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I had a Colonoscopy as a 25 Year Old: Here's What it was like

I just had my first colonoscopy as a 25 year old. And let me tell you, I am so happy I did.


I have been experiencing digestive issues since I was 21 and it probably is one of those things most people dismiss. I mean, it didn’t seem that bad at first.


The first thing I noticed about four years ago was that I started to bloat after every meal. I just came back from a study abroad program in Italy, and it seemed like the standard American diet was not sitting well with me. I would go to bed extremely bloated and wake up bloated. I didn’t feel hungry anymore and when I was hungry, I was ravenous. I also felt really nauseous after I ate, and it seemed like food didn’t energize me at all.


Then, I started to notice my bowel movements change. I felt more constipated, not being able to go to the bathroom for four or five days. Then by the end of the week I was glued to the toilet all morning.


There were a lot of red flags after a few months of this. The constant bloating, nausea, headaches, and low energy were negatively impacting my quality of life.


I booked an appointment with my first gastroenterologist in the fall of 2020 after about seven months of these digestive issues. We did all of the bloodwork, the stool tests, and I even got an MRI to make sure there were no blockages in my abdomen.


Everything came back “normal”, and she sent me home with an over-the-counter prescription for Metamucil.


Little did I know, this was only the beginning of a very long journey to finding answers.


Taking your Symptoms Seriously


It can be a funny joke sometimes when people are like “hot girls have tummy issues”. But in the context of things, we shouldn’t be making light of this conversation when colon cancer is on the rise in young adults.

15% of the global population is suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and statistically, women are more likely to suffer from IBS.

It is an isolating and depressing illness. You feel like you can’t eat anything, have a lower quality of life, and oftentimes feel like the only person experiencing these issues.


So why are we normalizing this?


Even if you are taking your symptoms seriously, it can be discouraging when you visit a practitioner and they label your digestive issues, acne, brain fog, or anxiety as just “IBS” and advise you to eat more fiber. Been there, done that. And trust me, that is not your answer.


It’s crucial to not to give up and to continue advocating for yourself and your symptoms. I promise you; you should take any changes to your digestive system and your mental health seriously! Giving up will be what separates you from simply surviving with your symptoms, to taking control of your narrative.


But HOW Do I Advocate for Myself?!


I mentioned that the first gastroenterologist I saw just prescribed me with Metamucil (which actually made my symptoms worse!). So how did I find a doctor that actually listened to me? How did I get the answers I needed?!


It certainly isn’t easy (or cheap). Over the last four years, I have seen multiple gastroenterologists and holistic doctors to combat these symptoms and figure out where it all started. I find it worth it to financially invest in different doctors because we only get one shot at our health.


I’ve tried the low FODMAP diet, the Candida diet, and the elimination diet. I cut out most processed foods and sweets and dramatically changed my lifestyle. I tried every supplement under the sun. Yet, I am still experiencing digestive issues on a consistent basis.


Start by being Accountable for your Lifestyle Choices


There are two types of people that experience digestive issues: Those whose diets/lifestyles are shit and feel like shit, and those whose diets are balanced and healthy, and still feel like shit.


That may sound harsh, but it’s a bit true.


If you are part of that first group (and really, be honest with yourself here!) then I would advise you to switch to a whole foods based diet and evaluate your lifestyle choices. You do not need to go gluten-free, dairy-free, all-the-things-free. But, go back to the basics, and see how you feel after a month or two.


  1. Remove highly-processed foods like cereals, store-bought bread, sweets, chips/crackers, soft drinks…basically most packaged foods. Aim for 50% lightly cooked vegetables (coniferous, probiotic rich vegetables), 25% protein source (chicken, red meat, turkey, fish), 25% complex carbs (rice, potatoes, quinoa).

  2. Remove/reduce alcohol. Even having 1-2 drinks/week can impact your gut microbiome. Completely eliminate or reduce sugary cocktails to help balance your blood sugar and reduce overall inflammation.

  3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water and be sure to opt for spring/mineral water over purified. Add in electrolytes where you can - through sea salt, LMNT packets, lemon, or 100% coconut water so your body is actually being hydrated.

  4. Get good, quality, consistent sleep! Women need more sleep than men (8-9 hours) and it is best to go to bed before 10PM to promote your body’s own healing process, regulate hormones, and your appetite. Plus, eating your last meal at least 90 minutes before bed allows your body ample time to digest your meal, helping you to rest & repair.

  5. Incorporate movement into your daily routine. By getting in low-impact movement throughout the day, like walking or a gentle yoga flow, it can not only help destress you, but it helps lower the glucose-spike of your food + gets your digestive system moving.

I will admit, I was part of this first group. My diet wasn’t horrible but it was the standard, American diet, full of processed foods and high-sugar meals. I also didn't prioritize my sleep and drank like a 20-something year old in NYC would (hint, it was too much).


Changing these habits helped a bit, but not to a point where my symptoms improved dramatically.


