Health Information

Talking to Your Doctor About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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The more you know about your health, the better prepared you are to make informed healthcare decisions. Our health library gives you the information you need to take charge of your health.

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with IBS. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care. For this condition in particular, a good doctor-patient relationship makes a big difference in your quality of life.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About the Diagnosis of IBS
  • Have you exhausted the other possible diagnoses?
  • Do you think bacterial overgrowth is worth looking into?
  • Do you think celiac disease is worth looking into?
About Your Risk of Developing Complications
  • I need to be reassured that this problem is not progressive or a prelude to cancer or other serious condition. Are there symptoms that might indicate IBS is progressing to something more serious?
About Treatment Options
  • What treatments are available to me?
  • What medications can I try?
    • What benefits and side effects can I expect from these medications?
    • Will any of these medications interact with other supplements or over-the-counter products I'm taking?
  • What do you think of alternative treatments for IBS?
    • Biofeedback
    • Hypnosis
    • Behavioral therapy
About Lifestyle Changes
  • Beyond what I have done to manage my symptoms, have you any further suggestions?
  • Can you refer me to a registered dietitian who can help me with adjusting my diet?
  • Will exercise help my symptoms?
  • Should I tell me family?
About Outlook
  • Do you know of any clinical trials for IBS?
  • Is there any new research that might make this condition easier to cope with in the future?
  • Can you recommend a support group?

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2013 -
  • Update Date: 01/15/2013 -
  • American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org . Accessed March 6, 2006.

  • Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Isselbacher KJ, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 14th ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2000.

  • International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Inc. website. Available at: http://www.iffgd.org . Accessed March 6, 2006.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Self Help and Support Group website. Available at: http://www.ibsgroup.org . Accessed March 6, 2006.