Finding a Diagnosis: Step-by-Step Guide to Figuring it Out

Aug 10, 2017 by

You can have me read this article to you instead of reading it yourself…



Or you can read it the old-fashioned way below…



Knowing what is happening in our GI tracts is crucial to understanding the best way to treat and/or manage our symptoms. A proper diagnosis can provide a clearly marked path for diet modifi­cations or medical treatments. Without this, any changes may be misguided, which could be inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst.

To ensure that you are receiving the best care, you will have to be a diligent self-advocate that asks the right questions and makes the right changes at the right times.

Below is a guide that summarizes everything we’ve covered in this section, allowing you to pare down what is happening to you…

The Roadmap

  1. Do you believe that your symptoms might mirror any of those in the conditions discussed?

No: You may be experiencing symptoms from something else entirely – a condition that is happening in another part of your body and impacting your GI tract. Speak with your doctor very clearly about your concerns and the need for some clarifying answers.

Yes: You should seek out a discussion with your doctor that specifically pinpoints the conditions that you are concerned for and why.

  1. Does your doctor agree that it is possible that you have any of the conditions you mentioned?

No: Make sure that you understand why he does not believe these conditions are present and ask if there is anything else that you should be considering.

Yes: You have a right and a responsibility to yourself to request that the appropriate tests be completed to confirm or deny the presence of said conditions.

  1. Particularly in the case of Celiac disease, but also as a general rule, you should demand the appropriate testing be completed PRIOR to commencing diet changes or treatments
  2. Did you discover that you do have one of these additional conditions?

No: You do not have any conditions that are identified upon testing or examination. It is possible that you have an intolerance that cannot be directly tested, such as a member of the FODMAP family or a component of wheat. Dietary trials may be warranted to confirm or deny this.

Yes: Become familiar with this condition through research and discussion with your physician to understand what it means. Identify and thoroughly review your treatment options, ensuring that you implement these options only one at a time and carefully monitor your response to each.

  1. If the treatment for your diagnosed condition or possible sensitivity requires a change in diet:

Request a referral to a registered dietician to ensure that your diet changes are well advised. A dietician will help you to avoid over-restriction, additional cost, or unwanted side effects such as nutritional deficiencies or increased sugar/fat intake.

Limit diet changes to no longer than a month. If it is going to work, it will work in that time frame. If no difference is noted, the change should be abandoned.

For highly restrictive diets that do result in symptom improvement, insist upon paring down the diet one ingredient at a time so that you identify the least restrictive diet that works for you (i.e. add back one form of carbohydrate every 2 weeks).


Short and Sweet: How to Manage your GI Health

If the guideline above is just a little bit too much right now, we can take a step back.  There are some simple steps to follow that will help you to manage your health, GI-related or not!

1. Identify a concern

2. Speak with your doctor

3. Get tested and diagnosed

4. Identify appropriate treatments as a result of a positive test and implement under guidance (physician or dietitian, depending)

5. Identify possible options for issues that do not show up on tests, always focusing on the most likely and evidence-based causes and the healthiest and least-stressful management plan

6. Be responsible about the changes – implement one at a time and monitor your response closely

If an intervention doesn’t lead to a positive change, abandon it!

And never forget that if a symptom is concerning, you need to get to the doctor.  Sometimes GI symptoms are the sign of something else that is going wrong with the body, and the earlier that it is caught, the better.


Read more about being a self-advocate and the exciting opportunities that come from simplifying your health.  Or sign up for my newsletter below to find out when new articles are published.

Next: Check out the Information & Tips

Or refer back to the Unclear (or No) Diagnosis Section

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