Often one of the most common questions clients with IBS ask me on their first meeting is why has my doctor ordered so many scopes, imaging tests, and bloodwork, and if there are actually tests for IBS? All of these investigations before giving the diagnosis of IBS often have the opposite effect as they were intended–they make people feel MORE anxious. Doctors who order all of these tests are most of the time truly interested in providing the best and most thorough care and often think that ordering all these things will relieve a lot of the patient’s anxiety and make them feel ‘better’ after they are told that their problem is not ‘life-threatening’ or ‘dangerous.’ They do these tests with good intentions and with good reason–because there are serious conditions that can mimic IBS. It is especially good to be thorough in someone who is in their 40’s or older, or who has a family history of certain diseases and cancers. The reason that so many different illnesses can mimic IBS is that often the symptoms of IBS are symptoms shared by LOTS of conditions, and IBS is often a ‘diagnosis of exclusion.’ For this reason, I advise all my clients to see their regular doc and tell them about their IBS symptoms and have this medical testing done. I support BOTH alternative & complimentary as well as conventional treatment as a Holistic Medical doctor. Creating a good relationship with your doctor is very important to this approach, so you can communicate with each other about your plans for your IBS treatment.
However, many doctors don’t explain why they are ordering certain tests and patients are left wondering/worrying/guessing what a certain test is for. For this reason, it is VERY IMPORTANT to ASK your doctor to explain his/her plan for you so you can be more at ease while going through the testing process. Below is an example of some standard tests for ibs your doc may order to rule out other things before giving you a diagnosis of IBS. It is important to note that these tests do NOT test specifically for IBS-there are no good ‘scientific’ objective tests for irritable bowel syndrome, but rather these tests will rule out the possibility of another condition by doing these tests, so you will be left with a diagnosis of IBS if all the following tests come back as NORMAL.
- Basic bloodwork
- test for celiac disease
- test for stool infections (stool sample)
- test for thyroid problem
- may consider colonoscopy if higher risk for colon cancer, but not usually done in young healthy person
OK, it’s IBS—What Now?
OF course, often, when all of these tests are normal, and you are given a diagnosis of IBS, many IBS sufferers are given little in the way of helpful information to help improve their IBS symptoms. Patients often feel like they are ‘hurried out’ of the office and their most important questions about ‘what to do now’ to take CONTROL over their IBS symptoms are left unanswered, especially if they don’t have a regular family doc that knows them well. IBS suffered want to know if there is hope of going into remission, and what lifestyle factors or environment factors may have triggered the IBS in the first place and what they can do themselves NOW to GET a HEALTHY GUT BACK!
This is the result of the conventional medical training system for doctors–it’s not that they dont want to help, but in medical school, we receive NO training in holistic Nutrition, Natural Medicine, Mind-Body Medicine, Yoga, etc. I was lucky enough to be able to continue my studies in holistic medicine as well as studying for my medical degree, but that is a rarity in the training system. Without holistic medical skills and knowledge, docs are stuck with the narrow set of tools in the conventional medicine tool belt , which are not all that useful for IBS!