (4 quarts this day, I started counting)semi-solid BM post-coconut water, very yellow
yoga stretching with lots of twists and hip openers10 oz magnesium citrate in evening6 watery ones throughout day (one following magnesium citrate and one following enema) all yellow and/or light brown (yellow color diminished throughout the day)
self massage on stomach and lower back, using massage oil1 fleet enema before bed
10 ounces veggie broth
1 quart coconut water
2 cucumber/pineapple/ginger popsicles
5 ounces veggie broth
a few sips of almond milk
1 quart coconut water
20 ounces “magic elixir”: sliced ginger boiled with lemon juice, raw honey to taste

MONDAY aka Colonoscopy Day

1 quart coconut water upon waking watery, light brown
16 oz water watery with yellow liquid
16 oz water (no BM)
1 fleet enema mostly clear,  slight trace of very light brown

Those are the highlights and low lights!  A quick note on the Salt Water Flush…it was recommended to me and I would do it again, but the ratio didn’t work for me in terms of creating a bowel movement.  It obviously did an amazing job of cleaning out the bile in my liver and gall bladder since I had super yellow BMs for the duration of the cleanse after that.  I asked a Nurse Practitioner (who has colitis) about it and she said it was medically fine.  So I will replicate it when I do this again next time.  I would encourage you to do your own research on it.  It is really hard to get down…it’s incredible how hard it is to chug salt water!!

When I left the hospital on Monday, I immediately took probiotics and 2 ounces of aloe vera juice.  I wanted those to travel down for a good hour before I ate any food so they could go to work right away healing and repopulating good bacteria.  To break the fast, I had high quality, organic chicken noodle soup (avoided the chicken and most of the noodles), vegetable soup, and lastly oat groats with banana, walnuts and almond milk (it just sounded good!).  After the IBD support group meeting, I chugged some more aloe vera juice, then sauteed up some vegetables with ginger and paired that with quinoa with lemon juice.  Super tasty.  I had more probiotics, B12 and two prunes before I went to bed.

Tuesday, I did not do a good job of easing back into food.  I probably should have had juice in the AM and that’s it.  Instead, I got excited, had too much fiber too fast, and got really full and bloated.  I tried a new recipe of quinoa and prunes for breakfast which did not sit well.  Actually, it sat too well….it just kind of sat there and didn’t move, haha.  Later I had my take of “tumeric tonic” which is fresh ginger blended with coconut water and lemon juice in the vitamix and then with some turmeric stirred in.  Fantastic for inflammation, and tastes really good.  Spicy.

Since then, I’ve settled into a routine of probiotics and  2 ounces of aloe vera juice first thing in the morning.  Then after 30-60 minutes, 4 ounces of tumeric tonic.  Then breakfast of some sort and clean eating/living for the rest of the day.  During the day, I take my multi-vitamin, triphala and B12.  Then one more probiotic to finish out the day.

I hope this helps in whatever colonoscopy option you take!  If nothing else, I hope it was informative and interesting!  I am super, super glad I did my prep this way.  It felt more natural and made sense for me.  Do what feels right for you!

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Categories: Colonoscopy and Nutrition.