Vegan Cookbook Author “Comes Clean” about Pre-Colonoscopy Diet

Sorry about the indelicate topic folks, but it’s important on many levels.  And since we’re all foodies here, and the pre-colonoscopy diet causes many folks high anxiety–me among them–I wanted to share 3 Tips and some other incidental information.

If you are 50 and have no history of colon cancer in your family,  it’s time.  If you’re not yet 50 and have a family history of the disease–or any other reason to be concerned–then it’s past time.

So, alas, with my “big” birthday last May, and a “staff day” today at school, I scheduled the appointment for 8 a.m. this morning because I hate to leave my students with substitute teachers, however good they may be.  Though doctors probably have different protocols, especially in countries outside the U.S., mine requires a clear liquid diet fast for 24 hours in advance.

Ever try finding more than 1 gram of vegan protein per serving on a clear liquid diet?  Well, I don’t think you can.  Veggie broths are right about 1 gram.  Too late, it did occur to me that miso, at 2 grams of soy protein per serving, might have been acceptable.  But I would ask your doctor.

As a vegan with low blood sugar–controlled by the optimum ratio of protein, carb and fat, I was really concerned about making it through the day at school without all of the hypoglycemic symptoms.  When I called my doctor, the nurse recommended Iso Pure , a protein drink in a rainbow of clear colors.  Turns out that it’s great for vegetarians but its whey-based protein makes it off-limits for vegans.

So, Tip #1: on the day before the procedure, rise early enough to eat or drink a high protein breakfast before the clocks strikes the 24-hour prior mark.  I recommend drinking that meal for reasons that will become obvious to you later.  My beverage of choice was a venti Green Tea Soy Frappuccino–hold the classic syrup and whip, of course–yesterday morning.

For both lunch and dinner, if you can call it that, I drank warm veggie broth with plain hot tea in the afternoon.  At school, I dissolved faux chicken bouillon cubes in hot water for lunch.  Mmm…  But dinner was more satisfying, so here is Tip #2:  the day before, I boiled 4 ounces of Udon noodles in 2 quarts of water plus 8 of those bouillon cubes.  When I drained the noodles, I reserved the broth, cooling it, and then storing it in an airtight container in the fridge.  The added starch and fat in the broth made that a much more satisfying “meal.”

Now for the truly fun and indelicate part.  First, whatever you do, don’t get online and start reading about other people’s experience of “the cleanse.”  That will do nothing but contribute to your rising anxiety or, in my case, rising panic.  My doctor’s protocol began at 5 p.m. the day before.  At the appointed hour, I had to take 4, count them, 4, Dulcolax tablets with 2 to 3 glasses of liquid.  I decided to take them with my liquid dinner, as I knew I was about to have to drink more than was entirely comfortable.

Immediately after that, I had to drink 4 cup (32 ounces) of a clear liquid–Gatorade was recommended–with a half of a bottle of Miralax dissolved in it!   But, guess what?  My cocktail was actually quite delicious and here’s why.  Tip #3:  the nurse had advised really chilling the mixture.  I can’t stand Gatorade on a good day, so I chose Healthy Balance apple juice which I chilled the day before.  After I mixed in the powdered solution, which is about the same texture as superfine sugar, I poured it over ice.  I think I’ll serve it at my next party!  Not.  But, truly, it wasn’t only “not bad”–and I had been warned by lots of friends that it is “nasty”–but it was actually tasty and satisfying.  Maybe it helped that I hadn’t eaten all day.

Then I went ahead and mixed up the other 32 ounces of apple juice and half bottle of “the stuff” as I would be rising at 3 a.m.–5 hours before the procedure–to drink it.  I didn’t try it hot which might have been more satisfying on a chilly fall morning.  But, as it was, I sat in bed with my dogs piled around me and read the December issue of VegNews.  It was quite pleasant.

Now, what follows both of those large doses isn’t the most fun, but only because it prevents a good night’s sleep.  Yet, I definitely wouldn’t want to have scheduled my appointment for later in the day and be trying to conduct normal activities.  And besides, I don’t know about any of the rest of you about my age, but sleeping through the night is not something I do anyway.  I’d say it’s been 8 years since I did that, though part of that was probably starting my new career as a teacher, not to mention adopting the first of our Great Danes who has slept with us from Day 1.

Well, it’s about time for my husband to drive me to the doctor’s office–note that you are required to have a driver take you home after the procedure because of the sedation (something else I’m not thrilled about, as I’m a bit needle phobic).  But everyone says that the prep is the worst part…and it wasn’t half bad!  I hope my 3 Tips will ensure smooth sailing on your end–sorry, I couldn’t resist–when the time comes.

