Colon Recovery After Colonoscopy

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

We all know about or have heard about the prep for a colonoscopy. The prep is truly the hardest part. However, no one talks about how to restore the microbiome in the small and large intestine after the procedure is completed. You can optimize your recovery with these simple steps. You will understand what to expect and perhaps allay some fears about the procedure. The more you know, the better prepared you will be when its your turn.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in western/developed countries. Recent changes to the guidelines for routine screening colonoscopy include people aged 45 and up, which is 5 years earlier than the previous screening criteria at age 50. As a result, earlier detection and treatment of colorectal cancers is on the rise. No one knows why more younger people are getting colorectal cancers. The importance of getting a colonoscopy goes up with the following: New pain at night, or symptoms in digestive function, a change in bowel habits, the presence of blood when having a bowel movement either in the toilet bowl, on the toilet paper, or on the stool itself. Weight gain or loss can happen, as can a feeling of being bloated for no reason.


I am a VERY BIG fan of early detection of digestive diseases including cancer - the benefits clearly outweigh the risks that come with delayed detection. Early detection adds years to lives in the world of oncology. If you are aged 45 or older and have been squeamish about the thought of getting your colonoscopy done, think instead of how this could help to find somthing that can save your life. For example, consider that you may have some pre-cancerous polyps. Pre-cancerous polyps are just that. They are not cancer yet, and may turn into cancer. Having a colonoscopy, finding, and removing them in the early stages of their development, is a huge benefit to your lifespan compared to not getting a colonoscopy at all and finding cancer that developed from a polyp years later.


There are many examples as to why a colonoscopy is beneficial for early detection of other diseases too but finding cancer early gets first mention because of its potential to save a life. Further, if a cancer is found at age 45, genetic tests are needed to determine if there is a genetic component to this cancer so that your siblings and immediate family can be tested. This can save more than one person's life. You can see the benefits of early testing and early detection have far-reaching effects.


The Prep

The colonoscopy prep solution is usually a liquid laxative such as flavored magnesium oxide in two 8-ounce bottles. If you are doing a Sigmoidoscopy you are doing a different procedure called a Fleet enema because they are imaging only the lower part of the colon and not the entire colon. Both result in your bowels being emptied before the procedure for clear viewing by the Gastroenterologist.


The day before your colonoscopy you will only be allowed clear liquids - no solid food. Staying hydrated is key to the success of the laxative and to preventing dehydration because of the laxative. You most likely will develop a headache and be tired or grumpy (hangry, anyone?) from not having any solid food. About 15 hours before your procedure appointment, you drink the first bottle of laxative and then 8 x 10 ounce glasses of water each hour after to remain hydrated. At 9 hours after your first laxative drink, you drink the second bottle of laxative, followed by 2 x 10 ounce glasses of water. At this time, bowel prep process is finished and you are not allowed to drink anything else, but you are not done. Your bowels will keep eliminating. You may think: "Finally done! No wait.....still gotta go.... " Yes, its like that. However, the hardest part is over. You did the prep! Now you get a nice nap under sedation during your colonoscopy, which takes about 30 minutes. After your colonoscopy you are allowed to resume your regular diet. Follow the post-procedure instructions from your endoscopy center. This is also where your colon recovery protocol begins to support a return to normal intestinal microbiome.


What if I have a biopsy?

A biopsy happens when the Gastroenterologist sees something on the colonoscopy that looks different from the normal intestinal lining. He or she takes a photo using the colonoscopy camera, and with another tool then takes a small, precise extraction of that tissue for a pathologist to further assess and identify. The biopsied tissue is sent to the pathology lab to examine the cells and complete other tests. Generally you will get the results within a few weeks to discuss with your Gastroenterologist. They may also discuss what they found when you wake up from the procedure. A biopsy is usually painless and causes no further issue.


Why a colon recovery process?

Onto your recovery protocol! Your small and large intestine have different micro-environments (think different probiotic bacteria, beneficial micro organisms, protective immune cells, etc) based on their function. With the laxative, all that is flushed out so there is a clean view of the intestinal walls for the Gastroenterologist to view with the colonoscopy camera. When these good bacteria and other beneficial cells of the intestines are flushed out with the laxative prep, it is very important to replace those. If you had any biopsies, it is very important to support healing of those areas. You can resume a normal diet but at this time is when you would start your protocol.


The protocol is simple: semi solid, anti-inflammatory dietary intake, starting with a mega-dose of a multi strain probiotic, and fiber (artichokes, brown rice, bananas, apples, cooked carrots) which contains the short chain fatty acids that your gut needs to fuel the cells lining the colon. These short chain fatty acids are made when the colon probiotics ferment the above food sources of fiber. Since the prep those probiotics are flushed out, and need to be replaced. Start with a superfood smoothie (recipe below) and add probiotics and fiber to bring that all back in. Its that simple. Below is the recipe I have created for patients to use:


Daily Smoothie for Colonoscopy Recovery

This is your daily recovery smoothie for the 7 days following your colonoscopy procedure, in addition to resuming your normal dietary intake.


Ingredients From Your Grocery Store:

  • 1 x 8 oz can organic full fat coconut milk, (or 8 ounces chilled peppermint, fennel, chamomile or ginger & turmeric tea for a low-calorie smoothie base option)

  • 1 cup blueberries (organic, fresh or frozen)

The items below are found via the online dispensary button, found at the end of this blog.

  • 1 Tbsp of either Ground flax, Chia or Hemp seeds IF you are allowed seeds OR If seeds are not allowed, 1 Tbsp Acacia fiber (anti-oxidant)

  • 1 heaping tsp organic turmeric powder (anti-inflammatory)

  • 1/2 tsp organic ginger powder (anti-inflammatory)

  • 4 opened capsules (40Billion CFU) Probiotic GI (good bacteria)

  • 4 opened capsules (20 Billion CFU) Probiotic IMM (good bacteria)

  • 2 Tbsp manuka honey (anti inflammatory, immune boosting)

***Very Important: If you were told after your procedure that you have cancer or a polyp that is pre-cancerous, add 2 tsp powder or 10 opened capsules of Modified Citrus Pectin. This prevents cancer cells released during biopsy from adhering to nearby tissues via galectin-3 inhibition.

Directions:

Add the above ingredients into a blender in the order above to prevent the powder from not mixing well. Add ice if you prefer a colder smoothie. Blend until consistency is smooth and enjoy!

Repeat the above for each colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or other scoping procedure you have in the future. This time of recovery lasts about a week or less. Most people feel normal within 2 days. It is ideal if you can maintain a clean diet (healthy meals where you control the ingredients and portion sizes) and support healing with the smoothie recipe above. The clean diet and smoothie also supports your immune function because about 70% of your immune system surrounds your gut. After that week you can use the smoothies as needed. Doing this for at least a week can help stop yeast and other pathogenic organisms (H. Pylori, SIBO) from getting a head start in colonizing the gut. As always, this time line depends on your pre-existing digestive conditions. Bonus: These smoothies can also be used after antibiotic prescriptions to help restore normal microbiome counts.


To order your smoothie products, simply click on the button below and follow the prompts to login, and then click on Catalogue, and then on Categories. Here you will see all my protocols to date. Choose the Colonoscopy Recovery Protocol to get started today.


Got any questions? Become part of the Nat Med 101 online community for a free weekly health tip by email. Please share if you know someone who is due for a colonoscopy to help support them through the procedure.


Want take that next step and become a patient? I am accepting new patients and can work with you wherever you are in your health journey. Schedule here on the website under the Schedule Now tab.

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