1. Don’t panic. Sometimes when we think we have condition, we panic. Sure, IBS is something that can and probably will change your life. And it is true that there is no cure or surgery for it. However, none of that means that IF you IBS it will be the end of the world. It means that your world will have a different view.
2. Write down your symptoms and why you think you have IBS. It’s always a good idea to have a list of your symptoms. I have been diagnosed for eight years and had IBS for eleven. I still keep record of my symptoms. I keep a record of all of my experiences with IBS and often talk to others about theirs. Knowing what your symptoms are is very important. Not only because later on you will be able to back track and see how it has progressed, but so that you can communicate to the doctor, very clearly, what you are going through. We have all had that moment when we get to the doctor’s office and know we are forgetting something. This isn’t the time to forget something. It may be a very important something. It also might be the something that means you do or don’t have IBS.
3. See your doctor. It isn’t something that has to be done as an emergency, but you want to see your doctor. Preferably one that you trust and has seen you a few times. If you don’t have such a doctor, you might want to try to obtain medical records or a a list of doctors you have seen. This way the doctor knows what is normal for you and has an idea of your medical history. Give symptoms and questions. This is where that list comes in handy. Tell them what you’ve been experiencing. Ask any questions you may have.
4. Ask for a specialist and tests. Sure, your doctor might be great. They might even be an Internal Medicine doctor. But, you need to see a GI doctor if you think you have IBS. You need to see someone who specializes in the system that might be flawed. You’ll want to make a list of questions for the specialist. You should ask about IBS, what it is, what it means for you, what you can do to manage it and whether you have IBS-C (IBS with Constipation) or IBS-D (IBS with Diarrhea). Ask what tests you might have to take, so you will have time to research them before your time with the specialist. You’ll have questions about them and you’ll want to ask them.
5. Ask yourself how you feel about medications. Some people take the medications, because they can offer you relief. Some people don’t take them because they don’t agree with medications. I started taking them and then decided that I didn’t want to be on them for the rest of my life. Knowing how you feel about medications when you speak to a doctor will be helpful. If you don’t want to take them, you can ask about other options. If you do want to take them, you’ll want to research them. You can even ask your doctor if they can tell you some medications you can research before your visit with the specialist. It will help you understand the side effects of the medications and make a more informed decision or prepare questions for the specialist about them before you do.
4. Adjust diet and lifestyle. If you already know trigger foods, avoid them. Make sure you mention them to your doctors. You can try the FODMAP diet, but it won’t necessarily work. It didn’t work for me. You can try a food diary, too. That is probably your best bet. Listening to your body is the best thing you can do right now.
5. Find support. Group, family, friends. You might want to preface with you aren’t sure, but it is a good idea to find support. If you are diagnosed, they will come in handy. Perhaps in the beginning it won’t feel like it. But, you will. Also, it is nice to have people who care and are concerned with your health when you have IBS. Support is very important.
6. Research. You’ll want to know more and you should. You should write down any questions you have, along with a list of medications you are taking and have taken as well as medical conditions you have/had and family history of conditions. You’ll want this list when you see your specialist.
Overall, these points are a great start. But, ultimately this is your experience and it doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t be completely prepared for this. So, try not to get anxious or upset until you know something. This is just another chapter of your life. 🙂