Oh, and for the record, I’ve now been home since about 10:30 or so this morning, the procedure is a piece of (vegan) cake.  Seriously.  “Conscious sedation” for me meant “lights out.”  I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the recovery area, and I certainly didn’t feel a thing except next-to-nothing when the nurse inserted the IV, twice as it turns out, as I was dehydrated and she couldn’t get what she needed.  Honestly that was the part I dreaded the most and it was a non-event.  I do remember one embarrassing thing I said and they hadn’t even started drugs through the IV yet because they wanted me to meet the doctor.  When he came in to chat and shook my hand,  I instantly liked him and he was so handsome.  So before I knew it, I was saying to him, “Oh gosh, I wish you weren’t so cute.”  He laughed, blushed a little, and looked at his nurse saying, “I think that’s a compliment.”

So if your time has come or will soon come, relax.  But don’t plan a big lunch afterwards.  Everyone said I would be starving.  I wasn’t; instead I was ever-so-slightly nauseated, but just for a minute or so when I got home and was moving around a little too much.  I took one anti-nausea pill provided by the doctor which did the trick, and then I fell asleep for a nice long while.

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  1. Betsy, thank you for sharing your experience! I found it very informative and useful. I hope you’re feeling better. xoxoxoxoox

  2. Hey Lee! I don’t know if the drill is similar in Canada, but I was so worked up about this–mostly to myself–that if I can calm anyone’s fears so that they “bite the bullet” and schedule their appointment, then I want to do it. After about 2 seconds of nausea yesterday, I felt fine, just a little loopy. So I slept on and off all day and night. But, as far as feeling anything else, I never did. It’s like it didn’t happen! oxo

  3. So glad you made it through! My sister also had hers today. Great tip about the apple juice as I also don’t like gatorade or powdered crystal light which is what I used. This aging thing really bites!

  4. Misery loves company–ha! Truly, I just told myself to “embrace the experience” (I may be more medic-phobic than most) and found it fascinating, including the color pictures and “report” they sent me home with! Hope your sister had smooth sailing as it were. Yes, apple juice on the rocks is the ticket. Funny about the “maturation process”–ha! A couple of things are for the birds, but the experience and perspective and the attitude that comes with that is liberating. I think it was Nora Ephron that said she was clueless until she was 40. I know what she means!

  5. Hi Betsy, I just found your post through a search on colonoscopy prep for vegans. We just went to the Doc yesterday, not much on the menu so every bit of advice helps! Thanks!

  6. I’m so glad, Peggy. It’s not much but, as you say, every bit helps. The broth with a starch previously cooked in it and the REALLY cold apple juice are about my best tips. If you find more, I hope you’ll add here or contact me about a guest post which would be great. Best wishes!

  7. not that clearcut to be vegan and have this procedure, since
    there are animals lurking in the prep solutions
    and then again in the surgical center in the i.v.’s
    hey that’s how it is
    no matter how careful we believe we are
    it its inevitable that we encounter animal ingredients where we dont think they would be
    vegan having a colonosocpy next week and i will be
    okay if an animal slips in somehow
    no alternative when it comes to health issues

  8. You make a good point: we do the best we can, but it’s virtually impossible to avoid animal products all together in, especially, the world of modern medicine. Best wishes for a “clean” bill of health!

  9. My doctor has requested not eating corn, seeds, nuts or fruits with a peel 7 days before the procedure.Rules out about everything I eat on a daily basis. I realize you posted your adventures in colonland a few years ago, but as a vegan I’m hoping you can shed some more light on this sensitive subject…..thanks…Dawn

  10. Wow, Dawn, I’ve never heard of anyone having such a restrictive diet for a full week before and mine wasn’t that long ago. Anyway, I’d be having nut withdrawal for sure! It sounds like you can eat tofu, seitan, tempeh and beans for protein, yes? If you’re craving corn, could you eat hominy? I LOVE it. It tastes more like corn than corn! And I’m assuming you can eat berries? How about some Swiss chard/kale/spinach salads with veggies (zucchini, peppers, etc), berries and a good sprinkling of nutritional yeast in place of nuts? Nooch doesn’t really taste nutty, exactly, but I roast nuts with it so often that I think of the two together. I also love baked sweet potatoes, wilted greens, vegan sour cream, and nooch. Will that get you through? Good luck!

  11. Thanks for the tips. I’ve been angry at the prep company mailing me, along with the laxatives, chicken broth, jello and gator aid. Nice arrival into my kosher vegetarian home. I let them know. And threw it in the trash. And the helpful hint emails recommending white rice and chicken on the last eating day. Plus endorsing crappy brands of soda pop and “juice.” Guess the idea is to create constipation then blow it out. I stopped the emails after letting them know what I thought of a health company appealing to the lowest common denominator of eating. Sadly even vegans get colon cancer so I have to proceed. I have the same fears as the author and will be tranquilizing before walking in the door. But I will substitute that health juice for the gator aid, and get vitamin waters and coconut water. Mine is 11:00 on Friday. And there better NOT be animal products in anything they give me! Thank you for your posting.

  12. I came across this post the day before my colonoscopy and found it tremendously reassuring. Helpful too! Thanks so much for posting it, particularly since now I also know about your blog.

