Natural Colonoscopy Prep

Date: June 19, 2012      Publication: Daily Health News      Source: Leo Galland      Print:

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t hate preparing for a colonoscopy.

Typical doctor’s orders let us drink only clear liquids for a day beforehand and then have us downing powerful chemical laxatives that often cause cramping and bloating before causing us to spend the night visiting the bathroom again and again.

Shouldn’t there be a better way?

I’m happy to say that there is.

Though it’s not something that your regular doctor is likely to tell you about.

It’s a much more natural and pleasant alternative!


What got me to think about the nastiness of colonoscopy preparation—and to see whether there’s a better alternative—is a new study that landed on my desk recently. Prior research had shown that 25% of colonoscopy patients don’t adequately prepare for the procedure—they typically follow some of the prep instructions but not all of them.

Well, this new study, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, showed how dangerous that can be. When average-risk patients didn’t do the entire prep, some stool remained in their colons, obscuring the doctor’s view by more than 10%, on average. As a result, about one-third of those patients were asked to redo or resume the prep and return for a second colonoscopy. So a good number of patients who didn’t properly prep had to have the procedure done all over again. On top of that, these patients may have prevented their doctors from detecting any cancerous polyps early—and that’s a scary thought.

I’m sure that everyone wants to do an adequate job prepping—it’s just that the stuff that you have to swallow can make you feel bloated and give you cramps, among other uncomfortable side effects! Are there natural ways to prep that make the process less “cringe-worthy”? Yes, said Leo Galland, MD, an internationally recognized leader in integrated medicine. He offered me some dos and don’ts for precolonoscopy cleansing. If his advice differs from what your doctor recommends, bring in this article and have a conversation with him or her about what’s best for you.


Consider using magnesium citrate, a natural mineral laxative. Magnesium citrate (a magnesium salt of citric acid) is a more reliable purgative than the polyethylene glycol that’s often prescribed, Dr. Galland said. “My favorite is called Natural Calm, which is pure magnesium citrate powder with no additives,” said Dr. Galland. “Magnesium and citrate are normally found in the body and are also derived from food, so the powder is all natural. Plus, it’s no more expensive and not any harder to find than traditionally prescribed laxatives.” How come more doctors don’t prescribe Natural Calm? “Marketing,” said Dr. Galland. Start drinking it about 5 pm on the day before your colonoscopy is scheduled (you mix three tablespoons of the powder into eight ounces of hot water, then let it cool and drink it). “It goes down best if you add ice and sip it through a straw,” said Dr. Galland. Repeat the dose around 10 pm, he said. Warning: If you have kidney disease, Dr. Galland warned, you shouldn’t take a magnesium-based laxative, because excess magnesium can accumulate in tissues, so talk to your doctor about alternative ways to prep for a colonoscopy.Another advantage to Natural Calm is that you may find that it’s gentler on your body, said Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew Rubman, ND, medical director of the Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines in Southbury, Connecticut. “Because an all-natural laxative has fewer additives, which can act as stimulants and irritants and cause inflammation in the bowel lining, you may experience less bloating and incontinence and fewer cramps.”

  • Schedule a morning colonoscopy. If you’re the first or second patient of the day, you’ll be more comfortable (read: less hungry) than others scheduled for later, and you’re less likely to have a long wait due to earlier appointments taking longer than scheduled.
  • Talk to your doctor about possibly taking an herb hiatus. Dr. Galland told me that some herbs and other supplements have laxative effects, but far more—including fish oils and vitamin E—can interfere with proper blood clotting, which is necessary if any colon polyps are detected and removed during the colonoscopy. Ask your ND and/or your MD whether it’s a good idea to stop any herbs and/or supplements (or lower your intake) a week before your colonoscopy is scheduled.


Source: Leo Galland, MD, director of the Foundation for Integrated Medicine, New York City, and founder of a Web site devoted to integrated medicine and use of nutritional supplements. The research cited was published in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

  • kim

    Are you saying you only have to drink 3T of Natural Calm in water and only twice??? 5pm and 10 pm???

    • savetheusa2

      I can’t even persuade my doctor’s office to use something other than MoviPrep or the other one that you don’t have as much to drink. They won’t use any kind of magnesium ….! They won’t work with me. I’ve have been suffering every time I begin to drink or eat ANYTHING for three weeks now. Since I don’t clean out well they wanted me to do TWO PREPS with this stuff two days in a row at 7 pm then at 3 am. They might as well shoot me. I should be having my colonoscopy RIGHT NOW. They tried to make me to stay on schedule, but I was shot by then. I can’t drink this stuff once, and they wanted me to drink it 4 times. My doctor is good, but they have to work with ME. I probably should just use this and never let them know. I might have to change doctors. They are going to call me back soon. Will they work with my situation? HELP! I just want to vomit now!

