First Visit at a Gastroenterologist


Last updated March. 13, 2018


Gastro trouble can be painful and embarrassing. Irritable bowls and stones in the gallbladder or kidneys can create unbearable pain and discomfort. Luckily, a gastroenterologist knows what to do to get you back on track and functioning normally again.

But what should you expect from a gastroenterologist? Just the name alone can be intimidating and the symptoms taking you to this physician are of a delicate and personal nature. It can be awkward just to talk to a doctor about such things.

A gastroenterologist is a specialist and sees patients who are experiencing problems with their gastrointestinal system. This doctor does know what to do and there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Your primary care doctor can give you a recommendation or referral to see this specialist if you need one. Before you see this specialist, there are a few helpful tips to thoroughly prepare yourself for your first visit and smooth your path to help and recovery.


1. Keep a Record

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Now that you have found your doctor and have made your appointment or are waiting for insurance to approve the visit, start a journal or record of your symptoms and when you experienced them. This will help your gastroenterologist to see a pattern in your symptoms.

Be as thorough as you can in your health journal. Include your pain and what you are feeling. Record the time of day your symptoms occur. Explain how your bowels are functioning.

Record what you are eating when you experience pain and the food’s effects on bowel functions. Try to remember when your symptoms all began.

The gastroenterologist will want to know exactly how long you have been experiencing this pain and discomfort. Make this record as complete as you can to provide an accurate record for your doctor.


2. Health History

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Take the time to write down your health history. This is important information for your new specialist. What types of conditions, cancers, or disease runs in your family? What have you been previously diagnosed with?

List all items. What medications are you taking Write down the name and dosage amounts. Write down your allergies.

Does your family have a history of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or any other conditions of the bowel? Have you had any lifestyle changes? Have you been under an undo amount of stress? Have you experienced loss?

These will help to paint a detailed portrait of you and your health for your specialist to review.

Also, if you have seen another doctor for gastrointestinal issues before you should tell the new doctor and request that the old records be sent to the new doctor.

This will significantly help your new doctor to understand your situation better. Describe any treatment that your primary physician may have given you to help your issues.

Tell your gastroenterologist any new medications that you may be taking and any medicines that your doctor has not prescribed but you are taking on the side as these may be the cause of your problems.


3. Ask a Friend or Relative

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If you are feeling a little unsure of the whole situation and would feel more comfortable asking a family member or friend to join you in your appointment to help answer questions, then do so.

Sometimes it is nice to have a familiar person present to help calm your nerves and offer information that you might have forgotten about.

If you feel the need to go it alone, be sure to come prepared and describe your symptoms as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. Do not be afraid to ask questions and bring up any concerns that you may have.


4. Questions

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It is always helpful to prepare a list of questions you might have before the appointment. Many times, we forget all the things we want to discuss or ask about and will not remember them until we get home.

Instead of running this risk, jot down your questions and concerns before you get into the doctor’s office. Keep your list with you and ask him all that concerns you. This is your body experiencing these problems.

This is your time with the specialist to get your questions and concerns addressed. Use this time wisely and be as thorough as possible. Start your list a few days in advance and add to it as you think of things to ask. Don’t try to jot it down all at once.

Some excellent questions to ask are the following:


  • Do you have an idea what is causing my pain and symptoms?
  • What tests will you recommend?
  • When will I get the results of the tests?
  • Am I experiencing IBS or something different?
  • Are there things that I can be doing at home that will improve my bowel’s health?
  • Are there other treatments that I can begin now?
  • Is there medicine that will fix my problem?
  • What are the side effects of the medication or treatments that I should be aware of?
  • Is my lifestyle or diet affecting my symptoms?
  • Is this curable or will it be a condition that I will always have?

These added to your own personal questions pertaining to your individual situation will be a great list or questions to ask the gastroenterologist.


5. At the Appointment

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Make sure to take your list of questions with you to ask the doctor. Take your health history and a list of medications that you take with their dosage amounts. Also, take a small notebook to write down notes as your doctor explains things.

If you should decide to take a friend or family member with you ask them to take the notes for you. These notes will help you when you get home to remember all that was said.

This will also help you to remember what you should do at home and act as a reminder for any tests that your doctor may have scheduled.

As your doctor asks questions answer with as much detail as you can that may pertain to your condition or symptoms. Answer quickly and efficiently.

Refer to your health history notes or journal should you need to. Listen to your doctor. Allow him to take the lead. He will describe treatment and what will be advisable for you and your individual problem.


6. After the Appointment

Before you leave the doctor’s office, make your next appointment to see him again. If the doctor ordered any tests, ask the office personnel if they schedule them there or if they will call you with test dates and details.

Most doctor’s offices will schedule the tests and procedures for you at the hospital or at clinics in the area, but it is always good to check.

Think about what the doctor said before you leave the parking lot. You will probably have a lot of thoughts. Do you have new questions? Write them down now to ask later. Also, write down any terms, medications, conditions, or treatments that you have questions about and want to research when you get home.

At home. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. Fill any medications that you may have and take them. If you do suffer unpleasant side-effects contact the doctor right away and tell his office about your allergic reaction and ask for a different medication. Be sure to keep your future appointments and have your tests down when they are scheduled.

Once you have had your tests, give it a week for processing at the lab then follow up for the test results.

Most doctor’s offices will call you if there is a problem, but they see so many patients that it is a good idea to follow up with them to get your results.

Ask them if there will be further tests or doctor’s appointments.

A gastroenterologist is a wonderful doctor to take care of intestinal issues that cause you pain or discomfort. Find one in your area and ask your doctor to send you to one if he feels it is warranted.

Bring up your symptoms and ask if you need to see a gastroenterologist before your symptoms escalate and get worse.



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