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Finding a Doctor to Treat Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Part of the IBS For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Living with irritable bowel syndrome means finding a caring doctor with a history of working with IBS patients. How do you do that? When you meet a new doctor for the first time, take this list of questions along with you.

  • Do you have patients with IBS? This may be the only question you need to ask. Keep in mind that up to 20 percent of the population suffers from IBS. If a doctor says that she doesn't have patients with IBS, she may have selective vision.

  • What do you think causes IBS? Lots of theories exist about what causes IBS. Ideally, you want a doctor to admit that the medical community hasn't identified a single cause, but many triggers (such as diet and stress) play a role. If he claims to know what causes IBS 100 percent of the time, ask for clarification, and be prepared to walk away.

  • How do you diagnose IBS? If your doctor mentions something called the Rome II criteria, that's a great sign. You also want to hear that she runs tests to rule out other bowel conditions, as well as to rule out conditions with similar symptoms.

  • What role does diet play in IBS? Most people with IBS are very aware that what they eat can trigger symptoms. You want your doctor to know that connection exists as well and to be aware that food allergies and intolerances can masquerade as IBS.

  • How do you treat IBS? You want to hear a doctor say that a variety of treatment options exist, and the right treatment plan is one that you and he create together. He should mention the importance of improving your diet, getting regular exercise, and reducing stress. He may also mention medications or dietary supplements. An answer focused solely on medications should raise a flag: While drugs help some people with IBS, they don't cure the condition, and they don't work for everyone.

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