Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) persists or recurs over time. A long-term relationship with a knowledgeable and empathetic doctor or therapist can be very important. Ideally, your doctor should:

  • know your entire medical history,
  • recognize the importance of your symptoms,
  • empathize with your discomfort, and
  • be prepared to spend the necessary time explaining their meaning.

Whether you see a family physician, internist, or other specialist for your IBS, your primary care doctor should help educate you about IBS and work with you, over the long term, to achieve the best possible results.

Effective communication – the physician-patient relationship – is an important part of effective long-term management of a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder like IBS.

The patient interview by the health care provider is the most frequently practiced procedure, accounting for about 150,000 interviews in a clinician’s lifetime. However, the average visit is now too brief, and this has led to the decline of the humanistic approach to patient care.

You can help by taking an active role in your doctor visit.

We encourage you to be proactive in your own health maintenance. Make the most out of your doctor visit – be prepared.

Tips to Help Manage IBS

  1. Begin by educating yourself about IBS. Symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. They are chronic, intermittent, frequently variable, and often manageable.
  2. If you have not yet seen a doctor, follow these tips on finding a doctor to help you get the care you need.
  3. If your doctor has already made a diagnosis of IBS, stop worrying that it is "something else."
  4. Use a diary for a week or two to identify factors that might bring on symptoms or make your condition worse and discuss this with your doctor. (IFFGD has designed a Personal Daily Diary for this purpose. Access a free online version of our Personal Daily Diary. The full print version version is available for order or by contacting IFFGD.)
  5. Talk to your doctor about treatment goals, develop a plan that is appropriate for you, and discuss options for managing severe pain and other symptoms. Working in partnership with a knowledgeable healthcare provider helps obtain the best possible results.

IBS is a multifaceted disorder and, while there is no known cure, it can usually be managed. But like other chronic diseases, managing irritable bowel syndrome is not easy. Effective management is often dependent on a successful patient-doctor relationship. Although the time you spend with your doctor may be limited, you can help ensure that effective two-way communication takes place during your visit.

Doctor Visit Worksheet

Complete the Doctor Visit Worksheet and take it to your doctor. By providing your physician with information, he or she may be able to gain a greater insight not ordinarily attainable during a standard 15-minute appointment. This list of Words to Know may help you better communicate your concerns.

Putting it All Together

For persons with IBS, effective diagnosis and treatment starts with an understanding of IBS. Work together with your doctor or therapist. Develop your own IBS treatment plan and outcome goals. Working in partnership with a health professional can help achieve the best possible results.

What if you and your doctor just don't communicate or get along?

Leaving your physician can be a difficult decision. But it's OK to consider leaving if your doctor doesn't like questions or doesn't listen. Before bolting though, try to express your dissatisfaction. You may be able to correct the situation. Here are some tips on how to handle this decision.

Did This Article Help You?

IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization. Our mission is to inform, assist, and support people affected by gastrointestinal disorders.

Our original content is authored specifically for IFFGD readers, in response to your questions and concerns.

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting IFFGD with a small tax- deductible donation.

Adapted from IFFGD Publication #185.

Last modified on January 25, 2015 at 03:32:38 PM

Working With Your Doctor

patient doctor

Successful relationships with healthcare providers are an important part of managing life with a long-term digestive disorder.

Working with Your Physician

Doctor Visit Worksheet

How to Talk to Your Doctor