Even if you take care of yourself, your digestive system will mutiny now and then. Nothing like a few tainted oysters to remind you how quietly the humble digestive system usually goes about its business. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42 million Americans visit their healthcare providers with digestive complaints each year. Of course, those who overindulge and under-exert can expect to have more frequent uprisings.

Your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications, order diagnostic assessments, or prescribe treatment. Some common tests and procedures are listed below:

Common Diagnostic Procedures

  • Barium swallow
  • Colonoscopy
  • Defecography
  • Digital rectal examination (DRE)
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Endoscopy
  • Enteroscopy
  • Esophogealgastroduodenoscopy (EGD)
  • Ileostomy
  • Manometry
  • Ultrasound (US)
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series

Common Therapeutic Procedures

  • Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal)
  • Colectomy
  • Colostomy
  • Jejunostomy (J-tube)
  • Laparoscopy
  • Nasogastric (NG) tube insertion

Some of these procedures are no more stressful than getting a spray tan. Others require lengthy preparation to evacuate the bowel. Be sure to listen carefully, ask questions, and read the handouts your provider gives you. You'll need to know, for instance, whether you're allowed to eat and drink the morning of the procedure and whether someone will have to drive you home afterward.

Compliance with your doctor's instructions is important. Take your medications as prescribed. Return as scheduled for follow-up appointments. Don't conceal embarrassing symptoms or withhold information about your lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking. After all, if "don't ask, don't tell" is a bargain you can't strike with your own digestive system, it won't work for your doctor, either.