Finding an IBS Doctor

Don’t try to face this alone.

Male and female doctors in a line.

Looking for a doctor that knows how to treat IBS can be time consuming, but important. You need to find someone you’re comfortable with.
© Can Stock Photo

If you have IBS symptoms or a diagnosis of IBS, you need to find the right doctor.

An IBS doctor (not an official title but it should be in my opinion), is someone that you can talk to, someone who will listen, someone that will take the time to explain things.

He or she also needs to know or believe in IBS.  Not all doctors do.

Sorry, but finding an IBS Doctor is YOUR JOB!

It would be nice if every doctor knew a lot about IBS and you could just talk to them and get help. But IBS is pretty much a mystery. No one knows exactly what causes IBS Symptoms, and some doctors don’t even believe in it.

The reason I say it’s your job, is that you need help to deal with this, and your going to have to find that help yourself.

Sitting at home wishing you could talk to your doctor, but being too uncomfortable, or having a doctor that doesn’t listen, won’t keep you off the toilet.

Sorry, but it’s true.

What you need in an IBS doctor:

In my opinion, there are certain qualities that that set a good IBS doctor apart from other doctors is.

I think a good IBS doctor should:

  • have the ability to listen and have an open mind
  • have knowledge of IBS symptoms and triggers
  • know about other possible causes of IBS symptoms
  • ask questions (in case you’re too embarrassed to speak up about IBS symptoms)
  • believe he or she can help you

If your doctor doesn’t have these qualities, you may want to think about trying another one to treat your IBS.

Questions to ask a potential IBS doctor

There are some things you can ask a doctor you are considering for your IBS treatment. Here are a few questions I think are important:

Different kinds of IBS Doctors:

Doctor in a white lab coat holding a sign that says no self-diagnosis.

It’s tempting to just give up and do your own diagnosis, but finding an expert can make life a lot better.
© Can Stock Photo

There different kinds of doctors. Some specialize in western medicine and are called allopathic doctors. This is the kind of doctor most people are familiar with, and will have an “M.D.”

A second kind of western medicine doctor is the osteopathic doctor. I think sometimes this kind of doctor may have more of an open mind, since osteopathy is less “traditional.” An osteopathic doctor will have the letters “D.O.”

A gastroenterologist is a specialist in the digestive tract, and can sometimes be your best hope in getting help for IBS symptoms. But like any other doctor, you have to find the right one.

Another kind of doctor is a naturopathic doctor. A naturopath uses diet, vitamins, plants and other kinds of “natural” remedies. They have the the letters “N.D.” and are often harder to find.  In my opinion an N.D. can be the best kind of IBS doctor. They usually take more time, and have a more holistic approach. Insurance often doesn’t cover this kind of doctor.

A doctor of traditional Chinese Medicine may practice acupuncture and practices TCM.  I’ve had good luck with acupuncture, but it’s not for everyone.

In my opinion the best place to start is your regular doctor.  If he or she can’t help, then get a refferral to a gastroenterologist.  If you can afford it, or if your insurance covers it, a naturopathic doctor can make a great IBS doctor as well.

You have to TALK to your IBS doctor!

So, let’s say you’ve found the perfect doctor to treat your IBS. He or she is knowledgeable, caring, a good listener, etc.

Now it’s up to you to let them know what’s going on with you.

Okay, I know this can be embarrasing. Most people are very uncomfortable talking about diarrhea, constipation, problems with gas (flatulence) and other toilet talk.

Heck, I’m uncomfortable sometimes, and I write a website about it.

But even the best IBS doctor can’t help you if you don’t talk about what’s happening to you. YOU are a very important part of the process of feeling better.

Don’t be discouraged if your doctor isn’t a good IBS doctor.

Your first attempts to talk about this with your doctor can fail.  Maybe your doctor doesn’t listen well, or maybe he or she will make you feel like IBS isn’t real. Maybe you feel like you’re not being taken seriously. Maybe you don’t like talking to a male doctor if you’re female, or vice versa. If your current doctor isn’t a good fit for you, you’ll have to move on to another doctor.

