Having a colonoscopy can be a really daunting experience.
You know that your GI doctor has recommended this test for good reason. But that does not stop you from freaking out about it!
In this article, I will be sharing my own experience having had a colonoscopy. It is not designed to provide medical advice. Instead, I hope it brings you comfort.
Please also note that I had a colonoscopy in the UK. So this may differ if you are in a different country.
Table of Contents
Day 1 – Low Fibre Diet
This is to ensure you gut has no fibre in it which can take longer to be processed. Having fibre in your diet could prevent a clear image when you have a colonoscopy.
To be honest, this really isn’t that bad. But I did have huge portions to try to reduce my hunger the next day.
Day 2 – Moviprep
Having bowel prep is honestly not as bad as everyone makes it out to be.
Yes you have diarrhoea for a day, but that is it. By the time you finish, it is mostly just water. It is not like when you have an IBS flare up or food poisoning.
I was actually VERY keen to do this part right because I have seen so many colonoscopies having to be repeated as the bowel prep was poor.
I sure as hell wasn’t doing this a second time!
On The Day of The Colonoscopy
On the day of the procedure I felt slightly nervous but also keen just to get it over and done with.
I had chosen a morning slot so I did not have to spend the rest of the day starving hungry!
When I arrived at the hospital, I was given the option of having sedation during the procedure. This would have involved a cannula in my arm. Sedation also means that you would not be able to drive for 24 hour afterwards.
The problem was that I have a huge needle phobia. I had already tried to have sedation when I had my gastroscopy (the camera down your mouth). The nurse attempting to get a needle in my tiny veins was actually almost as traumatic as the procedure itself.
So for me, it was a no to sedation.
Instead, I just had gas and air during the procedure.
What is Having a Colonoscopy Like?
So they give you a lovely gown to wear for the procedure (with a convenient flap that opens up on your backside!). Lovely!
I did feel a little silly being put on a trolley to go in to the theatre when I was fully awake but there you go!
The camera itself is pretty small and it honestly does not hurt going in. It also doesn’t hurt when when it goes into your bowel or moves around.
What did hurt me is when they pump a little gas in. This is done to expand your bowel so the physician can see the lining. The pain does not last long at all and the gas helps.
Just be careful with the gas! I took way too much at one point and felt super dizzy.
What I also found really useful was meditation. This may sound silly but closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing really does help.
It is important to note that there will be several people in the room when you have this procedure (not just your GI). But honestly it is not embarrassing as these people do colonoscopies all day long.
I also had the pleasure of having a lovely nurse who held my hand throughout the colonoscopy. It helped to know that the people there actually cared about me, rather than ‘just being a patient.’
The actual procedure itself took around 40 minutes and before I knew it, the colonoscopy was over.
After the procedure I was able to leave immediately (because I had zero sedation). If you have sedation then the hospital will want to monitor you for a little while after the procedure.
Believe it or not, I actually went straight to a dinner party afterwards and had no problem at all with eating. I was bloody starving!
My stomach did not feel tender either. This was very different when I has a gastroscopy which left my throat and stomach painful for a few days.
A colonoscopy is a very common procedure designed to look at your bowel. If your GI doctor recommends a colonoscopy then you really do need it.
It honestly is not that bad at all, just make sure you prep as per the instructions and also use breathing techniques if you are anxious.
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.
Martyn Stanley says
I had two colonoscopies. One with sedation, one with gas and air. Neither were pleasant, but I’m inclined to think the occasion when I was sedated was marginally less traumatic. I’ve suffered with IBS for decades now. I feel like my gut biota are somehow out of balance? I have no idea there were different classifications of IBS. I was essentially told, ‘You have IBS, get used to it’ I often have to go several times a day and the feeling of needing to go persists, even though I know I don’t. I have diarrhea, constipation and occasionally it seems like both at the same time. I often find stress and anxiety exacerbates symptoms, usually with a delayed reaction. I’ll be honest I’ve more or less given up on trying to solve this problem. It really doe ruin my life at times, but I feel like there’s nothing that can fix this. 🙁
Kirsten Jackson Specialist Dietitian says
Hi Martyn, thank you for sharing your colonoscopy experiences! I am so sorry about your IBS – most of my clients come to me feeling like this and it is awful. BUT please do not give up – you need a multifactorial approach to your IBS. Check out the take control program as this is exactly what you need. Kirsten x