Know Before You Go: The Gut Doctor Edition

Hello again! This post is a bit of a collection of my own experience, experiences I have discussed and heard from others, and general tips for those of you suffering from any stomach related ailments thinking about, or planning on going to the doctor. This post is simply tips from my experiences and is not meant as medical advice. For medical advice, please seek the help of your doctor.

 

So you’re having stomach troubles… You’re not alone. The National Institute of Health estimates that between 60-70 million Americans are suffering from a variety of digestive diseases, ranging from gallstones, to chronic constipation, to acid reflux and so on. That’s a pretty staggering number and its causes are a topic for another post! What it comes down to is this: if you feel like something is a little off with your digestion, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor.

 

I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that one doctor’s visit will probably not cure your digestive woes. Sorry, but ask anyone with chronic digestive issues, such as IBS, food intolerances, acid reflux, etc., and they’ll likely have some story about how they had to see different doctors to get an answer. Your general practitioner probably does not specialize in the digestive system, which is extremely complex. I saw several doctors before finding one that could actually help me and showed a genuine interest in how I felt, rather than just prescribing me a medication or telling me to “just live with it”. If you don’t have an answer, or have an unsatisfactory answer, find another doctor. Seriously. No, you won’t be that person. Your health is important and if your doctor can’t help you, someone else can.

 

Your doctor may know their own limitations and refer you to a specialist. Don’t be alarmed, because this is where the magic happens. They will likely want to run some tests, whether they are blood tests or something more uncomfortable. Just do it. Seriously. I know you won’t want to, but it’ll give you a peace of mind, which is especially helpful if you aren’t in a good place with your health. You’re going to have some awkward conversations, but don’t be shy – you need to let them know what’s on your mind (and stomach).

 

Expect to be a guinea pig for a little while. Your doctor may want to try different medications or diets. Some of them aren’t going to work, and it may take a while before you find something that really helps you. In fact, it may even be that no medication works, and that you have to completely overhaul your diet (I did!). While that can be frustrating and even temporarily depressing, a change that makes you feel good for the first time in a long time is a pretty significant feeling.

 

Don’t expect to fix it quickly. You could spend months, years, or your whole life really finding the foods and/or medications that work the best for you. Your body changes over time, and things that were once fine and didn’t bother you may begin to bother you! The opposite may happen, too, and you may suddenly be able to eat something or use a medication that you were not able to before (don’t get too gloomy, it does happen). It has been years since I was told I had IBS and I’m still trying to figure things out.

 

My biggest, most important piece of advice to you is this:

 

Keep a food journal. This journal should include the time food was eaten, the type of food eaten, the amount of food eaten, any digestive “activity”, and general feelings (tiredness, anxiety, etc.). Your doctor will probably ask you for this information anyway, and it will help you be more in tune with how you react to certain foods. Your doctor may be able to identify patterns in your eating and reactions that were not immediately apparent to you.

 

Everyone’s experiences with their health are unique, which is part of the reason it’s so important to see a doctor if you suspect something is not as it should be with your digestive (or overall) health. I hope this post either helped you find a peace of mind or understanding of the process you may be embarking upon. Just remember: don’t forget that food journal!

 

Happy digesting!

-Christine

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