How to Know When Bowel Prep Is Complete

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Bowel preparation is something you must do to clear your bowels before a colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is an invasive medical test to examine the colon (large intestine) and rectum. During the procedure, the health care provider uses a flexible camera called a bronchoscope to look for visible problems such as bleeding, polyps (small tumors), or other visible problems. signs of cancer.

While it’s not a pleasant experience, there’s no harm in completing the bowel prep. In other words, there’s no reason to run up the hill when it’s time to prepare for this important screening.

This article will discuss how to know when your bowel preparation is complete.

Verywell / Jessica Olah

Things to do before you start

Before you start preparing to have a bowel movement, let your healthcare provider know if you have any heart, kidney, or liver problems. There are different bowel prep options, and some medical conditions require specific types of bowel prep.

It is important to make sure that the health care provider performing your colonoscopy is also aware of your medical history for other reasons. Some medications, such as blood thinners, can increase the risk of complications from bowel preparation.

Review your guide

When you are about to have a bowel movement, make sure you stay close to home. That’s because you’ll be using the toilet many, many times to clean all the stool before the process gets through.

Your gastroenterologist (a health care provider who treats conditions involving the digestive system) needs every bit of stool (feces) to be cleared from your colon to perform the procedure. . Proper bowel prep will include more than two or three bowel movements so your healthcare provider can visualize abnormal tissue that would otherwise be hidden in the stool.

All gastroenterologists follow cleansing guidelines approved by the American Gastroenterology Association, the American College of Gastroenterology, and the American Society of Gastroenterology.

But each health care provider may require slightly different bowel preparation. The instructions may even change based on how long you will receive the test. What the health care provider asks your friend to do to prepare for a bowel movement may not be the same as the instructions you receive.

Before your healthcare provider gives you instructions on how to complete a bowel prep, they will consider:

  • Your health
  • What you may or may not tolerate
  • What has worked best in the past?

There are certain types of preps that you should not take if you have certain medical conditions. A health care provider may recommend one method of bowel preparation for you and another for someone else.


Most enteric preparations start with a liquid for you to drink or a pill for you to swallow. You may start to see effects as soon as 30 minutes to an hour after your first glass of solution or your first pill. Your first bowel movement is most likely a combination of solid, semi-solid, or liquid brown stools.

You will be following a transparent diet and you should continue to drink plenty of clear water and keep yourself hydrated. Avoid commercial drinks with purple or red dyes. These dyes may affect your colonoscopy results.


Staying hydrated is important. Your body needs enough water to function properly. Many of the negatives associated with endoscopy occur due to dehydration during the procedure. Dehydration can easily occur with bowel preparations containing sodium phosphate.

You may notice some unpleasant, but painless side effects of bowel prep. Abdominal cramps and bloating are completely normal. Placing a clean, damp cloth on your abdomen can help relieve discomfort. A little bit of activity — like a walk around the house, for example — can also help ease unpleasant side effects.

Follow each step in your healthcare provider’s bowel preparation instructions very important. Sometimes it may seem like you’re just repeating steps, such as using an enema after several bowel movements. But these steps are necessary.

Complete bowel preparation

When your bowel movements have only brown liquid, this means you are almost done with the preparation of bowel movements. Your stool will eventually become a clear or slightly yellow liquid. If loose stools are cloudy, your bowel preparation is not complete.

Your stool may become clear, liquid, and slightly yellow before you have completed the entire prep process. It is important to complete the preparatory part. You may still have stool higher up in your large intestine and will pass it later. Completing all the steps prepares you for your best chance of having a clear colon for colonoscopy (and without having to repeat the test).

Just because your stools are clear, liquid, and slightly yellow doesn’t mean your bowel preparation is over. It is important to follow all bowel preparation steps.

Why is bowel preparation important?

According to research published in the journal GastroenterologyUp to 25% of colonoscopies are aborted due to unsuccessful bowel preparation. The decision to cancel your procedure is not an easy one for a healthcare provider if you have been sedated and your doctor has already started the procedure. Your health care provider can only continue your colonoscopy if your colon is completely clean.

If you haven’t finished prep or your bowel movements don’t reduce to a clear liquid, contact your healthcare provider’s office so you can reschedule your procedure.

Sometimes you can go to the doctor but get disproportionate results if there is still stool in your large intestine. This often happens when people skip one of the preparation steps because they believe they’re done. It can also happen because they don’t think all the steps are necessary.


Before you have a colonoscopy, it is important that you follow the bowel preparation instructions given to you so that you know when the preparation is done. Your stool should be clear, liquid yellow near the end of the preparatory phase.

But don’t stop after that: Make sure to complete all the steps according to the instructions. Strict adherence to these guidelines will help ensure an effective colonoscopy.

A very good word

Preparing for a colonoscopy isn’t exactly fun, but it’s an important exam that can help you live a long and healthy life. By following your health care provider’s bowel preparation instructions, you will effectively prepare for a colonoscopy so that you can get reliable answers from this test. .

frequently asked Questions

  • Will the endoscopy preparation keep you up all night?

    It’s possible, but it’s not often. You wake up once or twice to go to the bathroom, but that won’t keep you up all night.

    Depending on your doctor’s instructions, you may have to wake up in the middle of the night to take a second dose of a laxative. Known as a split-dose bowel preparation method, the second dose should be taken at least four to six hours before the scheduled procedure.

  • How long does it take to prepare for a colonoscopy to completely clean the bowels?

    It can take 12 to 16 hours for the intestines to be completely cleared in preparation for colonoscopy. Eating a soft, low-residue diet for a day or more before preparation begins can make this process easier and quicker. A low-residue diet restricts foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, nuts, fresh or dried fruits, and vegetables.

  • Do you need an enema before your colonoscopy?

    You can. If a laxative doesn’t clear your bowels completely, your doctor may direct you to take an enema the morning before your colonoscopy. The enema should be injected at least two hours before your expected time of arrival.

    The enema usually starts to work in about five minutes, but it can take up to an hour for the effect to return. If you have to make a long drive to the testing center, you can take an enema two hours before you have to leave your appointment.

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