Now, if you are part of the second group, you may be wondering “I already have a healthy diet and lifestyle, so why do I still have digestive issues?!”


There can be a multitude of reasons related to your root cause that point towards a deeper, underlying issue. Even if you have made simple diet/lifestyle changes, it’s time to work with a doctor who can really help to rule everything out at this point.


How to Find the Right Doctor


I thought I sworn off gastroenterologists. After the third one I saw literally told me to just “eat more fiber”, I nearly left in tears and told myself I would not return.

But, I started to get scared. Even though I am working with a naturopathic doctor, found my root cause, and am seeing real progress in reversing my IBS, my symptoms continued to feel very worrisome.

In particular, I started to develop hemorrhoids and for the past few months it’s been extremely painful to even go to the bathroom. This was after 3 months of antimicrobials and 3 months of a low starch/sugar diet. At this point, I should’ve been feeling 1000x better!


And so, out of frustration (when else are we motivated to do anything) I found a new gastroenterologist in the city and booked an appointment a couple of weeks later.

I am lucky enough to be in a city filled with some of the best doctors, but the seemingly endless choices can also make it more difficult to choose.


After extensive googling, I found Dr. Jennifer Bonheur’s practice on the Upper East Side. Their mission statement is “Comprehensive and Compassionate Care” and after reading the ZocDoc reviews, I felt like they were a clinic I could trust.


Not only are they board-certified gastroenterologists, but they are female doctors (shout-out) who have an integrative approach to healing. The key here is “Integrative Health”. This buzz word will help you find a doctor that will not isolate your symptoms, but instead review your full medical history, symptoms (mental + physical) and set up multifaceted approach.


Working with my naturopath and this new, integrative gastroenterologist, we agreed that a colonoscopy could be a good next step. Since I have never gotten one - even when my issues developed four years ago - and have done multiple stool tests, blood work, and even an MRI with no results, it seemed like a vital next step.


The Colonoscopy: Prep, Procedure, and What it was Actually Like


A colonoscopy is an invasive procedure that looks for any signs of intestinal inflammation or damage, that may be a cause for rectal bleeding, chronic diarrhea, etc. You are under anesthesia for the screening (in the shortest, it can take 20 minutes) and don’t feel a thing (thank God) because they stick a scope in your colon through your rear-end.


It can be a way to diagnose Chron’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease. It also acts as a screening for Colon Cancer and can be used to remove pre-cancerous polyps. You usually get your results right away and can return to normal activities the next day.

It is an intense process to prepare for - that was definitely the worst of it - but has an easy recover.


So, for three days I prepared with a low-fiber diet. Really, I only ate like white rice, chicken, potatoes (without the skin) and mushrooms. It was super limiting, but it was only for a few days, so it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.


For the next two days that week, I didn’t eat at all as I was preparing for the procedure. Instead, I drank about two gallons of this laxative solution. I had to take more laxatives on top of it because I am a chronically constipated girly. And I did not sleep at all the night before my procedure because you are just glued to the toilet. Still, you can get through it. It’s not the worst thing in the world. If I can do it and my pain tolerance is -2, anyone can do it.


Then, after the procedure, I found myself waking up from the anesthesia to the incredible news that everything was clear: I just had signs of bleeding from hemorrhoids.


All of that work, just for me to be clear🤠 Still, no results are the best results! I have no regrets doing it because it gave me peace of mind.


Should You get a Colonoscopy?


I'll admit, with the rise of colon cancer in the US among young adults, I was starting to get really nervous about what these chronic digestive issues could mean. I’m not saying that just because you have digestive issues or IBS you will develop colon cancer. However, I do think, it poses a greater reason on why you should begin to take your own digestive issues seriously and not just as some meme on social media.

If you have chronic digestive issues; you’re not part of ‘Group One’ where your diet and lifestyle are shit, and you have ruled out celiac, ulcerative colitis, parasites, SIBO, and Candida (basically been tested for everything) and still have digestive issues, I would 100% do a colonoscopy. Even if you are in your early twenties and feel too young to do one (the average age is 50 for colonoscopies). Get. It. Done.

While it can seem terrifying to have an invasive procedure or even take a test that could give you alarming results, the peace of mind you will receive once you start taking control of your health will be liberating. And remember, no results are still an answer!


It’s a last resort, but it’s the best resort, especially when working with the right doctor!


If you find a way to have insurance cover it or you can pay out of pocket for one, I think this is something you should highly consider. An investment in your health is the best investment there is.


And together, we need to all advocate for proper diagnosis and treatment options, because the blanket label of “IBS” and the treatment plan to “just eat more fiber” is not a one-size-fits-all solution.


That is what motivates me to continue sharing my journey. I hope it empowers you on your own healing journey! Comment down below if you have any tips for the community 🤍

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Welcome! If you made it here, you are probably looking for answers on where to begin your wellness journey. I'm Jessica, and I started my gut health journey over 3 years ago. As an avid foodie and wellness enthusiast, I hope to inspire you on your realistic wellness journey.

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