Coping With IBS at Work

Dealing with irritable bowel syndrome at work can mean coping with challenges.

By Diana Rodriguez

Medically Reviewed by Michael Robert Mills, MD

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Working while dealing with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be tricky. For instance, sitting through meetings, presentations, and conference calls at work can be torture if you are experiencing abdominal pain. And trying to concentrate and get a lot of work done can be tough when you have to get up to go to the bathroom every hour or more. But with a little help, you can keep IBS from interfering with your job.

How IBS Symptoms Can Affect Your Job

Not only can IBS make you less productive at work, it can dictate what job you can do — if you let it. Tim Phelan, author of the bookRomance, Riches, and Restrooms, graduated from college and set out on an exciting career, determined to succeed. But only months after graduation, in the middle of an important luncheon and surrounded by people he wanted to impress, he first noticed a symptom of IBS — a sudden, intense urge to go to the bathroom. From there, it kept getting worse.

"It did make me change career paths," says Phelan. “That job that I wanted unfortunately required travel — subways and trains and planes and business meetings. These things all triggered symptoms. I had options to stay on there or go to other corporate jobs." Instead, he chose to move and begin waiting tables and training to be a professional triathlete.

These job options accommodated his IBS, but didn't pay very well. Eventually, he took another office job in the financial industry and was promoted. But along with that promotion came long meetings, conference calls, and frequent travel. Phelan finally lost his job — partially due to his IBS. "My reluctance to travel definitely was a big factor in me getting laid off," he says.

IBS and Work: Navigating Symptoms

There are two important steps to keeping IBS from ruining your career. First, get your symptoms under control by making lifestyle changes and finding therapy and medications that can help keep your IBS in check. Second, tell your supervisor about your condition. With as many as 20 percent of all Americans dealing with IBS, you are certainly not alone.

IBS is a valid health condition that requires some accommodations. It may be difficult for you to do some jobs, but it shouldn't keep you from doing work that you enjoy. Try these tips to manage your IBS symptoms at work:

  • Create a schedule.If you train your body with a regular schedule of meals, exercise, and bathroom breaks, you may be able to reduce your trips to the bathroom except for those routine times. Try to schedule meetings and presentations well in advance or well after your scheduled breaks.
  • Limit long meetings, presentations, and travel.If your job requires these responsibilities — or if they pop up — talk to your supervisor about your IBS, and try to come up with an alternative solution. If you can't travel because of your IBS, try to arrange for conference calls or use videoconference technology.
  • Reduce stress.Working can almost always cause some stress, but minimize it as much as you can. Stay organized at work so that you don't get overwhelmed or caught off guard.
  • Find a work buddy who can pitch in when you have to step out.Sometimes, your symptoms will act up and there may not be anything you can do about it. Ask a trusted friend or co-worker to help you out when you need it and stand in for you on occasion. Just be sure to return the favor and do your share of the work.
  • Prevent symptoms with medication.If you suffer from diarrhea or gas, talk to your doctor about over-the-counter medications that can prevent symptoms. If you have a big meeting at work or something that you just can't miss, try to take an anti-diarrheal or gas-dissolving medicine beforehand. If over-the-counter medications don’t help, your doctor may consider prescription medication to calm symptoms.
  • Prevent triggers with diet.If certain foods cause your IBS symptoms to flare up, make sure you avoid them.

If you want a successful career and a job you enjoy, embarrassment about your IBS — or having IBS symptoms — shouldn't stop you. Be open with your supervisor about your condition and learn how to minimize disruption in your day. IBS can affect your life in many ways, but it doesn't have to prevent you from having the job that you want.

Video: Healthy Eating Diet Tips : Diet Tips to Ease IBS Symptoms

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Date: 06.12.2018, 14:28 / Views: 61142