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Tips for talking to your doctor about your IBS

Tips For Talking To Your Doctor About Your IBS

Talking to anyone about your IBS can be confronting, because bowel habits are still a taboo subject. And while it may seem like it should be easier when talking to your doctor, the fact is that it still can be tough to find the right words to explain what’s going on and to ask for the help that you need. Here’s some tips to make it easier:

Be direct about your symptoms

Your doctor is trained in biology and physiology, so they know all about how the gut functions. Yes, you will still find doctors who squirm a little when talking about bowel movements and won’t always look you directly in the eye, but so long as they listen, that’s okay. Although if you think they’ve stopped listening, my trick is to pause mid-sentence and wait for them to look at me to see why I’ve stopped talking. Then I start talking again when I’m sure I have their full attention.

Be clear about what you want help with

Even though you’re going to your doctor to get help with your IBS, the exact thing that you need help with will depend on what your symptoms are like and what’s giving you the most grief at that time. So don’t let them guess about what’s concerning you the most. Tell them outright about what the problem is and then tell them what your ideal resolution of that problem would be. That way they know exactly what help you’re looking for.

Ask for clarification if you don’t understand what they’re saying

While some doctors are great at explaining complex concepts in simple ways that anyone can understand, many struggle to do this. So, if they’re telling you something and all you hear is medical jargon, ask them to explain things more simply. Or ask what a specific word means. Or even write down those new medical words and look them up later for more info. But remember that you have a right to understand what’s going on with you, because if you don’t understand, you can’t make an informed decision about how to proceed with your treatment options.

Make sure you understand which tests can actually help you

Some people get really caught up with medical tests – that goes for people with IBS and also for doctors. But the fact is that medical tests exist to provide answers to specific questions and they can only answer the things that they were created to answer. Because of that, you won’t need to have every possible test done. The trick is to work out which tests can answer the questions that you need answered. So if you think you need a specific test, ask your doctor if they think it would help you or not and then make sure that they clearly explain why the test will or won’t help. Also, if your doctor suggests a test, ask them why they want you to have it. This way, you won’t waste your time and money on unnecessary tests but will get the tests that you need.

Make sure you know what you can realistically expect from a treatment

Since IBS is a condition that’s different for everyone, some treatments will work better on some people than on others and some treatments won’t work for you. So every time you start a new treatment, ask your doctor about what the treatment is meant to do and how it works. And make sure you ask about any sort of side effects that might be caused by the treatment. That way you’re less likely to have any nasty surprises from a new treatment and you also won’t be expecting miracles from it either.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • ollivier71
    2 years ago

    Hi Chris,
    I’ve already tried meditation and sophrology that has become very popular during the past few years in France.
    A friend of mine has been studying sophrology to become a sophrologist.
    It’s a kind of mix of meditation and hypnosis.
    It helps for bellyache, and bowel movements, but it does not last for long, we probably should practice meditation everyday to feel Better.
    Meditations methods are good complements to diets and better than medications for health.

  • ollivier71
    2 years ago

    HI !

    To read this article reminds me the first time I decided to talk about this problem to my doctor.
    Before I decide to talk about it, it took month, even years… I was so ashamed…
    But when I thought I was ready, I announced the subject immediately ! I think my face was red like a tomato, but I didn’t really care bout it.
    She listened to me, carefully, I really appreciated that.
    She asked me many questions, about my bowel, the flares, what I eat, when it comes, since when, she also asked me about my stools, the way they are etc…
    and after all these awkward questions lol, she suggested to me to go to see a gastroenterologist. She suspected that it was IBS, but she wanted to eliminate every other possibilities of illnesses by doing a colonoscopy.
    That’s what I did ! He listened to me too, but it was easier, because he was a gastroenterologist. He talked to me about the colonoscopy, he explained it,

    During the meeting after the colonoscopy, He reassured me by explaining what is IBS, that it’s not curable, but I could find a diet that could maybe works… he suggested to try hypnosis or sophrology too.

    The most difficult stape, is the firts, after, you’ll feel more confident with your doctor.

    Remember that your doctor is here to listen to you and help you find the most appropriate treatment to relieve your symptoms

  • Chris Hall moderator
    2 years ago

    I’m so glad to hear that you had such a positive experience with your doctor and gastroenterologist, Olivier! We typically hear a lot of mixed results about doctor visits from the community. I was unfamiliar with sophrology, but after a quick search, I found the basic tenets of the practice. Have you read our article on meditation?: While not the same thing as sophrology, these meditation/breathing exercises can be helpful! Let us know if you try it. Thanks for taking the time to comment! – Chris, Team Member

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