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You Can Work It Out: How Not To Let IBS Interfere With Your Job

The Tummy Clinic | April 8th, 2022

Introduction

From keeping medication handy, to beating tension with deep breathing, here are a few tips to help you deal with IBS at your work place.
While dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome is challenging, it can be particularly problematic when coping with the symptoms in the workplace. Abdominal pain and the sudden intense urge to use the bathroom every hour or more can play havoc with your ability to concentrate and accomplish work targets. IBS can reduce your productivity at work, as well as actually decide what career you select—one that demands frequent travel and a commute by subway or train, as well as regular business meetings, is often immediately ruled out.
Fact of the matter is, you have no reason to feel embarrassed or guilty about an IBS flare-up. Your contribution as an employee is undiminished by your IBS condition. What’s more, IBS can be managed to ensure it has as little impact on your work as possible. Experts recommend you make the necessary changes to your lifestyle and find the medication and therapy that will help keep your condition in check. It is also recommended that you inform your supervisor about your condition. IBS demands a few adjustments in order to allow you to enjoy your work and it is definitely worth the extra effort.

Managing IBs symptoms at work

  • Train your body –It has been seen that creating a regular schedule of meals, exercise and bathroom breaks can help reduce ‘unscheduled’ needs to use the bathroom. It helps to plan meetings and presentations according to your scheduled breaks.
  • Manage travel –Try speaking to your supervisor and devise ways to manage the situation. Conference calls or videoconferencing technology can be an effective solution when physical travel is difficult.
  • Tweak work arrangements –Speak in confidence to your manager regarding flexible working arrangements and potential sick days, when you are struck by an IBS attack. Explain how you are taking time off to diagnose and treat this on-going health issue. A letter from your dietician could also explain to your employer how IBS could affect your work routine. Working from home on days when you have a flare-up could be helpful and also reduce the stress around symptoms.
  • Cut your stress–While some amount of work stress is inevitable, it’s important to reduce it as much as possible in order to avoid triggering your IBS symptoms. It helps to stay organized at work to lessen chances of being caught in a tight spot. Maintain a diary to help you plan and monitor your work priorities.
  • A helping hand–A trusted friend in your workplace would be able to stand in for you if your symptoms suddenly flare up, and you need to step out. They could share some of your workload when your symptoms are severe. It goes without saying that you would do your share of the work and reciprocate the good deed, too!
  • Medicate correctly –Taking the right medication to treat your diarrhoea or gas is important especially when you have a meeting or event you cannot afford to miss. Whether over-the-counter medications or prescription medication, your doctor would be able to prescribe what works best for you to prevent symptoms.
  • Eat right–It is important to avoid the food items that trigger your IBS symptoms. If you find that food items such as caffeine from coffee, fatty foods or spicy foods can cause a flare-up, stay well away from them especially during your work hours.
  • Choose low FODMAP meals–Reducing FODMAPs or certain types of fermentable carbohydrates can help manage IBS digestive symptoms. Keep in mind the low FODMAP foods whether you are cooking your meals or ordering at a restaurant. Preparing meals in advance or using frozen ingredients can help make the process easier even amidst your busy work schedule
  • Stock up well–At work, you could keep certain items at hand in case of a flare-up of IBS symptoms. These include peppermint oil capsules, tissue packs in case of sudden bathroom calls, medicines as prescribed by your doctor, and low FODMAP fruits such as oranges, mandarin, green kiwifruits, and firm sugar banana.
  • Beat tension –When work situations get a tad too stressful, it’s important to manage the pressures right. Work off your tension by doing some light or moderate exercises, try yoga or pilates after work, go for a short walk around your office block or do some light stretches during break time. Beat anxiety by taking some deep breaths—there’s nothing to stop you doing that even while at your desk. Discuss other possible psychological treatments with your healthcare professional that could help you effectively manage your IBS.

Fact is, as IBS as a condition is becoming more recognized around the world, many workplaces are working on creating a frank and psychologically safe work environment, which treats the IBS population with understanding and support.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term. The cause is not well understood.

There is no definitive test to diagnose IBS. IBS is diagnosed after your doctor has reviewed your symptoms and occasionally ordered tests to rule out other conditions.

Visits at the Tummy Clinic are not covered by OHIP, however most extended healthcare plans cover many aspects of the care you will receive here, such as visits to Naturopathic Doctors, Dieticians, Social Workers or Psychotherapists. Check your benefits package or contact your insurance company for more information.