Colonoscopy: Prepare with Probiotics
It’s an unpleasant fact, but most people (who follow their doctor’s advice, anyway) will at some point in their life have a colonoscopy. Learn here how you can best prepare for a colonoscopy and use probiotics to improve your recovery.
While the idea of colonoscopy is certainly not appealing; they are perfectly normal to get, recommended to help save lives, and is typically a minor procedure that will involve anesthesia (which is probably for the best!).
That said, it is important to understand how anesthesia affects the body and your recovery so that you can best prepare for your colonoscopy.
While the sedation for the colonoscopy procedure is typically light, to date, 100% of my patients have no recollection of any part of the procedure other than entering the room!
Thus, I recommend that you request an anesthesiologist to be present with you for the procedure (note: this is not always the case in every hospital).
Why should I get a Colonoscopy?
There are a few reasons why you may require or should consider a colonoscopy.
When young (under 50), a colonoscopy could be needed to treat medical conditions such as rectal bleeding, familial polyposis, ulcerative colitis.
If you have just turned 50, you are probably following the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Grade A recommendation to get a colonoscopy for colon cancer screening.
At the end of the day, if your doctor recommends you get one, you should get one! USPSTF estimates that screening for colon cancer can save 18,800 lives per year. For a procedure that lasts only a couple of minutes, it’s well worth it.
Colonoscopy exams, unlike other colon cancer tests, are typically more accurate and can also be therapeutic (yes - you read that right), meaning that pre-cancerous growth (polyps) can be removed.
What side effects should I expect after a colonoscopy exam?
So, let's say you’ve decided to have a colonoscopy. In order for it to be successful, you will need to drink plenty of water and have a clean bowel!
To this end, you will be prescribed a strong laxative to clean out any stool with one of the variety of colon prep solutions (note: these typically contain polyethylene glycol and electrolytes). While these preparations are great in aiding the visualization of any abnormalities, they can be very effective in rapidly depleting your gut bacteria. In some cases, a one third decrease and serious alteration of gut bacteria demographic has been seen.
This can cause a host of issues, but typically translates into a multi-day recovery that results in nearly 20% of patients complaining of abdominal symptoms, including mild to self-limiting pain and diarrhea among other recovery complications.
How do I optimize post-colonoscopy recovery?
As it turns out, there’s something you can do to greatly improve post-procedure recovery. Within the intestinal tract, there are more bacteria cells present than all the cells that belong to your actual body! (Impressive, right!?).
These different types of bacteria form what is called the “gut microbiome” and they play an important role in overall gut health, surgery and injury recovery, reducing inflammation, and aiding immunity to illness and disease.
The most important thing you can do for colonoscopy recovery is to support the growth of healthy and helpful gut bacteria in your GI tract.
In one study conducted at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital in Sydney, Australia; 260 patients were split in a randomized controlled trial, with some patients given a probiotic versus placebo following their colonoscopy. The results, published in ANZ Journal of Surgery, showed the probiotic group had on average 1.99 days of pain after colonoscopy, while the placebo group had 2.78 days, nearly 40% reduction.
Among 20 patients with irritable bowel syndrome, probiotics reduced the days of pain post-colonoscopy, from an average of 4.08 to 2.16, nearly 50% reduction!
Previously, we wrote a very extensive article on the importance of probiotics after surgery that we suggest you read for more details, but below are some quick tips to aid your colonoscopy recovery.
Here are our quick Colonoscopy recovery recommendations
Always remember to speak with your doctor regarding any symptoms or concerns you have as well as what medications or supplements you are taking prior and post procedure.
Consider taking a probiotic supplement on an empty stomach in the morning prior to the procedure and continue to do so for several days after the colonoscopy. Ensure that the probiotic supplement contains: live bacteria, has at least several billion colony forming units (CFUs), and adheres to safe supplement manufacturing standards.
Increase your intake of foods high in probiotics such as yogurt and kefir probiotics for several days after your colonoscopy. Again, ensuring the product label states the bacterial cultures are alive and have at least several billion CFUs
Probiotics will thrive only if the environment is favorable for them. Increase your intake of pre-biotics by eating more high-in-fiber fruits, vegetables, oats and whole grains to feed probiotic bacteria.
Avoid processed foods, sugar, hydrogenated fats, alcohol and high fructose corn syrup. Some of these compounds can promote the growth of harmful bacteria and interfere with a healthy microbiome. Remember, not all gut bacteria are helpful!
Be sure to speak with your doctor on any substances you are taking prior to the procedure. In general, it is very simple and always beneficial to get checked on your doctor’s recommendations.
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D'Souza. B., et al. at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital, Sydney, Australia
General Disclaimer: All information here is for educational purposes only and is not meant to cure, heal, diagnose nor treat. This information must not be used as a replacement for medical advice, nor can the writer take any responsibility for anyone using the information instead of consulting a healthcare professional. All serious disease needs a physician.