Colon plays a vital role in digesting foods you consume. A healthy colon ensures proper cleaning up and breaking down of foods. Colonoscopy is a procedure done to assess the health of your colon. This procedure – performed as an outpatient process – is a proven way to investigate the disorders in your gastrointestinal tract, especially the lower part of the tract. But, how to avoid vomiting when you are preparing to undergo this procedure? Knowing the tips is sure to help you.

The colon is the medical term for your large intestine. It has four (4) distinctive sections namely, the ascending part (seen on your abdomen’s right side), the traversing part (this side runs across your abdomen), descending part (this is on your abdomen’s left side) and the sigmoid colon (here is where it takes a bend and leads to the rectum; it is found above your rectum).

Your colon is inhabited by countless number of bacteria (several billions); they live on the tissues and muscles of the colon. It is in this part where salt and water are separated from your foods. Stools are formed in the colon after all nutrients stand absorbed by your body.

What is colonoscopy?

It is a procedure involving an endoscope; a flexible and long cord fitted with a camera at the end of it. This scope is inserted into your rectum. It is then made to move ahead deep inside your colon. This procedure lets your doctor to see your colon. It is used for both investigative as well as treatment purposes; mainly for medical conditions in your lower intestinal tract.

Colonoscopy is used for the diagnosis of a wide range of medical conditions. These include blood in stools, changes seen in bowel movements, pain in your lower abdomen, unexplainable loss of body weight and insufficient production of blood cells (leading to conditions like anemia, etc.). Colonoscopy is also used for the treatment of medical conditions such as enlargement of the narrowed areas of your colon, offshoots called polyps – formed on the tissues and walls of the colon, internal bleeding (formed by small pockets – called diverticula – mostly in the lower end of your colon – i.e., sigmoid colon), etc.

Preparing for a session of colonoscopy

Before taking the procedure, your treating physician will ask you to make a few changes to your diet. These include keeping away from foods rich in fiber. Such a diet is taken for some days during the run-up to your colonoscopy procedure. On the day prior to colonoscopy, oral laxatives are administered to clear out all waste out of your colon; you may also be asked to take a liquid-only diet. On top of all these changes to your diet during the run-up period, further cleaning of your bowel is also done a few minutes before the procedure is performed. In order to fully clean your bowel, a laxative drink or an enema is administered to ensure complete cleaning.

In all, there are two broad types of prep liquids administered before a colonoscopy procedure. The first type is hyperosmotic prep liquid; these may drastically alter your fluid balance upon consumption. These liquids mainly have sodium (in the form of sodium sulfate, sodium phosphate, etc.) and magnesium (as magnesium citrate). Due to the fluid imbalances they cause, people with cardiac, renal or liver problems are not advised to take them. Your doctor may in fact advise you to opt for a renal function test (to check the health of your kidneys) prior to taking hyperosmotic prep liquids. However, the biggest benefit is, these liquids are not very highly priced; also, they need not be taken in huge quantities.

The second type is called isosmotic prep liquid. It is almost fully made of polyethylene glycol (also called PEG). As they mirror your body’s chemical make-up, they hardly cause any disturbances in your fluid balance or in the constitution of your body’s electrolytes. Hence, those with cardiac or renal disorders can consume it without any adverse side effects. If those were the merits associated with this prep liquid, the demerits are (1) you may need to drink nearly four to five liters of them, and (2) they do not sport a pleasant taste; hence consuming such huge quantities can be a challenging task.

How to avoid vomiting during colonoscopy prep?

On the whole, it can be a different experience to take powerful laxatives or to take gallons of water and then drinking a colonoscopy prep liquid your doctor gives you. Vomiting – coupled with nausea – is a likely side effect of consuming the colonoscopy prep liquid. Among these two types of prep liquids, isosmotic prep liquids are more likely to cause vomiting. The other kind – hyperosmotic prep liquid – is likely to cause nausea.

