The Colonoscopy and Endoscopy: Just Do It

Gross, a colonoscopy?! But why? I’m only 25.

That was my initial reaction about 5 years back.

Today, I am so thankful I got one.

On that day, I had a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. A few years later I had another endoscopy.

When my clients come to work with me and their gut is a complete mess, I always recommend a trip to a gastroenterologist to find out if they should in fact be “scoped.” The reason? The more we know, the better. You would never treat (or not treat) many other diseases if you knew you had them, right?

Knowledge is power.

Step one: find out if a colonoscopy and/or endoscopy are recommended.

Remember, I am not a doctor, but I have been there and done that when it comes to the colonoscopy and endoscopy.

(The below is strictly from my point-of-view.)

The Colonoscopy and Endoscopy: Just Do It

Here are 9 FAQ’s as they relate to the colonoscopy and endoscopy:

What is the difference between a colonoscopy and endoscopy?

During an endoscopy, a long, thin and flexible tool (endoscope) is inserted via the mouth. There is a light, video camera and telescope on the tool and when inserted travels down your internal organs. A colonoscopy, on the other hand, uses that same tool, but only this time is inserted via the rectum in order to view the bowels and colon.

Endoscopy snare

Why would I need a colonoscopy vs. an endoscopy or vice-versa?

In simplest terms, think of it like this: identifying/where if the problem lies, whether it’s in the upper digestive or lower digestive tract. For example, if Colitis is suspected, you’ll have a colonoscopy. If Celiac is suspected, you’ll have an endoscopy. This is why I had both.

I have been told to get a colonoscopy, but then my “issues” clear up. When is the best time to get one?

The best time is now, especially if you have been told you need one. Just because our “issues” clear up, doesn’t mean they are truly gone if you haven’t done anything to address the problem. And if you don’t know what the problem is, it’s pretty hard to address it. You will likely rarely time up a colonoscopy (unless it’s an emergency) with a flare up. I was not in flare-up mode when I had mine. My Colitis was still found.

What can be determined from a colonoscopy/endoscopy in regards to the gut?

Almost anything, as it relates to the digestive tract can be determined through a colonoscopy/endoscopy. Some of these things include: Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Colitis, polyps, general inflammation, ulcers, abnormal growths and more.

How do I prepare for a colonoscopy and endoscopy?

Preparation for the two is different, from my experience. The prep for the endoscopy is really nothing. There could be some rules about the “last time you eat” and medications/OTC drugs, but that’s it. The prep for the colonoscopy is much different. It’s not fun, nor is it glamorous, but it’s important that you follow the doctor’s instructions.

My colonoscopy was afternoon-ish. I had to wake up very early that morning and start drinking the “poop liquid.” <- The real term is just some laxative liquid that they will prescribe for you. But, essentially, it’s “poop liquid.” It tastes awful. I always describe it to people like a thick, sweetened form of nasty juice heavily infused with salt. I had to chug several doses, spread apart. After the first couple, I literally gagged at the thought of getting up to drink it again. At first, my stomach got huge. I was extremely distended and bloated, but then it all started coming out. You have to drink all of it. You might be able to cheat on your workouts and your diet, but you can’t cheat here. Trust me, it all needs to come out. During those several hours, I got extremely cold, too. It was May. I laid on the couch while Ryan placed comforter upon comforter on top of me. The more cleaned out I got, the colder I became. (Note: I’ve been told that this is not typical.)

And then it was over, and it was time to go in for the procedure.

Will I be awake for a colonoscopy and endoscopy?

In my experiences, no. I have never met someone who was.

Is it quick?

Yes, it’s very quick. Once you get to the hospital, they get you set up with your fluid-IV right away. You stay like this for a bit so that everything begins circulating. Once the procedure is ready to begin, you lay on the table, and they have you turn on your side. Then, the total anesthesia begins. You begin to feel fairly cool. You count to five, but before you reach five, you are out. The actual procedure is only around 20 minutes, if I remember correctly.

And then what?

You are in recovery for about an hour. If you had an endoscopy you might burp a little. Nothing major. If you had a colonoscopy, be prepared to be a tootin’ house. It’s okay. The air is just coming out. You have to have someone there to pick you up and take you home. Obviously you’ll be out of it for most of the day.

Will I be in pain for awhile?

I never was, except for my throat burned just a wee little from the endoscopy. Other than that, I felt nothing. I promise. It’s actually kind of weird to think about all the random things that were floating around in my body. To feel nothing afterwards was bizarre. But it’s true. You likely won’t have any pain. You’ll wake up the next day ready to crank out 100 push ups face the new day!

What will I find out and when will I be told?