  13. I am so glad you did, Kathy, and thank you for letting me know! I was really worked up about mine and it was all for naught. I hope the same was true for you and that you sailed through with flying, healthy colors! I hope you find lots of other things to your liking here on TBP. Cheers!

  14. Janet E. Wehlitz

    I asked my clinic about the diet restrictions of:
    Stop eating the following 3 days prior to the procedure:
    celery, nuts, popcorn, seeds (poppy, sesame, berry multi-grain breads/cereals, tomato corn, etc.).

    I was told that the following are OK up to the clear liquid day: SMOOTH nut butter, cooked oatmeal, nut flours

    The basic thing is not to have anything that could stick around and obscure the camera’s vision.

    They did tell me the G2 Gatorade was OK; but I have never drunk Gatorade so I may take these suggestions about really cold apple juice. The broth sounds like a Great idea!

    Thank you and best regards,


  15. Janet, it seems that doctors have their own preferred protocol. Mine only required a day of fasting with no dietary restrictions prior. Lucky me! I am not a fan of Gatorade but found the super cold apple juice really satisfying. And, yes, the starchy broth. Good luck!

  16. New vegan here! If you happen to see this today (or someone else) would regular prepackaged vegetarian broth be the same as boiling a vegan bouillon cube? I live in a very tiny town without many Vegan substituts and I’m doing my liquid diet today. I also hate Gatorade and I’m starving for nutrients. Wish I read this blog earlier I would have had a nice healthy green smoothie early this morning!

  17. I totally understand…I just returned from a tiny town in MS with small–though growing–vegan options. YES, just use the veg broth next time…sorry I was out of town and not checking my email. Hope all went well!

  18. “Jello” made from Macrobiotic Kanten Flakes [e.g., Mitoku Macrobiotic sea vegetable agar) and clear juice (apple, white grape) makes a nice “clear liquid” for the all-liquid part of the prep.

  19. Thanks for sharing your vegan “Jello” formula!

  20. Thanks for your post, it reassured me also. My colonoscopy is on Sept 28th 2016 and I am very nervous about the amount of pain I may experience from the laxatives and that maybe I won’t be able to make the half hour drive (with my driver) without needing to have my bowels open. There are no toilets on the way.
    Did anyone have problems with needing to go (bowels) on their way to the hospital?
    And did anyone experience pain from the laxatives? I have nasty pain every morning before defecating and can only eat Basmati rice to keep from having more pain and diaorrhea throughout the day – hence the need for the colonoscopy

  21. Oh, dear. I experienced no cramping or “sore bum” pain at all, but surely the doctor’s office can ease your concern by providing you with an antidote to whateve they think could be causing the pain??? Plus, they should be able to provide you with a time schedule so that there is nothing left to pass during your car drive. I had no problem, though the office was about 15 minutes away. Best wishes for this to be “behind” you!

  22. Thanks so much! I’m mostly vegan & the colonoscopy center was giving me conflicting info on whether I could have Ensure Clear b/c it’s red or purple. I can’t do the chocolate or vanilla one, so I was thrilled to read about the IsoPure. I realize it won’t work for strict vegans, but it’s just the ticket for me! The procedure is this week & I was panicking cuz last time I remember feeling shaky & knew I would need protein & couldn’t have pretty much everything on their list. THANK YOU!

  23. My pleasure…I hope all goes perfectly!

  24. thank you for sharing…. really helped calm my nerves <3

  25. I am so glad!

  26. So happy I came across this blog. My first colonoscopy is Monday. I am, of course, nervous, but
    trying to embrace it as a good thing. My prep I’m trying to pretend that it’s a nice cleanse before
    the holidays. lol But seriously, your information has made me less nervous of the prep and I have
    added a few things on my shopping list for today. I’m actually going to start my broth and light
    eating tonight! I will be ready for this! Thank you again for sharing.

  27. It is a very good thing. We are so fortunate to have access to this procedure that is truly painless and can save our lives. I didn’t mind the “prep” to be honest. Nothing tastes as good as feeling ultra thin–ha! I hope it all goes smoothly. Ha again. Seriously, it is truly nothing to be concerned about. My greatest fear besides the fast–because I NEVER fast–was the needle stick for the anesthesia. I am so needle phobic that it defies all logic. Complete silliness. Best wishes!

  28. My prep is 7 days before:
    Stop eating visible nuts, seeds & whole grains, including: whole grains on breads & cereals, quinoa, oatmeal, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, popcorn, nuts, all fruits with visible seeds that cannot be removed. If you can remove seeds, you can have foods like tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, apples, oranges, etc.

    Day before:
    Liquid diet as explained above.

    Seems a bit drastic, but I have done it 3 times before. After becoming vegan, my colon was pink & beautiful! I did have 1 polyp, down from five polyps, 3 years previous. ALL worth it

  29. Thanks and brava for you!

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