Colonoscopy prep may cause symptoms of indigestion and heartburn. The choice of prep, dosing schedule, and food and drink a person consumes may help manage the uncomfortable side effects.

Colonoscopy prep is a laxative people take, either as a series of pills or as a liquid formula. Colonoscopy prep helps cleanse the colon before a colonoscopy, so a doctor can examine the colon clearly.

This article looks at whether colonoscopy prep can cause heartburn, how to manage heartburn while taking colonoscopy prep, and other tips for a successful prep.

A person emptying a sachet of colonoscopy prep into waterShare on Pinterest
fizkes/Getty Images

According to a 2022 article, it is very common for colonoscopy prep to cause symptoms of indigestion, which may include heartburn.

People may also experience some abdominal pain or discomfort. This is due to the intense cleansing of the intestines, which prepares the bowels for examination.

According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), serious side effects of colonoscopy prep are rare.

Colonoscopy prep causes frequent loose bowel movements that empty and cleanse the colon.

People may experience mild discomfort while taking the prep, and some may experience the following:

  • bloating
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain or cramping

According to a 2018 case study, excessive intake of calcium carbonate, which is in some antacid treatments, such as Tums, can prevent an endoscope from working properly and reduce the effectiveness of a colonoscopy.

People must stop taking liquid antacids, such as Gaviscon, 5 days before a colonoscopy.

If people have severe symptoms or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), they can speak with a doctor before starting their prep to discuss how to manage their GERD symptoms.

People will need to check with a doctor about any medications, vitamins, or supplements they are taking. A doctor can advise which are suitable to take alongside colonoscopy prep.

While taking colonoscopy prep, people may be able to prevent uncomfortable side effects, such as heartburn, with the following tips.

  • Use forums and online reviews to see which prep and dosing schedules others recommend for preventing heartburn.
  • All colonoscopy preps are effective, so people can choose the one they think best suits them.
  • Talk with a doctor about which prep is best for minimizing the chances of heartburn.
  • Talk with a doctor about following a low residue diet, which limits foods that stimulate the bowels and may help make colonoscopy prep more manageable.

According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, ginger may help ease heartburn by reducing acid in the stomach. However, this requires further research.

People can drink clear liquids 1 day before a colonoscopy, so they may want to include a clear, ginger drink, such as ginger ale.

It may help to eat smaller meals in the lead-up to the prep, avoid smoking and any known triggers for heartburn, and avoid lying down for a few hours after eating. Elevating the head 6–8 inches while in bed may help prevent heartburn during sleep.

Learn more about colonoscopy prep drinks.

Other tips for colonoscopy prep include:

  • reducing fiber intake and eating smaller meals in the few days before starting the prep
  • checking which foods and drinks are suitable, and avoiding foods that are harder to digest, such as popcorn, nuts, seeds, and fatty foods
  • drinking a liquid prep, if taken, cold and through a straw, which may make it easier to consume
  • using a split-dose prep that divides the prep between the night before and the morning of the procedure, which may be easier to take
  • choosing flavored drinks, such as clear fruit juices, broth, or electrolyte drinks for the liquid diet the day before the procedure
  • avoiding any red, purple, or orange colorings
  • having soft, durable toilet paper and wet wipes easily accessible to make using the toilet more comfortable
  • applying a barrier cream, such as Vaseline or coconut oil, to dry the skin to avoid irritation
  • wearing comfortable clothes and finding something to do while using the toilet frequently, such as reading a book
  • gently easing back into eating regular meals again and avoiding any heavy, spicy, or fatty meals for a few days after the colonoscopy

Read more about preparing for a colonoscopy.

It can be common to experience symptoms of indigestion, such as heartburn, with colonoscopy prep. People may also have other gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal discomfort, nausea, and bloating.

Side effects will usually pass once the prep and colonoscopy are over, although it may take a few days for the gastrointestinal system to feel normal again.

Colonoscopy prep is essential for an effective colonoscopy, but it may cause uncomfortable side effects, such as heartburn.

People can talk with a doctor about managing potential side effects of colonoscopy prep, particularly if they have existing heartburn.

People will also need to ask a doctor which medications, including over-the-counter antacids, are suitable to take alongside colonoscopy prep.