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Bowel Prep: What You Need To Know

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Updated June 30, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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How To Do an Effective Bowel Prep

How to Do Bowel Prep

Bowel prep procedures vary between doctors and between procedures. The bowel prep for someone who is having a colon surgery might be very different from someone who is having a colonoscopy.

Follow your doctor's instructions carefully, and err on the side of caution when you are in doubt. The goal is to have your digestive tract clear of all fecal material, food and anything else that may be present. If you are unable to do this, or if you do not follow the instructions, your procedure may be delayed or canceled.

Your bowel prep may consist of one step or several, depending upon your physician's wishes. Most patients are required to drink a large amount of medicated fluid such as Go-Lytely, which will stimulate their digestive tract and cause copious diarrhea-like bowel movements. Some patients may have a large number of pills to take, rather than the solution. Other patients rely upon enemas to complete the bowel prep.

In rare cases, pills, fluid and enemas will all be used, but one or two of these is typical.

Your doctor may also prescribe an anti-nausea medication such as Reglan, which also increases the speed at which your prep works.

If you normally take medications in the morning, do not take them without first consulting your physician. You may be asked to skip your medications for the day, or to take them after your procedure is complete.

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