Make an appointment with your doctor if you have symptoms of IBS. After an initial evaluation, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist) for more extensive testing.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, and for how long. This may help your doctor identify what triggers symptom episodes.
- Write down key personal information, including any recent changes or stressors in your life. These factors can play a key role in the frequency and severity of IBS symptoms.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including any other conditions for which you're being treated and the names of any medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking. If you've been medically evaluated for your symptoms in the past, bring medical records of those tests to your appointment.
- Find a family member or friend who can come with you to the appointment, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help remember what the doctor says.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor. Creating your list of questions in advance can help you make the most of your time with your doctor.
For IBS, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Do I have IBS?
- What other conditions might I have?
- Are there any other possible causes for my condition?
- What diagnostic tests do I need?
- What treatment approach do you recommend trying first?
- If the first treatment doesn't work, what will we try next?
- Are there any side effects associated with these treatments?
- Do you suspect that dietary factors are playing a role in my symptoms?
- What dietary changes are most likely to reduce my symptoms?
- Should I follow any specific diet?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to help reduce or manage my symptoms?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Do you recommend that I talk with a counselor?
- Is my condition chronic?
- How much do you expect my condition may improve with treatment, including self-care?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. You may be asked:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you first notice these symptoms?
- Do your symptoms come and go or stay about the same?
- Does anything seem to trigger your symptoms, including certain foods, stress or — in women — your menstrual period?
- Have you lost weight without trying?
- Have you noticed any blood in your stools?
- Have your signs and symptoms included vomiting?
- Have your signs and symptoms included fever?
- Have you recently experienced significant stress, emotional difficulty or loss?
- What is your typical daily diet?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with a food allergy or with lactose intolerance?
- Have you been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
- What medications are you taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs, and supplements?
- Do you have any family history of bowel disorders or colon cancer?
- How much would you say your symptoms are affecting your quality of life, including your personal relationships and your ability to function at school or work?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment, check with your family members to find out if any relatives have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer. In addition, start jotting down notes about how often your symptoms occur and any factors that seem to trigger their occurrence.
Jul. 31, 2014
- Irritable bowel syndrome. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/ibs/. Accessed April 23, 2014.
- Camilleri M. Peripheral mechanisms in irritable bowel syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine. 2012;367:1626.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2014: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2014. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 23, 2014.
- Wald A. Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 23, 2014.
- Wald A. Pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 23, 2014.
- Wald A. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 23, 2014.
- Rome III diagnostic criteria for functional gastrointestinal disorders. Rome Foundation. http://www.romecriteria.org/criteria/. Accessed April 23, 2014.
- Cristofori F, et al. Increased prevalence of celiac disease among pediatric patients with irritable bowel syndrome: A 6-year prospective cohort study. Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics. In press. Accessed May 5, 2014.
- Brandt LJ, et al. An evidence-based systematic review on the management of irritable bowel syndrome. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2009;104(suppl):1.
- AskMayoExpert. IBS. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Lakhan SE, et al. Mindfulness-based therapies in the treatment of somatization disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2013;8:e71834.
- Muir JG, et al.The low FODMAP diet for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2013;9:450.
- Vazquez-Roque MI, et al. A controlled trial of gluten-free diet in patients with irritable bowel syndrome-diarrhea: Effects on bowel frequency and intestinal function. Gastroenterology. 2013;144:903.
- Hungin APS, et al. Systematic review: Probiotics in the management of lower gastrointestinal symptoms in clinical practice — an evidence-based international guide. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2013;38:864.
- Relaxation techniques for health: An introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm. Accessed May 6, 2014.
- Herbs at a glance: Peppermint oil. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/peppermintoil. Accessed May 6, 2014.
- Manheimer E, et al. Acupuncture for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD005111.pub3/abstract. Accessed May 18, 2014.
- Lindfors P, et al. Effects of gut-directed hypnotherapy on IBS in different clinical settings — results from two randomized, controlled trials. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2012;107:276.
- McKenzie YA, et al. British Dietetic Association evidence-based guidelines for the dietary management of irritable bowel syndrome in adults. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012:25;260.
- Chao G, et al. Effectiveness of acupuncture to treat irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014;20:1871.
- Rey E, et al. Chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome with constipation and constipation with pain/discomfort: Similarities and differences. American Journal of Gastroenterology. In press. Accessed March 4, 2014.
- Camilleri M. Current and future pharmacological treatments for diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy. 2013;14:1151.
- Golden AK. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 24, 2014.
- U.S. News best hospitals 2013-2014. U.S. News & World Report. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings/gastroenterology-and-gi-surgery. Accessed April 24, 2014.
- Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. May 14, 2014.
- Ottillinger B, et al. STW 5 (Iberogast) — A safe and effective standard in the treatment of functional gastrointestinal disorders. Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift. 2013;163:65.
- Dai C, et al. Probiotics and irritable bowel syndrome. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2013;19:5973.
- Sisson G, et al. Randomised clinical trial: A liquid multi-strain probiotic vs. placebo in the irritable bowel syndrome — a 12 week double-blind study. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. In press. Accessed May 18, 2014.
- Bauer BA (expert opinion). May Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 16, 2014.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.