6 Questions To Ask Your Doctor If You Think You Have IBS
If you spend a lot of time dealing with uncomfortable digestive issues, then you're probably wondering if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Symptoms can include the likes of diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, and other abdominal issues. And since it can all have quite the impact on your overall quality of life, the sooner you can march off to the doctor and ask a few questions, the better.
"Irritable bowel syndrome [...] is both a condition and a group of symptoms," Dr. Eimilie Dalton-Fitzgerald, of Austin Gastroenterology, tells Bustle. "IBS belongs to a broader category of [gastrointestinal, or GI] conditions that are known as functional bowel diseases."
And sometimes, it can take a while to figure out what's wrong. So if you aren't feeling well, let a doctor know. As Dr. Dalton-Fitzgerald says, "Talking to a GI doctor about your symptoms would be the best first step in sorting out whether you or not you have IBS."
From there, they can help you figure out what the best course of action might be, including how to better manage your symptoms so you can have less pain, and fewer disruptions to your day. Read on for a couple questions you might want to ask, in order to get all the information you need.
1. "Do You Think I Have IBS?"
First things first, you'll want to start with the basics and ask your doctor if they think IBS might be to blame for things like diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating.
"This is an important question to ask because IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion," Dr. Dalton-Fitzgerald says. "There are many conditions with subtle symptoms that can manifest like IBS, such as an infection, inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease), thyroid abnormalities, Celiac Disease, lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity, malignancy, etc."
Once your doctor rules all of those out, they may land on a diagnosis of IBS. But you can always ask more questions, and even seek second opinions, while figuring out what's wrong.
2. "Am I Going To Be OK?"
As Dr. Dalton-Fitzgerald says, "This is [important] because it addresses the main question that patients have — 'am I going to be OK?'" And, when it comes to IBS, she says the answer is "yes."
IBS is a condition you can live with, and still be healthy. "It is certainly annoying and is something you may have to deal with forever," she says, "but the good news is that it is manageable."
3. "How Will This Impact My Daily Life?"
If your doctor diagnoses you with IBS, go ahead and ask how it might affect your life going forward, Dr. Dalton-Fitzgerald says. Feel free to focus on whatever's most important to you, such as how it might impact work, travel, what you can eat, and so on. Nothing's off limits when it comes to asking questions, so make sure to address all areas of concern.
4. "Should I Take Medication?"
While not all people with IBS need to take medication, some find that it's a big help, which is why you'll want to ask about all your options. It can be comforting to hear about all the effective treatments, including everything from "adding fiber to your diet to prescription medications," Dr. Dalton-Fitzgerald says. "It all depends on the individual and their needs at a particular time." But there's likely something that'll work for you.
5. "Can This Cause Pain During Sex?"
It's not uncommon for folks with IBS to experience pain during sex, physical therapist Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, tells Bustle. If you've been struggling with this issue, or are worried it might happen down the road, ask your doctor about it — as well as any other IBS-related concerns you might have.
While it may seem like it'll have a big impact on your relationships, it's totally possible to have IBS and a sex life, especially once you figure out how to manage your symptoms.
6. "What Are Some Lifestyle Changes I Can Make?"
As Dr. Dalton-Fitzgerald says, some people do well once they make a few lifestyle modifications. These can include simple things like adding more fiber to your diet, getting better sleep, and drinking more water.
Once you and your doctor come up with a plan, try it out and see how you feel. Are your symptoms getting better? Staying the same? Getting worse? Whatever happens, let them know.
It may take some time to figure out how to feel better. But by asking questions, getting a clearer understanding of what's going on and how to can manage your symptoms, it can be done.