As clinicians are working to enhance the way prep liquid tastes, there are many other ways you can avoid a spell of vomiting during colonoscopy prep. Most of these are found to be effective. There are also a few choices available wherein you need not have to drink a lot of it for needful outcomes. You are however advised to talk to your treating gastroenterologist before taking any of these options.

#(1) You can choose a prep liquid, as they come in many variants. You are also advised to drink it slowly and take time to complete drinking it. Many people also prefer adding flavored prep as it can help them contain an urge to vomit. You can also ask for prep liquids that taste a lot better. For example, consuming prep liquid with drinks (such as Gatorade) – A combination of prep (polyethylene glycol – nearly 200 grams of it) and the drink (about 2 liters) is found to have resulted in lesser cramps in your abdomen and hence nil or minimal urges to vomit. This is a unique combination as one item of the mixture eliminates electrolytes (polyethylene glycol) while the energy drink restores it. Thus, you achieve a fine balance of electrolytes without any risks of likely imbalances of fluids or essential salts and electrolytes.

#(2) Medical studies show that frequent rinsing of your mouth and taking breaks between your prep drinking sessions can help minimize your urge to vomit. Notwithstanding these efforts, if you still have vomited or having urges to throw up, take a break. Then take the balance portion of the prep liquid and complete it. But, do tell your gastroenterologist that you did problems in keeping the prep solution down.

#(3) Common ways to avoid vomiting (also nausea) are – blending lime or ginger to the prep liquid. You may also consider adding a flavored ready mix powder to the prep solution. Some gastroenterologists advise their patients to chill the prep liquid and then drink it. In some instances, tasting a hardboiled candy or a slice of lemon while taking the prep liquid are also recommended.

#(4) Virtual colonoscopy – This is a CT-scan image of your lower abdomen. This is essentially a 2-D output that is mastered to become a 3-D perspective of your colon. This is commonly used to locate the position as well as assess the size of polyps in your colon. However, it does have limitations in its inability to detect small sized polyps; a few of them may be premalignant or some may even be malignant. This is not as invasive as the colonoscopy procedure. But, it needs preparation of bowel and those with polyps may need to go for the conventional colonoscopy.

#(5) Combination of citric acid and magnesium oxide with sodium picosulfate – This blend in fact

The second type is called isosmotic prep liquid. It is almost fully made of polyethylene glycol (also called PEG). As they mirror your body’s chemical make-up, they hardly cause any disturbances in your fluid balance or in the constitution of your body’s electrolytes. Hence, those with cardiac or renal disorders can consume it without any adverse side effects. If those were the merits associated with this prep liquid, the demerits are (1) you may need to drink nearly four to five liters of them, and (2) they do not sport a pleasant taste; hence consuming such huge quantities can be a challenging task.

How to avoid vomiting during colonoscopy prep?

On the whole, it can be a different experience to take powerful laxatives or to take gallons of water and then drinking a colonoscopy prep liquid your doctor gives you. Vomiting – coupled with nausea – is a likely side effect of consuming the colonoscopy prep liquid. Among these two types of prep liquids, isosmotic prep liquids are more likely to cause vomiting. The other kind – hyperosmotic prep liquid – is likely to cause nausea.

As clinicians are working to enhance the way prep liquid tastes, there are many other ways you can avoid a spell of vomiting during colonoscopy prep. Most of these are found to be effective. There are also a few choices available wherein you need not have to drink a lot of it for needful outcomes. You are however advised to talk to your treating gastroenterologist before taking any of these options.

#(1) You can choose a prep liquid, as they come in many variants. You are also advised to drink it slowly and take time to complete drinking it. Many people also prefer adding flavored prep as it can help them contain an urge to vomit. You can also ask for prep liquids that taste a lot better. For example, consuming prep liquid with drinks (such as Gatorade) – A combination of prep (polyethylene glycol – nearly 200 grams of it) and the drink (about 2 liters) is found to have resulted in lesser cramps in your abdomen and hence nil or minimal urges to vomit. This is a unique combination as one item of the mixture eliminates electrolytes (polyethylene glycol) while the energy drink restores it. Thus, you achieve a fine balance of electrolytes without any risks of likely imbalances of fluids or essential salts and electrolytes.