That depends on your current situation. If it’s bad enough and there are things to be removed immediately, they might opt to do that, while in procedure. Otherwise, they will see whatever they can with the telescope and grab samples of all other areas to be tested on afterwards. For me, they knew right away that I had inflammation from both my colonoscopy and endoscopy. They told my husband, and said they grabbed several samples to be sent to the lab. A couple days later I had a follow up with my doctor who told me they found Proctitis. The endoscopy wasn’t addressed much more that time, and that is why I had another a few years later when I was still having problems.

Just Do It

Get your colonoscopy and/or endoscopy done. Again, knowledge is power. If and when you are diagnosed with something, the doctor’s next step is to get you on drugs and medication. You will have to be the decision maker at that point. For me, it was my biggest mistake. I didn’t know any better. I got on the drugs. I got worse. But for you, you might 100% need it. I don’t know your story.

But if you don’t get scoped, you’ll never be able to write your own story.

Be brave. Be bold. Be beautiful.

Question: What other question(s) do you have? Have you had a colonoscopy and/or endoscopy? What were your experiences?

Love your guts,

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      • Lisah says

        Hey Sarah, thx for the response. I hear you. I have acupuncture on the list of to do’s. Im currently doing a 1/2 a** attempt at going gluten free but certainly not strictly. Im loaded on fruits and veggies. Eliminated pork. Im a trainer…so, im fairly educated on whats good and bad. But maybe not necessarily for me :(. Any good resources –i.e. books etc. Thanks so much!

        • says

          Yeah, my blog:) Seriously. What’s “healthy” is not what’s “right” for those with severe IBS/IBD in the beginning stages. Read any of these: “I’m loaded on fruits and veggies” could very well be a lot of your current issues. The world tells us what healthy is, but for Gutsy girls, it just isn’t so. Seriously….peruse my blog, get The Gutsy Girl’s Bible. You’ll learn a TON:) Promise.

    • LB says

      I’m having both done on 8/29/13. I’m not going to be “put out’, just sedated. I’m dreading the prep & the thought of being awake!!

  1. says

    I had an upper endo back in November and was petrified, but it was no big thing, SO much easier and painless than I was anticipating!

      • Lisah says

        Hello..I just read your comments about choosing meds was a mistake. So far within the year I have had a colonoscopy, capsule endoscopy, ct scan, and now embarking on another colonoscopy & endoscopy. I have 4 ulcers in small intestine. They always start leaning towards possible Crohns when they can figure out another reason for my ulcers. Even though I tested neg on the Promethius test. Ugh..I dont want to go on those harsh drugs. Im missing a lot of symptoms of a typical diagnosed Crohns

        • says

          I feel your pain, Lisah! Please know that choosing meds is not *always* a mistake. I only think it’s a mistake with it’s the primary solution. Medication, to me, is reactive. I think we need to be proactive. You might truly need them, after exhausting all other diet and lifestyle options.

  2. says

    I’ve had both done and they were no big deal. My one side effect was faint traces of blood in my flem and stool for a day afterwards. I was so happy to have it done because it rules out super serious possibilities. I just have stupid old IBS.

  3. says

    I love this post! I had a colonoscopy last year in hopes of getting to the bottom of some pain and symptoms I was experiencing. Though the “prep” wasn’t the greatist experience, I’m glad I had the procedure overall. I’m tempted to go back and get the endoscopy though because I’m still having issues. I’m glad to be able to read about someone’s experience with that procedure. It makes me feel less nervous. Thanks for being bold enough to share this! Be well!

    • says

      Thanks for sharing, Kristin! And yes, if you’re still having problems, I would recommend finding out if the endoscopy might provide you with more insight. It’s a piece of cake.

  4. says

    This is a great informative post. I had my first one in my 20’s as well. Had I not I would not have known my colon was tortuous and redundent. I recently had a total colectomy surgery and they removed 10ft of large intestine (a normal one is 5ft) and pathology showed no nerves left in the lining. It is very important to have tests done no matter how uncomfortable they can be. I know I have had a ton of tests and procedures done on me.

  5. says

    Great post! I had my first colonoscopy back in November at age 31, and it was over before I even knew I had gotten it. (Literally: when I woke up, I asked the nurse when it would be my turn, and she said, “Honey, you already had yours!”) I was also “lucky” enough to be experiencing a flare, so I only had to do minimal prep. That really was worse than the procedure itself! I am glad I got it done, too, or I wouldn’t have known I have ulcerative colitis.

  6. says

    I have yet to get these types of test done…scared. And feel I have been doing pretty good at figuring things out myself, but it sure would be nice to know some things for sure. Maybe one day I will get the courage to go.

