Does IBS hamper your work?

It is often very difficult to address your working life and to objectively appraise your success.  Most of us work hard and try incredibly hard.  Despite the effort it is hard not to be distracted by a condition which has a tendency to become integral to our daily lives. We look at how our work is affected by IBS and what we can do to make things easier.  

Work and IBS

From the moment we rise

For many sufferers the battle with IBS may begin soon after waking.  Often this manifests itself with additional time being required to get out of the door in the morning.  Few IBS sufferers are able to get up last minute, shower and breakfast then out.  The day often requires planning and for those following restricted diets, which often omit dairy and wheat breakfast and lunches can be difficult to plan.

Commuting to work may also be problematic for many sufferers particularly those who have to get onto crowded buses and trains with few or no facilities available.  This may be a major cause of anxiety.  Few of us are afforded the luxury of working from home, which for many IBS sufferers would appear the ideal option, although it may also add to isolation.   So already by the time you have arrived at work, you may have been up longer and had a fraught journey to work. Are you already at a disadvantage to your colleagues?

The Day Itself

Most workplaces do not create a problem for IBS sufferers, and once actually at work the problems generally decline.   A number of sufferers we have spoken too,  are reticent about using the facilities at work for the sake of avoiding embarrassment.  They prefer keeping the frequency of your bathroom trips private, as they felt it was potentially noticed and could draw comment by co-workers.

Another issue for severe sufferers related to their method of controlling their symptoms.  Wishing not to be seen to be going to the bathroom regularly, and for the sake of their commute, a number of sufferers reported that they starved themselves through the day.  This will put you a major disadvantage.  Keeping high levels of focus and concentration are never easy without food and drink, nor is manual labor aided by following this method.

This also leads to sufferers doing most of their eating and drinking when they return home.  Sufferers reported that thereafter they  wished to remain at home, which may see them struggle socially at work.

While we have painted a very negative picture here, the aim is not to complain as though sufferers are victims, it is to point out that IBS sufferers undergo an awful lot of difficulties that others do not.  Few recognize the daily difficulties, the little things that add to overall difficulties presented by IBS.

A larger problem and one that we will tackle separately as it requires greater attention is that of work based stress.  This has huge implications for IBS sufferers, and in many instances can act as the very trigger for IBS itself.

Our IBS work tips

  1. Give yourself plenty of time.  As frustrating as it may be for many sufferers, avoiding rushing and anxiety can be very helpful in preventing your IBS from making your day difficult.
  2. Avoid known triggers.  Giving up the lovely morning coffee can be hard for anyone, however caffeine and IBS do not get on at all well.   Eventually you will find without caffeine you will avoid peaks and troughs energy.  We do not for one second suggest that this will be easy.
  3. Be as honest as you can with co-workers.  There are varying degrees of embarrassment related to IBS. Some sufferers are happy to discuss the condition, others would rather die.  If you can at least be open enough to admit you have a problem, it will lift a lot of the worry regarding the frequency you have to visit the bathroom.  Make sure they know you are not slacking, you have a genuine reason.
  4. Try to eat.  Not eating and drinking properly will reduce your ability to function as well as those around you.  Even if you only eat things that you are utterly sure of, you will be giving yourself  a genuine lift by allowing yourself a normal function.
  5. We would not say something a trite as ‘avoid stress’.  We know it is not that easy, it is a simple case of being aware and doing the best you can to avoid stress.
  6. Be aware of the impact IBS can have on your work.  It is very easy to get into routines without questioning. Many sufferers stick rigidly to things which work no matter how difficult they may life.  This may involve routes to work, getting up hours before work, not eating etc.  Try to avoid thinking that it is your lot in life, things can be better.  

Working life is hard enough without IBS, these are just some of the ways you can make life a little easier.  With that said the key aim of this article is to ensure that you are all you can be, and that you do not allow IBS to stop you reaching your potential.

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Please note:  All blogs and IBS Health articles have been written by IBS sufferers for fellow IBS sufferers.

We respect and appreciate all other opinions and write with the sole aim of providing empathy, support and ideas for others who live IBS everyday. We do not write cause offence.

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