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How to Ensure a Correct Digestive Health Diagnosis

Patient talking with her doctor about her digestive health diagnosis.

A healthcare professional at a gastroenterology practice, such as a dietitian specializing in gastrointestinal diseases, will often care for a great deal of individuals who walk into their clinic reporting symptoms which haven't yet been diagnosed to a specific digestive health issue. Because not many primary care physicians are in charge of diagnosing GI diseases nor are they properly aware of their wide array of symptoms, many people with gastrointestinal diseases will often go undiagnosed for years.

How can you talk to your doctor about your digestive issues?

A healthcare provider specializing in gastrointestinal diseases may look out for certain symptoms, as well as possible dietary triggers, to determine a digestive health issue. Simple lifestyle changes are generally the best treatment method to help improve GI diseases and its symptoms, however, being able to communicate accordingly with your doctor can help them diagnose your problem more accurately in order to begin treatment immediately. By following a few factors the patient can control, they can ensure their medical diagnostic procedure is fast, easy, and correct.

Arrive to your Appointment on Time

While careful planning and preparations can occasionally be sabotaged by events and situations that are out of our control, it's essential for you to initially intend to reach your appointment on time. It's recommended to arrive at least 15 minutes before your original appointment time, especially if you are a new patient as you will need to complete the necessary paperwork on your first visit. If you show up 15 minutes late for a 15 minute appointment, there is a great chance you'll be hurried through your visit without ample time to go over your issues thoroughly with your doctor.

Bring Evaluation Results & Procedure Reports

It can't be emphasized enough how common it is for patients to not know which previous diagnostic tests or even surgeries they've gone through for their specific disease and/or condition. If you show up to a healthcare professional's appointment for further diagnosis and a second opinion regarding your symptoms without being aware of this information, your doctor may waste valuable time and money re-testing you for digestive health issues which may have already been ruled out by another healthcare specialist. Furthermore, without previous evaluation results and/or procedure reports, doctors can miss an obvious diagnosis based on your health history, or worse, they may perform yet another invasive procedure which you no longer needed.

If you have had an endoscopy or a colonoscopy, what were the signs? If you've had surgery somewhere on your gastrointestinal tract, which process was it? If you have experienced a breath test, what were they checking for and what were the results? If blood has been drawn lately, what was being checked and also what, if anything, has been discovered? Have you had any specialized tests that involved imaging of your gastrointestinal tract? These are all important questions you must know before visiting a doctor's office.

Also, to get to a faster diagnosis, your best option is to bring copies of all relevant tests and reports you have undergone related to your digestive health issues. It may take some effort to collect these results from previous doctors or even hospitals, though medical practices offering online patient portals may make this procedure easier. If you can't obtain the true exam results, then compiling a summarized "medical resume" may be the next best thing. Just type up a list of all of the test names or procedure reports you've had; who ran them (as well as where and when they were performed); and exactly what they discovered, based on those evaluations and procedures. Hand the sheet to your healthcare professional. Their office can then track down copies of any relevant results after you leave from your first appointment.

Describe your Symptoms in Detail

It can be quite embarrassing to describe your digestive symptoms to a healthcare professional and you might even feel unsure of whether you may actually have a digestive issue based on your "normal" collection of gut sounds, backed up stools and that occasional nausea you experience after eating a heavy meal. You may be tempted to use more conservative, generic phrases to describe your symptoms but healthcare specialists say you don't have to be considerate. Your doctor has literally heard it all and it is as routine to them as speaking about the weather is to everyone else.

If you say that you "get sick to your stomach" when referring to having diarrhea, for instance, the healthcare professional may actually think you are referring to nausea. If you say "constipated" to refer to straining to have a daily bowel movement, your doctor may presume you mean you are unable to move your bowels more than once or twice per week. If you say you get a "stomachache" after eating, it could refer to sharp pain, cramps or dull pain and it doesn't properly inform your doctor where the pain is located. Tell your doctor exactly what you mean, along with all of the extra descriptive details. What's happening and where, what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like and how frequently it happens. Correctly describing your symptoms is key to a correct diagnosis.

Mention When your Symptoms Started

At times, telling your healthcare specialist when your symptoms all started can be the clue to your diagnosis. Did you notice your digestive health issues after you recovered from a bout of food poisoning in your holiday? Did things change for you in the bathroom after having your gallbladder removed? Did your digestive discomfort increase after switching to a brand new diet, such as a 30-day cleanse, Weight Watchers or a paleo-style diet? Do your symptoms coincide with starting or stopping a particular drug/medication or supplement? Have you experienced this digestive health issue since you were a child? Did your issue get better or worse during pregnancy? Putting your complaints in context will help your doctor perform a better medical diagnostic procedure.

Inform your Doctor of What you Have & Haven't Tried

Doctors often learn just as much out of what hasn't helped you feel better as they do from what has helped you feel better. If you have already tried a drug/medication, supplement, lifestyle changes, including diet modifications and physical activities, to address your gastrointestinal issues and it has not worked, make sure you incorporate this in your conversation with your healthcare specialist. It will help them narrow down the list of possibilities and help point to more likely gastrointestinal diseases and conditions.

Keep an Open Mind

Now that we all have access to the internet, we'll often arrive to a doctor's appointment with a preconceived notion about what we believe we may have. Because of this, many patients may attempt to steer the conversation toward this self-diagnosis and accidentally leave out important information that could shed light on the correct diagnosis. It is absolutely appropriate to share your own hypothesis about your digestive health issue with your healthcare provider and this can be particularly more important if you've got a family medical history which may accurately indicate your problem. But be sure to share all the details of your conclusion, and be open to the possibility that your doctor may see matters in a different light than all the other articles you may have read on the internet.

The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .

By Dr. Alex Jimenez


Additional Topics: Wellness

Overall health and wellness are essential towards maintaining the proper mental and physical balance in the body. From eating a balanced nutrition as well as exercising and participating in physical activities, to sleeping a healthy amount of time on a regular basis, following the best health and wellness tips can ultimately help maintain overall well-being. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can go a long way towards helping people become healthy.

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The information herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional. Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.* Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to contact us. Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN* email: phone: 915-850-0900 Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*