    • says

      Don’t be scared. Like I said above, you wouldn’t treat (or not treat) most diseases if you knew you had them. Knowledge is power:)

  7. says

    I don’t know WHY people think colonoscopies or endoscopies are gross, I mean, you’re asleep 100% of the time! The grossest part about a colonoscopy is PREPPING FOR IT because the CRAP you have to drink is RANK!!!!! So gross. I just went to Utah to help my mom, cause she get routine colonoscopies every year… And while I was chowing down on my Whole Foods dinner, she was chugg-a-lugging that RAUNCHY DRINK that tastes worse than cow crap! LOL
    (My video to come… About my ridiculous night… LOL)

  8. says

    I had an endoscopy in 1998 to see what was going on with my stomach. I’d been through 4 months of tests with nothing and at that point I was desperate and didn’t care if it was uncomfortable or not. I was assured I’d be under “twilight” meds and wouldn’t remember a thing. LIE! LOL

    I can tell you everything from the beginning to the doctor getting impatient with me “fighting” the tube going down to the way the biopsy felt to them taking it out and me asking “do I have stomach cancer?” like 7x before I had to yell “I AM FULLY AWAKE AND AWARE OF WHAT I AM SAYING…DO I HAVE CANCER????” To which they non-chalantly replied “nope.”

    So I would just suggest if you go under twilight tell them to make sure they give you enough for your body weight. Would I do it again? Absolutely because the waiting and wondering is way worse than them being able to tell you what they see in your stomach.

    • Louise says

      Someone said they never heard of anyone being awake. Well now there’s two of us. I had Propofol (the Michael Jackson drug) for my colonoscopy two years ago and I kept waking up. When they took specimens from the side of the bowel I could feel it and it hurt. I kept calling out ‘OW! OW!’. Tomorrow I am having both ends looked at and I am terrified. By the way, with the prep kit I have, the drinks taste nice, like lemon. I just wish I could stop feeling so scared. I always had a phobia about anaesthetics.

        • Louise says

          Well, I did it, it’s over! The doctor had terrible trouble finding a vein. I have bad veins. Eventually he had to use one on the inside of my wrist, and it not only hurt like hell getting the canula in, it also stung really badly when the propofol was injected into it. The pain was very bad from that. Other than that, I don’t remember anything about it, thank goodness, unlike last time. But I’ve just spoken to my next door neighbour and she has colonoscopies every 12 months and has been awake during ALL of them for a lot of the time. By the way, I see it says above they start you on a drip, but we don’t get a drip here in Australia. You don’t get any intravenous fluids at all, but they do give you sandwiches and drinks when you wake up. The doctor told me he found 2 polyps which have been sent to the lab, and a badly ulcerated trachea, so I’m going to have to take the proton pump inhibitor drug which I’m not happy about, because it’s been linked to cancer and gastric atrophy, so when I see the doctor again I’ll want an end date for taking the Somac as I won’t take it for years on end.

  9. Mariah says

    I have to get both done at the same time on Friday and I am so nervous! I know it’s for a good reason, but I’m sixteen, I shouldn’t be having to do this stuff! :( tonight is my last night to eat and I don’t even want anything because my stomach always hurts! I’m not really being rational but I’m just so nervous!

    • Louise says

      Mariah, let us know how you go. I had mine last week and it was fine. The sedationist I had 2 years back must have been useless because this time I didn’t wake up at all. I didn’t know anything about it and it wasn’t a problem. I had 2 polyps removed and now everything is normal again. No need to be scared, you’ll be fine.

  10. Stacey says

    In process of prepping (or should I say pooping?) right now. Have an endoscopy and colonoscopy scheduled at 10am. Not my first rodeo so I’m not scared at all except for the the potential findings. Last time I was diagnosed with colitis and thanks to Amitizia (prescription med) I’ve been fine up until about a month ago. Now my doc thinks it’s ulcerative colitis with some damage to my esophagus as a result. I’m looking forward to the “Michael Jackson” juice (best part if you ask me) and then having a yummy breakfast. Yes, I’m actually thinking of food! Seriously, do not be scared. As said many times, the prep is the worst part and I agree that knowing is a lot better than not…especially with generations of hereditary stomach problems. Be gutsy!

    • says

      Hi Stacey! I really love this comment:) Thank you for being “gutsy,” and for stopping by. Good luck next week. I’ll be thinking of you.

  11. Christin says

    Thanks Sarah for a great write up, I am having both done on Thursday and dreading it a bit. Since having my baby girl 15 months ago I have had problems with my bowel intermittently and just sort of put up with it. But after the last episode of 6 days of diarrea I have had enough and really hope that this procedure will tell me what is wrong. Thanks again, also got a lot from everyone’s comments.

