Week 1: Understanding irritable bowel syndrome

Week 4: Healthy thinking, healthy self

Week 5: Balancing activity and reclaiming your life

Week 6: Maintaining your gains and staying well

Building a strong relationship with your doctor

As you know, building a positive relationship with your doctor can mean the difference between getting the treatment you need or continuing to suffer. The patient-doctor relationship goes both ways, so don’t feel like all the responsibility lies with you. Of course, the doctor is expected to provide a certain level of care, regardless of how you present. However, being proactive can help move things forward and get you the outcomes you’re looking for. Below, we provide some tips on how to get the most out of a visit to your doctor.

Before your visit

  • Know what your symptoms are and when you’re most likely to have them. Be prepared to share this information with your doctor, as it will help guide your treatment.
  • Do some research on irritable bowel syndrome. This may answer some of your questions and save valuable time in the doctor’s office. Be sure to seek information from reputable sources.
  • Make a list of any outstanding questions and concerns you still have about your irritable bowel syndrome. This may include queries about treatment options. Bring your list along for your visit.
  • If you have a lot of questions, call ahead and request a longer appointment or ask whether you can send your questions in prior to the visit to allow enough time for discussion during the visit
  • If you have had medical tests or treatment for your symptoms in the past, write down when you had them and what the results were. Bring this information along with you too.
  • Think about your reasons for the visit. Be clear about what you are hoping to get out of it. Write the aim of your visit on the same piece of paper as your list.
  • If you want to bring a friend or family member along for support, try to arrange this ahead of time too.

During your visit

  • Provide your doctor with your appointment aims and the list of questions that you prepared ahead of time. 
  • Explain your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and concerns in depth. Be open about your symptoms and how they are affecting you.
  • Mention any factors you think may be impacting your symptoms (e.g., food types, sleep, stress)
  • Provide your doctor with information about any medical tests and treatment you have had in the past and what the outcome was. 
  • Tell your doctor about any medications or supplements you are taking, even if they seem unrelated to your symptoms.
  • Bring a support person along with you. You don’t need to have them in the room, but it can be nice to have someone with you after the visit.  
  • Ask your doctor for their opinion and plan. Make sure you feel comfortable with the plan and what your next steps are before leaving.

After your visit 

  • Make sure you get copies of any referrals, prescriptions or test results prior to leaving
  • Schedule any follow up appointments with your doctor.
  • If you were referred to another healthcare provider, make contact as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. Remember, there may be long wait times for new patients.
  • Follow any advice or recommendations provided by your doctor during the visit.
  • If you were prescribed new medications, keep any eye out for any unwanted side effects.
  • Follow up with your doctor if things don’t go as planned or if new concerns arise.
  • Reflect on how you felt your appointment went. Also think about how your treatment is going overall. If you are dissatisfied with your care, consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns. You may choose to find another doctor or ask for a referral to a gastroenterologist if you aren’t getting adequate relief from your current treatment.   

Living with irritable bowel syndrome can be a lonely and confusing experience. Whilst irritable bowel syndrome can be managed, treatment is often not straightforward. Finding treatment options that work for you is often dependent on finding the right professional support. Working together with your doctor or therapist can help you achieve the best possible outcomes. Although you can’t control your doctor’s actions, there are things you can do to make sure you get the most out of each visit. A proactive approach to your care is likely to leave you feeling more empowered than sitting back and hoping for the best. 

However, try to keep your expectations reasonable. Completely getting rid of your symptoms is an unlikely scenario. Remember, there is currently no ‘cure’ for irritable bowel syndrome. At best, your doctor will be able to give you support and effective strategies to manage your symptoms.