When to Go Back to Your Doctor
Some stomach and digestive, or gastrointestinal (GI), problems can be tricky to diagnose. Many GI issues can cause the same symptoms you might get from peptic ulcers, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and other conditions.
Sometimes, doctors will have to dig a little more to find out what’s up with your gut. Make another appointment if:
- Your symptoms get worse
- You have new symptoms
- Your GI problems happen more often
Keep track of specifics to share with your doctor, including:
Search Your Diet for Possible Causes
Sometimes, what you eat and drink may explain your symptoms. It may help to tease out the problem foods if you play digestive detective.
Keep a diary. Track what you eat and drink, and how much. Do your diarrhea, pain, or other GI symptoms get worse after a large meal or a particular food or drink? Does eating too close to bedtime trigger heartburn? Also, note the medicine you take, and any mood and mental symptoms such as anxiety or feeling depressed.
If it’s inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohn’s, a flare may be triggered by a number of things, including caffeinated drinks or a large or greasy meal.
When to See a Specialist
Gastroenterologists are doctors who are experts on digestive diseases. Your regular doctor may refer you to one if they can’t pinpoint your causes or if you might need special tests. You also may want to consider visiting a gastroenterologist if you have:
A change in bathroom habits. Changes in the color, consistency, or frequency of your poop aren’t always serious problems, but they can be.
Unexpected weight loss. If you drop 10 pounds or more over 6-12 months without trying, it’s a worry. This can be a sign of Crohn’s disease or another health problem.
Trouble swallowing. A damaged esophagus can make it hard to swallow. Other conditions, including some that are serious, also can make it hard for you to swallow.
Anemia. Low iron in your blood may make you dizzy, tired, short of breath, and feel like your heart is racing. GI problems may make your body less able to absorb iron and other vitamins and minerals. They also can cause GI bleeding.
Your gastroenterologist may ask for a sample of your poop. You may need a colonoscopy to look in your large intestine for signs of bleeding, blockages, or tumors. Other tests look at your esophagus and stomach to check for problems there.