    • says

      Hi Christin! Good luck to you. And yes, many times these “issues” because after a major life stressor, like a birth. I wish you well.

  12. Emily says

    hi! im getting an endoscopy and a colonoscopy in about 3 days. it is not my first, but this helped considering i have developed a weird fear of not waking up from the anesthesia. i had gotten my first one at age 10 or 11. i dont remember. im now 13, turning 14 in 13 days!!! :) i had been bullied excessively and lost all my friends in 5th grade and i called home almost every day because of horrible stomach pain and, thinking i was faking it to get out of school, my parents wouldnt come get me (my school was also an hour away from where i live). they finally got concerned and took me to a gastro and felt horrible when there actually WAS something wrong. i was on steroids the entire 6th grade, swallowed a camera pill thingy, had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy, etc.
    i was diagnosed with UBD and they didnt know if it was colitis or crohns (and still dont). i left my doctor (he didnt seem to know what he was doing and my friend who has celiac said she left him because he was horrible too) for three years and my condition had worsened this previous summer and so i went to a new one just this late october. apparently my previous doctor had written in the papers that i needed to lessen up on this medicine, take more of this other one, i should stop taking this one, etc and never told my family!!! he never even tested me for celiac! he also had done multiple unnecessary procedures. so my parents decided to just start all over considering my old doc didnt know what he was doing and now were back at square one. ew. the one helpful thing my old doctor did was tell me all this confusing crap about where my inflammation was that neither me nor my parents understood. after three years, my new doctor explained where my inflammation was. out of my small and large intestine (from three years ago) i only had two spots that werent inflamed. my stomach has been hurting and im nauseous almost every day now . its gotten so bad that if my stomach hurts, im allowed to sleep in the office at school until it stops hurting.
    looking forward to (hopefully) finding out officially what i have and (hopefully) getting medicine to stop the pain and nausea! :)

    • Jill says

      Oh Emily, I am so sorry to hear of the bullying! I went through the same in my grade-school years.
      Keep your eye on the prize! Go after what you want in life…no matter your youthful age, and set your sights on a more fulfilling experience in college!
      I’ll be getting a colonoscopy for the first time in January. And have hated the idea of it, but my kind doctor keeps pushing me to do it so…
      Your story gave me strength. Your a wise young one. Keep Heart and you’ll go far!

  13. A says

    Lovely article Sarah.
    I had 3 endoscopes done in the past without total anaesthesia but my throat was numbed via spray.On one occasion dr. Didn’t wait long enough which caused discomfort & plenty of retching .Initially too much discomfort.Other two occasions , as It was done by two professors, it was plain sailing.Generally when the tube goes in the throat ,it’s uncomfortable but after it’s passed through your oesophagus then it’s ok.Actually at that point you may even start liking the feeling:)When the endoscope comes out then there will be some discomfort.
    In three days time,I am going for another endoscopy and also sigmoidoscopy(first time) and dreading it.
    I think I will do Epsom salt bath and take L Theanine to reduce anxiety.I will pray to God that I find an experienced person.Lets see how it pans out.All the best to every one.

  14. Scared says

    I’m so scared of having an endoscopy and colonoscopy. I’ve been having pain for years now. I went to so many doctors who said that I needed to have these tests done but I have been so scared. Scared to not wake up from the anesthesia and scared to just not be in control. Also fearful of them perforating the colon. I also know that I’m sick of the pain and the not knowing. Help!!

    • says

      Don’t be scared. It will all be okay, and then you will have some answers. I’ve “gone under” several times, and never had any problems. Good luck to you!

  15. Robyn Beatty says

    I have a different story, I had my first screening colonoscopy five years ago, and they removed a polyup. I was to have one in Dec 2013. With all the new insurance laws, when scheduling my 2nd colonoscopy, the scheduler asked me if it was a screening, which I told her yes, that I had to have a follow up in five years. So the question was preventive or Diagnostic. Big difference $ , so she told me that we would put preventive, down so the insurance would pay for it. Big mistake, I told my Dr. That was performing the the big C that it was my first one. Well after recovery, there were problems, evidently I have scar tissue and the Dr. Could not finish, he got my husband a little scared, so now I have been caught in an untruth. I feel really bad, but now remember 2 weeks after the first one I had a really bad pain, on my left side, Went to urgent care, did a lot of tests, never found out why, he knew I had a polyup up removed, and basically ended up in my Gyn’s office. I feel really awful about the whole thing…this new Dr. Was very kind and caring, in the op room. How do I fix this? I have never not been truthful to my Dr’s , this was all about the Dollar signs and being lead down the wrong road. My husband told me the look on his face changed and he walked out…I will have an. X ray done now. What would you do to fix this , now an integrity issue.