#(2) Medical studies show that frequent rinsing of your mouth and taking breaks between your prep drinking sessions can help minimize your urge to vomit. Notwithstanding these efforts, if you still have vomited or having urges to throw up, take a break. Then take the balance portion of the prep liquid and complete it. But, do tell your gastroenterologist that you did problems in keeping the prep solution down.

#(3) Common ways to avoid vomiting (also nausea) are – blending lime or ginger to the prep liquid. You may also consider adding a flavored ready mix powder to the prep solution. Some gastroenterologists advise their patients to chill the prep liquid and then drink it. In some instances, tasting a hardboiled candy or a slice of lemon while taking the prep liquid are also recommended.

#(4) Virtual colonoscopy – This is a CT-scan image of your lower abdomen. This is essentially a 2-D output that is mastered to become a 3-D perspective of your colon. This is commonly used to locate the position as well as assess the size of polyps in your colon. However, it does have limitations in its inability to detect small sized polyps; a few of them may be premalignant or some may even be malignant. This is not as invasive as the colonoscopy procedure. But, it needs preparation of bowel and those with polyps may need to go for the conventional colonoscopy.

#(5) Combination of citric acid and magnesium oxide with sodium picosulfate – This blend in fact stands cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You may need to take 10 ounces of it in all. Of which, 50% is taken during the night before your colonoscopy activity and the balance is consumed in the morning – i.e., a few hours before your procedure. However, you may need to take another 65 ounces of fluids along with it. The only drawback here is the presence of magnesium citrate – some people may be allergic to this and hence can develop urges to vomit.

#(6) Foods such as candies, broth or popsicles – These are foods that do add to your stool load. Candies or popsicles can help you fight bad taste of prep liquids. Ask your doctor about the kind of candies or broth that would go well and especially, do not – in any way – distort the results of your colonoscopy procedure.

#(7) Slow down the rate at which you drink the prep liquid. You can slow it down by taking fairly long breaks; a 30 or 45 minute break is in general considered as a fine thing to have amid drinking prep liquid. Clinical research provides more evidence that faster drinking of prep liquids have often led to spells of vomiting, often accompanied by nausea.

#(8) You can also consider sipping cold water as you consume prep liquid. This has also proven to be useful in keeping the urges to vomit at bay. You can consider taking drugs that can help fight nausea and vomiting. The most commonly used drugs for this purpose are metoclopramide (sold under the brand name Reglan), ondansetron (sold as Zofran), etc. However, talk to your treating doctor or gastroenterologist before taking any of these anti-nausea medications.

Always remember to divide the prep solution into 2 halves. Intake of the first half in the night prior and the other in the following morning (i.e., a few hours before your colonoscopy procedure) has always cleaned the bowel more effectively. You also need to remember that a good quality assessment is needed to come to decisive conclusions – such as presence of polyps, their size, position, etc. If your bowel is not cleared properly, residue of stools may hinder a thorough check-up. In such instances, your treating gastroenterologist may advise you to opt for a second examination.

If you are consuming any drugs – such as antibiotics – you are advised to inform your treating doctor about such drugs. In most instances, intake of such drugs may not pose a problem. However, it is always recommended to check with your gastroenterologist about possible risk factors, if any.

Last but not least, never opt for prep based on pills. Doctors always insist on the standard prep liquids; as pills for prep are not fully evidenced to clear your colon as only prep liquids can.

In sum, there are a few choices available to reduce your urges to vomit during colonoscopy prep. The most common ones include adding lime or ginger to the prep liquid, consuming prep liquid with drinks (such as Gatorade), frequent rinsing of your mouth and taking breaks between your prep drinking sessions, etc. You are advised to consult with your treating doctor and choose a method that suits well with your medical condition.

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