Adult military woman talking during one on one therapy session Hale

10 Questions to Ask Your Medical Provider About Gastrointestinal (GI) Issues

Use our question guide to make the most of your GI appointment

1. What type of screening or tests do I need to diagnose my condition?

Why you should ask this question: Getting the right diagnosis might take a few different tests or medical appointments. Knowing your medical provider’s plan of action can help you prepare for any upcoming leave you might need to take and better understand what additional appointments you need to make and with whom. 

2. Is it possible my symptoms are not from a GI issue?

Why you should ask this question: If you’re having pain in your abdomen, low back or pelvic area, it might be a GI issue, but it could also be a gynecological issue affecting your reproductive system. Sometimes conditions like endometriosis or fibroids can have similar symptoms to irritable bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) such as cramping, bloating, stomach pain or pain when you urinate or poop. Asking for a referral to a gynecologist might also help you identify the cause of your symptoms sooner. 

3. What are my treatment options? 

Why you should ask this question: There may be more than one way to treat your symptoms and condition. Knowing all of your options and the risks and benefits of each can help you make an informed decision with your medical provider. 

4. Is there a cure for my condition?

Why you should ask this question: Not every condition has a cure. Asking this question of your medical provider will help you understand your treatment options and how to live with your condition. Even if there isn’t a cure, certain treatments may help you manage your symptoms so you can continue your daily activities.

5. How do I tell the difference between the symptoms of this condition and something else?

Why you should ask this question: Life in the military can impact your GI system whether or not you have a GI condition. Stress has been found to worsen GI symptoms, and eating MREs can lower the number of times you poop each day. Once you know what your GI condition is, knowing what symptoms to expect will help you figure out when you might be experiencing something else. 

6. What can make my symptoms better or worse?

Why you should ask this question: The more you know about your condition and its symptoms, the better prepared you can be to keep them from interrupting your daily life. This information can help you make a plan to avoid certain foods, beverages or activities that may worsen your symptoms.

7. Do you recommend any medications, and if so, what are the potential side effects? 

Why you should ask this question: Your medical provider might recommend medications to treat your symptoms, your condition or both. You should understand the different types of treatments available such as an oral pill versus an infusion therapy; whether it will be available to you during missions, training, deployments or after a PCS; potential side effects of any medications you take; and how they might interact with other medications you’re already taking.

8. How will GI medications impact deployability?

Why you should ask this question: Some medications or their side effects can cause duty limitations and affect your mission-readiness. You’ll want to understand if your medications will impact your military career, and if so, what your options are. 

9. How can I manage my condition on my upcoming training or deployment?

Why you should ask this question: Having a chronic or long-term GI condition doesn’t mean you won’t be able to continue your training, duty or deployments. Talking to your medical provider ahead of time can help you create a plan to keep your symptoms from acting up while you’re working. 

10. Are there any lifestyle changes you recommend making?

Why you should ask this question: The symptoms of some GI conditions like IBS or IBD may be improved with lifestyle changes like adjusting your diet or exercise level. Talk to your medical provider about how to safely make any lifestyle changes that might help you manage your symptoms. 


This resource was created with support from the Ready, Healthy & Able program funders.

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