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If you are about to have a colonoscopy or barium enema x-ray, you will probably need to empty your bowels the night before by using a product such as GoLYTELY. This prescription laxative comes as a powder that is dissolved in water. The solution is drunk every 10 minutes until bowel movements are watery and clear. Common side effects include nausea, bloating, and cramping.


GoLYTELY® (polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution) is a prescription laxative solution used to empty the bowels before certain gastrointestinal examinations, specifically prior to colonoscopy or barium enema x-ray examinations.
(Click GoLYTELY Uses for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes This Medication?

GoLYTELY is made by Braintree Laboratories, Inc. Generic versions are made by various manufacturers.

How Does GoLYTELY Work?

GoLYTELY is an osmotic laxative. It works by drawing large amounts of water into the colon, which softens the stool and causes frequent, watery bowel movements. In addition to polyethylene glycol, GoLYTELY contains electrolytes (i.e., potassium and sodium) to replace the electrolytes lost from the body in the watery stool.

When and How to Take It

Some general considerations to keep in mind when using GoLYTELY include the following:
  • This medication comes as a powder, which should be dissolved in lukewarm water before using. Normally, eight ounces of the mixed solution are taken every 10 minutes either until bowel movements are watery and clear (which usually requires at least three liters) or four liters are consumed.
  • You should drink each eight-ounce portion of GoLYTELY as quickly as possible instead of drinking small amounts continuously.
  • GoLYTELY is usually taken the night before certain gastrointestinal procedures. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to start taking the medication.
  • GoLYTELY solution is prepared by filling the container it came in to the indicated line (the four-liter mark) with lukewarm water. Shake the container well to completely dissolve the powder. Also, shake the container before each dose.
  • Chilling the mixed solution in the refrigerator may help it taste better. However, chilled GoLYTELY is not recommended for infants.
  • Any unused portion should be thrown out 48 hours after mixing.
  • You should not eat solid food for at least two hours before taking GoLYTELY. Ideally, you should fast for three to four hours before using this product. Ask your healthcare provider how long to fast before and after using this medication, and what types of food or liquids you can consume.
  • Do not add any flavoring, other liquids, or anything else to the GoLYTELY solution. You may, however, use the flavor packet that came with the product. If you use the product's flavor packet, add it before the lukewarm water.
  • It normally takes about one hour after you start taking GoLYTELY to have your first bowel movement. Loose bowel movements will continue for one to two hours after your last GoLYTELY dose.
  • For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed.

GoLYTELY Medication Information

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