Imagine you have physical pain or discomfort that keeps you from doing something you love, like playing with your children, exercising, or participating in your favorite hobby. Would you raise it to your healthcare provider or suffer in silence?
Rajeev Jain, M.D., AGAF
Board-Certified Gastroenterologist, Texas Digestive Disease Consultants, Patient Education Advisor, American Gastroenterological Association
Most of us would seek medical attention so we can get back to our daily lives. But when it comes to digestive symptoms, millions of Americans are staying quiet due to embarrassment about what goes on in the bathroom.
It’s common: a new American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) survey shows nearly 4 out of every 10 Americans stopped routine activities in the last year due to uncomfortable bowel symptoms, including exercising (19%), running errands (17%), and spending time with family and friends (16%). Despite this disruption, many people hesitate to speak with a medical professional. One in 3 says they will only discuss bathroom issues if their provider brings it up.
Let’s get rid of embarrassment around gut issues. These issues are extremely common, with almost 8 out of 10 people in the United States agreeing they experienced a gastrointestinal or digestive concern in the past 12 months.
As a board-certified gastroenterologist, part of my daily practice is helping patients know what their normal digestive function is and what questions to ask. Reconsider self-diagnosing or medicating, and talk with healthcare providers. We can help — whether it is a combination of lifestyle treatments, medications, other therapies, or dietary supplements.
This is why I’m part of AGA’s Trust Your Gut campaign, helping to educate patients on when — and how — to have these important conversations with their healthcare providers.
Know your normal
Many digestive health problems have the same or similar symptoms, which makes it harder to know what’s causing them. Ask your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Sudden changes in bowel frequency
- Changes in what your stool looks like
- Frequent gas
- Blood in your stool
- Sudden or strong stomach pain
Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. If you need one, ask for a referral to a gastroenterology specialist who can help you come up with a treatment plan to improve your daily life. Learn how to Trust Your Gut and get back to enjoying your everyday life. For more resources, visit patient.gastro.org/TrustYourGut.