Some health issues and bodily symptoms can be tough to admit in the cold, harsh reality that is your doctor's office. And yet, not only is it important to be honest with your doctor, but they actually want to know all the nitty, gritty, smelly, embarrassing details. These are the things that help them create a full picture of your health, and thus give you an accurate diagnosis.
So go ahead be as honest as possible. "All of these embarrassing symptoms are really important," Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse and founder of RemediesForMe, tells Bustle. "It gives clues as to how your body is functioning and if there are any changes [that] may be an indication that something is wrong."
You're not alone, though, if you'd rather run screaming from the exam room than talk about your poop. "It is common for patients to omit these types of details during their doctor's visit," Lee says. "They may think that it is not important or may be too embarrassed to tell anyone." But the more you share, the more accurate a picture your doctor can form, and the better able they'll be able to figure out what's "normal" for you. Read on for a few things they'd really like to know.
1. The Fact You Haven't Pooped In Days
Nobody likes to talk about poop, but if you're constipated — or you've noticed something scary, like blood in your stool — it needs to be said. "Either could indicate severe gut bacterial problems or an even more severe and life-threatening illness," says nutritionist Claire Martin, in an email to Bustle. "It is important to mention these issues to your doctor in case they could be evidence of a larger health problem."
2. Your "Embarrassing" Eating Habits
Sure, you want to report good news to your doctor about a healthy diet. But if you're actually having donut breakfasts, coffee lunches, and pizza dinners, say so. "An unhealthy diet is far too easy to de-prioritize during a doctor's office visit," says Martin. But you need to be honest, so you can be checked for related issues, like high cholesterol. "If there are issues they can be a great wakeup call to change diet habits ASAP, and make an informed decision about what you eat daily."
3. What Your Pee Smells Like
Again, anything bathroom-related can be tough to admit while being stared down by a doctor. But they want to know if things are stinky, since that's often a sign of a health problem. As licensed naturopathic physician Dr. M. Samm Pryce tells me, stinky pee could be a sign of diabetes. This is especially true if it smells sweet or like "maple syrup," which may be a weird thing to admit. But it has to be said.
4. Any Weird, Smelly, Or Brightly Colored Discharge
Whether it's coming from your vagina, your nipples, or anywhere else, please tell your doctor about any discharge leaking from your body. As Pryce tells me, it may be "gross," but this is a sure sign of an infection that needs to be treated.
5. The Color Of Your Poop
Talking about poop is hard enough without getting into the gory details. And yet, you really need to be specific. As Pryce says, black poop "could possibly mean color or stomach cancer," and white poop "means you are not digesting fats, and this could be a serious digestive disease." So speak up.
6. How Much Alcohol You Drink
While not gross, per se, many people stretch the truth — or even outright lie — when it comes to their alcohol and drug use. "Alcohol and drugs affect your body in a multitude of ways, and can help explain certain illnesses, appetite, or energy issues, etc.," says Martin. "Knowing that a patient uses alcohol or drugs, recreationally or abusively, can provide a whole new lens on your medical care."
7. The Fact Your Breath Is Bad
Most of us spend a lot of time — and a lot of money on gum — in an effort to cover up bad breath. We're even conditioned not to talk about it, or point it out in others. And yet, when it comes to health, bad breath can be a sign of some underlying health conditions. "Do you have bad breath and don't know why?" asks Lee. If so, let your doctor know.
8. Any And All Bad Odors Coming From Your Body
On the topic of odors, strong ones are usually a sign of a health concern. So if something smells, Lee says it's important to point it out. Again, it could be a sign of an infection, and that's something you'll want to treat ASAP.
9. Any And All Gassy Issues
OK, I know you don't want to tell a perfect stranger about your faults. Or anything, for that matter. But Lee tells me it's important to talk about any and all gaseous issues, since they can reveal a lot of your health. Do you have excessive gas? Is it painful? Does it have a horrible odor? If so, your doctor needs to know.
10. Issues That Have Been Going On For A While
If you've let a health issue get out of hand, you might feel embarrassed about bringing it up or pointing it out. But don't be. "It is common for patients to not always tell me their symptoms, usually out of embarrassment for not taking care of themselves sooner," says podiatrist Dr. Suzanne Fuchs. And yet, in situations like these, it's better to say it late than never.
11. All Your "Dirty" Little Habits
If you do gross things, like share a toothbrush, go ahead and fess up — especially if you're trying to get to the bottom of a mysterious health problem. “Your mouth is the gateway to your health,” certified nutritionist Dr. Sanda Moldovan tells Bustle. “Unfortunately, when you share a toothbrush you are opening that gateway to a lot of problems you’d be better off avoiding.” Think along the lines of bleeding gums, viruses, and periodontal diseases.
When you aren't honest with your doctor, or feel weird talking about gross or embarrassing details like these, important health issues can be overlooked. That's why your doctor wants you to be honest, even if your cheeks are burning in the process. So go ahead and share, in vivid detail — all in the name of better health.