But there is help out there. Don’t give up!

Return to help for IBS or go to What is IBS.




  1. Reply

    Hi Shawn,

    I was originally diagnosed with IBS 17 years ago by a GE, he did give me a drug (which I see now was not appropriate for my condition, it addressed GERD, which I never had, though my GP had initially misunderstood my symptoms as such). Anyway, I got scoped, all fine, and that was that. The drug didn’t work, he had no further ideas.

    MY GP back then had no suggestions, and my current one is absolutely clueless. I have dealt with this entirely on my own. To varying success.

    I would love help on this. But who? I live in Toronto, I read your comments above, re. finding other IBS sufferers nearby and seeing who they go to, but so far no luck. I wonder if I would be better off going to a naturopath or homeopth or TCM–though I would have to pay for this.

    In your experience do GEs or GPs really have much to offer?

    • Reply

      Hi Roxanne,

      I thing GEs and GPs can offer the benefit of ruling out something serious (cancer, etc.). There are also doctors willing to take the time to become knowledgeable about this complicated syndrome, and then help. However, since you’ve asked for my experience, I have had no luck with traditional medicine for IBS. Most of what has helped me have been dietary changes and stress reduction.

      I WILL say that I had a bad case of GERD and the docs brought that under control completely.

      All that being said, I lean toward naturopaths, osteopaths (sometimes), and dietitians, though I foolishly did the dietitian work for myself. It took a lot longer than it might have and was probably more restrictive than I needed to make it.

  2. Reply

    hello sir i am bhavin from india( gujarat) sir i am facing the problame of IBS from last 4year sir you can heslp me i want beast doctor ant beast meadicen for IBS sir please replay me

    • Reply

      Hello Bhavin, If I were you, I would see if there is anyone in your area that has IBS. Any support groups, etc. I would ask them for info about local doctors. If there is no such person or group, I would call or speak with the doctor or receptionist to see if the doctor regularly treats people with IBS, and what the symptoms are. I would then try the one that has the best answers. In other words someone that knows the symptoms of IBS. See the IBS symptoms page for more info on that.

      I wish you the best.


  3. Reply

    I have been dealing with this for 9 yrs. For me food does not seem to be a trigger. I have read your post on IBS and menstral cycle and this seems to fit me best. My symptoms are at their worst for 3 weeks of the month, the week before, the week of and the week after. I am going into my second week of a very severe flare right now. While they are usually at their worst it doesn’t mean that I don’t have issues outside of that time frame.

    I live in Indiana and have been bounced between gastro doctors and gyno doctors now for 9 yrs. I have seen numerous doctors over these years with no help or relief as to date. I first kept all kinds of diaries to see if we could locate the “trigger” and through this process I have asked for at least the last 6 yrs if hormones could be making this worse for me. When I mention this to gastro docs they send me to gyno doc, they tell me “oh no your to young to be have those issues” meaning hormone and don’t even bother to investigate it. So I end up back at the gastro doc. When this is flared up for me it doesn’t matter what I eat it’s just the fact that I did eat. My symtoms of hormones have been hot flashes, night sweats that don’t just come at night, thinning hair, joint pain, irregular periods meaning I have went from what had always been the norm for me of a 28 day cycle has gone to a 21 day to now it can be anywhere between 14-21 days, lack of labido. For me the symptoms have slowly but progresivly gotten worse. I have been placed on several of the anti spasmatic meds they give most IBS patients with no relief, they usually send me for one extreme to the other meaning from constant loose or watery bowel movements to not being able to go, I don’t call it constipation because the stool is solid but but not hard, it just feels like every thing in there is so swollen it wont come out. The size of my stool too has change from what most people would consider normal size to pencil size or smaller. This is why I describe it as feeling like it’s all swollen in there it can’t come out. I have also try several different probiotics with no help there either.

