Preparing for your appointment

You might start by seeing your primary care practitioner. If you have persistent diarrhea, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the digestive system (gastroenterologist).

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as fast before certain tests. Make a list of:

  • Your symptoms, including when they began and any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses, recent life changes or travel.
  • Medications, vitamins or supplements you take, including doses. If you've recently taken an antibiotic, note what kind, for how long and when you stopped.
  • Questions to ask your doctor.

For diarrhea, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What is likely causing my diarrhea?
  • Could my diarrhea be caused by a medication I'm taking?
  • What tests do I need?
  • Is my diarrhea likely temporary or chronic?
  • What is the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them with the diarrhea?
  • Are there restrictions I should follow?
  • May I take medication such as loperamide to slow the diarrhea down?
  • Should I see a specialist?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, including:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • Does your diarrhea awaken you at night?
  • Do you see blood, or are your bowel movements black in color?
  • Have you recently been around anyone who has diarrhea?
  • Have you recently stayed in a hospital or nursing home?
  • Have you take antibiotics recently?

What you can do in the meantime

While you wait for your appointment, you may ease your symptoms if you:

  • Drink more fluids. To help avoid dehydration, drink water, juice and broth.
  • Avoid foods that can aggravate diarrhea. Avoid fatty, high-fiber or highly seasoned foods.