      • Sarah Schneiderman

        I feel the same way. I’m taking my second dose (what would be your 3 a.m. dose). I want to gag. I’ve had almost no calories for over 24 hours and two hours of sleep. I’m trying the Magnesium Citrate next time.

        Fortunate, I don’t suffer after the colonoscopy except mental suffering thinking about having to prepare the next time.

      • Pat Dahl

        Don’t tell the Dr. you are using an alternate method to clean your colon. I am going for my first colonoscopy and am using the 3T of Natural Calm – I checked with my Naturopath and she told me to also drink an electrolyte and coconut water to replace potassium and otherwise the Natural Calm would be just as effective as the chemicals at that high dose 🙂 I don’t think it’s any of the Dr’s business how we clean as long as we are clean 😉 – we’ll see if he even can tell I didn’t use the chemicals!

        • Bev Perry

          How did the Natural calm work? I’m going for a colonoscopy tomorrow and really don’t want to do the Miralax. I’m also supposed to take 4 dulcolax tablets at 10 this morning…

          • Pat Dahl

            So sorry Bev, did not see your question till this morning! The Natural Calm worked very well. I was not the least bit uncomfortable, no gas or bloating and no rawness (except my hands from repeated washing!) here’s the link for the instructions. Only thing I did differently was I started at 9 am the morning before then repeated the dose at 4 pm so I would not be up in the night. Scope was not till 2 pm next day so I did a 3rd dose (just to be sure) at 6 am the morning of. Needed to drink more water that morning though as I got a little dehydrated. Otherwise all worked very well and I am sure the natural cleanse was much healthier and gives them a better view as your colon is not irritated 🙂 Note the warning to not use if you have kidney disease. My apologies for not getting this info to you in time. Hope all went well . . .

    • Pat Dahl

      Hi Kim,
      I did it 3 times just to be safe and I used different times as I did not want to be up in the middle of the night. First dose at 6 am day before 2nd dose at 4 pm and then 3rd dose at 6 am the day of as my appt was at 2 pm. Make sure to use a med sized pot when mixing the 3 tablespoons as the powder foams quite vigorously when you add the hot water 🙂

  • Melanie

    I went to a Gastroenterologist office visit for my 85 year old mother recently. Colonoscopy is much more risky for the elderly. The risks outweigh the benefits. So, they ordered a blood draw and a diy stool sample kit ( which you do at home and mail to a lab). If anything appears abnormal in these labs, then a colonoscopy may be considered.
    I was recently scheduled for a colonoscopy myself, but they wouldn’t work with me since I wanted to use Epsom Salts ( the edible kind) and my own liquid diet ( natural and free of refined processed ingredients). They wanted to convince me otherwise. When I stood many ground they cancelled, but called back within 20 min. They wanted to schedule an office visit to discuss an alternate prep, which will probably all include chemicals. I asked about the blood test and stool sample. They said that can be done, but by my PCP. They don’t do that. So I am emailing my Naturopath to ask if she will order this lab work. If not I may go to Swedish where my mother goes. Stand your ground. If more of us do so eventually a new standard may be set. It’s my body. I knife what’s best for me. The chemicals are not good and there are safer effective alternatives. And what about this with poor health? Wouldn’t the liquid diet and the chemicals be a huge risk to them? They are making alot if money on those nasty prep kits. Mine cost $30 and i refuse to use it. It’s probably only with $5 at most. Also, the lab work didn’t require Anesthesia and messing up 4 days of your week. And we were told it is very accurate. Best of health to all of you. Melanie in Washington

  • Melanie

    Sorry about my type errors. Phone is acting up. Many to say I know what is best for my body.

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  • Eva Kisocama

    I have a hyatial hernia and when I tried the prep with miralax & Gatorade I couldn’t keep it down, what I was able to drink came up projectile! The time frame was too short! I don’t know what else to do. My condition pushes my stomach up into the lower portion of my esophagus so the space between is much shorter. I will be 52 in w weeks so I really need to get this procedure done.

  • Cathy Tuomi Delarosa

    I just asked my doctor if I could use natural calm and he said no it was not enough to to clean me gonna use it anyway.

  • Paul Fleming

    I have a colonoscopy scheduled for late next week. We have Magnesium Citrate in pill form (200mg). Can this be used in the same fashion as Natural Calm, perhaps with a different dosong recommendation? Would you happen to have a 5pm and 9pm dosing suggestion to follow the day before my 7am colonoscopy? Thank you!