    I finally decided I was going to have to try my luck at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland Ohio. In preparing for the appointment with obtaining copies of my medical records I have found several mistakes in my medical records. Things that they have asked and I have said are going on they have stated that I told them they weren’t. I found more than one doctor’s report that they send to a doctor they are refering you to where they describe me as an “over dramatic” and that I “over exagerate symptoms”. So this is what the gastro doc at Cleveland seen before our appointment. She came into the room and we spoke for a while then she tell me, that she had a preconceived notion of me before coming into the exam room as the same as described in the reports, but after speeking to me she didn’t get that impression at all but felt more like I was an informed patient who just wants to feel better..Thank GOD.

    This flare has been a really severe one, I haven’t been able to sleep more than a couple hours in the last 4 nights, every time I try to eat with in 10-15 min after eating I am in the bathroom. I have tried all the things I have usally tried with absolutly no relief, it had got to the point my husband made me go in to the ER last night at around 9 pm when the cramping was so bad it was feeling like my intesense were being twisted. Boy was that a nightmare. The nurses were very compasionate and helpful but the Dr. on duty was a nightmare. First she comes in and wants to know whats going on, so I tell her, she states then “Well here’s the problem, your issue is a chronic one and here we treat life threatening illness, so what do you want me to do for you?” I thought I felt my jaw hit the floor. I have dealt with Dr’s like her before. I don’t know if it was the hormones, or lack of sleep or a combination but I lost it. I told her you know what just don’t do anything, write my discharge and I will just go home and suffer some more. I was then told “So what your just gonna leave because I wont give you a narcotic?” Ok first I didn’t ask for one, and second if you read my chart you would see I have ulcers and told the nurse that most of the pain meds they presctibe I can’t take as they send my esophogus into a spasam that makes me feel like I am having a heart attack. So I was being treated as “drug seeker” now. I left the ER came home and wrote a complaint email to the hospital. I didn’t even want to go in the first place and wouldn’t have if my husband had not convienced me we needed to go and make sure it wasn’t something that needed to be addressed like infection or maybe inflammation that needed to be addressed.

    I don’t know how but I do know something needs to be done to better educate the medical community about these issues. There should and needs to be some kind of compassion for these issues. I know people don’t want to talk about them, they are unpleasant to talk about but that is not helping the large population that suffer from these conditions. Not everyone can make trips to out of their areas to find the right doctors to help them, I had to quit working in 2006 from this, I have fought and won my disablitly case for my condition but I know others have not been as lucky. I have good insurance but not everyone does. It should not matter how much money you have everyone should be able to get quality, compassionate care for these issues. When this struck me in 2004 it hit at a time in my life when I was finally finding true happiness with in my life, not a stressful unhappy depressed or anything like this. I was told at first it was my gallbladder so they removed it to only have it start all over again with in 3 weeks of the surgery and has been destroying my quality of life ever since. It may not be life threatening meaning you can’t die from it but it definelty robs you of your life.

    • Reply

      Kim, I don’t know what to say. You’ve said it all so well. So many people have had to deal with the kinds of things you describe, and it makes me VERY ANGRY.

      Now, I don’t know anything about the hormones you’re taking. I don’t know a lot of things. BUT I DO KNOW or at least believe, that it’s not typical for a person’s hair to fall out, have a sudden change in menstruation, and all the other difficult things you describe. Not all at once anyway.

      Meanwhile, I have a friend who has had to fight with many of the symptoms you describe. It turned out to be a thyroid problem. She ended up needing T3 and T4, and not just the usual synthroid (T4). Again. I’m no doctor, but the folks at the links seem to be doctors or experts. Maybe it will help you find clues to what might be causing you all this agony:

      Good luck Kim. Let us know how you make out! – Shawn

    • Reply

      Did you ever find someone to help you or get any relief? I’m in the same boat. Been treated the same and have no hope in finding help.

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