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How to discuss IBS with your doctor

If you’ve been suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms that interfere with your work or social life, there is no need to suffer in silence. Bring your symptoms to the attention of your primary care provider. You might decide to make a special appointment for this, especially if your symptoms are new, or to bring it up at your next scheduled check-up.  How can you make the most of your doctor’s appointment?

Visit your doctor to begin a discussion about IBS.

Visit your doctor to begin a discussion about IBS.

  • Start with your primary care provider.
  • For your own safety, do not self-diagnose. You want your provider to evaluate your symptoms using all of his or her diagnostic skills, not just note in your chart “history of IBS.”
  • When you make your appointment, don’t be shy about the reason for your visit, what we call your “primary complaint.”  Your provider will put your primary complaint at the top of the list for discussion during your visit. If you aren’t sure how to communicate this to the scheduler without a lot of potty talk you could try “change in bowel habits” or “abdominal pain;” even “GI issues” is better than nothing.
  • Make a list of your symptoms and bring it to your appointment. When did they start? What seems to bring them on? This will help your doctor decide if you have any alarm symptoms that might require further investigation.
  • It is perfectly OK for you to bring up the subject of a referral to a specialist. Try some of the following phrases: “Do my symptoms warrant referral to a gastroenterologist for evaluation? Why or why not?”; “I’ve been thinking I’d like to see a nutritionist for help with my IBS. Can you suggest a registered dietitian who works with GI patients?” Depending on your insurance and local customs, you may be able to self-refer to a gastroenterologist or registered dietitian, but your specialist will have more to work with if your primary care provider formally refers you and sends along your medical records.
  • Be respectful of the doctor’s expertise and use collaborative language. “I’d like to be more certain it isn’t celiac disease before I start changing my diet—how could we rule that out? I’m concerned about it because of my anemia and because it runs in the family.” This approach works better than either demanding tests or expressing worry that you might have this-or-that disease, which the doctor may dismiss as anxiety. The “rule out” idea is important in the diagnosis of IBS and your doctor will find it easy to relate to.

Even if you have suffered with gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation for years, now is the time to put these symptoms back on the examination table; many new treatment approaches have been developed in the past few years, including elimination diets, probiotics, and new medications. No one should settle for learning to live with IBS without a proper evaluation and a chance to try these new therapies.

Resistant Starches and Your Low-FODMAP Diet

Resistant Starches and Your Low-FODMAP Diet

If you’ve done much reading about nutrition and digestive health over the past couple of years, you may have come across the term “resistant starch”. Resistant starch has been touted as a weight loss aid and a potential cure-all. While it has been mentioned briefly on this blog in the past, let’s take a closer look. What are resistant starches, and how do they fit into your low-FODMAP diet?

Find a FODMAP Dietitian

National Nutrition Month (March) is a great time to talk about the nutrition practitioners who appear on my Find a FODMAP Dietitian directory. These are credentialed healthcare professionals you can turn to for expert help with your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

IBS Myth: No Dairy for IBS

IBS Myth: No Dairy for IBS

Many people with IBS are under the impression that everyone with IBS (or maybe just everyone, period) should avoid “dairy.” And who can blame them, after hearing this advice passed around by any number of authors, bloggers, celebrities and even healthcare professionals. I don’t share that view. Although I recognize that milk and milk products are a common cause of abdominal pain, excess gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation, that is no reason to over-generalize and say that everyone with IBS should avoid them. There are some individuals who actually do need to avoid all dairy products to manage their IBS, but in my experience that is the exception, not the rule.

Low-FODMAP Certification Programs

Low-FODMAP Certification Programs

It would be lovely to have the time to make everything we eat from scratch, but few of us have the time or the inclination to do so. Even if you tend to think “processing” is a dirty word, be honest—when was the last time you made your own cheese, ground your own flour, or cracked the shells off your own nuts? So, we all need learn how to read food labels to determine which prepared foods are low in FODMAPs.