You’ve decided to go and face your fears and see a doctor or nurse about your bowel problems – but what do you say?

Feeling confident in what you are saying is key to being able to getting the right diagnosis. How can a doctor work out what your problem is if you can’t explain how you’re feeling?

Professor Christine Norton is a Professor of Nursing and Nurse Consultant/Gastrointestinal Nurse. She sees hundreds of people a year with digestive problems, here are her words of advice:

  • Rehearse what you want to say before you come in.
  • If you are concerned that you may not remember what you wanted to say, take some brief notes with you.
  • Remember you are not the first person to have a problem – we have treated and seen thousands before.
  • Your doctor or nurse will not be embarrassed, so you should try not to be.
  • Use words that you are comfortable with and use regularly.
  • Don’t be afraid to use everyday words like poo and bottom.
  • Open conversations with lines such as: “I’ve noticed a change in my bowel movements.” Or ‘When I go to the toilet I am finding blood in my stools.’
  • The more honest you can be the better – even if you think you are being quite graphic.
    If your doctor or nurse feels that you need to be examined, this will only ever be after explaining why this is needed and asking for your consent.
  • No one likes being sworn at but if you can find no other word then use the four letter one beginning with s!
  • Remember the embarrassment is temporary but leaving a problem alone could lead to larger and more painful issues.
  • Fill in our Digestive Health Assessment & Food, Mood & Symptoms Diary and take them with you when you visit your doctor or nurse to help start the conversation.